Growing up, for some reason, I thought that ‘faith’ meant believing in and defending something because someone else said it was right, even though I had no experience to confirm or tell me otherwise. Looking around, I saw faith used as a tool for divisiveness and an expression of what seemed to me to be ignorance or even worse, powerlessness. The idea of being “faithful” made me even more nervous– You mean, I am to be unquestioning in my relationships–whether personal, religious or political, in order to live up to the ideal of being faithful? Should a ‘faithful’ wife take action to free herself from a situation of harm and abuse? Does someone of a religious faith dare to oppose misleading religious teachings? Does a faithful citizen oppose her government? If that is faith, I thought, I’ll pass.
It was not until I began to study and practice nonviolence, particularly in Gandhi’s life, that I was willing–and able– to see faith in another light. Faith really means knowledge, but a knowing that comes from experience. It does not reject reason, it complements and enriches it. The whole world can stand against you and you will not be moved because you have seen what is possible–you have peered into your own capacities, which somehow, you can be certain, are universal. It empowers and strengthens you with a solid optimism, and a willingness to be strong and gentle in the face of opposition. And in this way, faith becomes a light on our path — and not only for ourselves: such faith can spread, and inspire others.
Analyze your feelings and thoughts around “faith;” did you think it just meant “taking on faith” things you couldn’t verify, or can you, in some areas, extend what you can verify directly by faith in your own experiences?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org