For someone who has variously identified as an atheist, an agnostic, and spiritual but not religious, I have long been interested in the concept of faith. For a long time, I’ve said that I have faith in myself, and in people. I have faith in my goodness, and in the goodness of people. This faith has motivated me to continue working on myself despite the strong self-doubt planted inside my psyche by my own history of trauma. This faith has also motivated me to continue to advocate for peace and justice, despite how often people demonstrate their commitment to hatred and war.
In the last couple years, I’ve started taking this faith in myself and the world more seriously. If I truly believe in my own goodness and in the goodness of people, do my actions consistently demonstrate that belief? No, they don’t. There are many times when I have allowed my self-doubt to influence me to neglect my feelings and needs, to not stand up for myself, and to avoid life. There are many times when I have allowed the pain I feel at witnessing injustice to influence me to look away from the world, to hide my head in the sand.
But as I work to deepen my faith, I am forced to reconcile my faith with my doubt. Each one is a state of consciousness. Some days I’m a person who believes in love, and on those days my actions are more easily influenced by that belief. On other days I’m a person who is ruled by fear, and on those days it is much less common to see love at the heart of my actions. Love and fear are each a state of consciousness, and each comes with its own set of thoughts and feelings. If I take this idea seriously, then the question of which state of consciousness to truly identify with becomes a choice. Faith is not something that I can have or not have. Faith is something that I choose, and it shows up most clearly in the actions that I choose to take.
Once I realized that I was spending so much time trying to convince myself that I was worthy, it occurred to me that it would actually be a much better use of my time to just decide that I am worthy, and then use my time to figure out what worthiness acts like, and then do that. And once I realized that I was spending so much energy trying to convince other people that all humans are deserving of respect and compassion, I saw that a much better use of my energy would be to figure out what respect and compassion act like, and go do that. Because we don’t have much control over what we feel and think, and we have even less control over what other people feel and think, but what we do have quite a bit of control over is what we choose to do.
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Nauser Bear is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT#123099, licensed with the BBS as Nicholas Reynolds) in California. To work with Nauser, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, call (510) 394-5373, or schedule a free 20-minute consultation by clicking here.
Disclaimer: This blog and comments on it do not constitute medical or mental health advice. If you are in need of support and live in California, contact me to set up a consult to see if working together is a fit. Otherwise, seek mental health support in your area. If you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention hotline, which is available 24/7, at 800-273-8255.