We’re losing faith, but losing it may be what it takes to build it back up again–within you.
The most precarious way to live your life is to think you can actually control where you’re going to end up. Seriously. Nothing in life goes the way you planned, does it? Experience shows that you knew exactly where you were headed, but when you got there, it wasn’t the place you expected it to be. At least, that’s how things feel these days, yes? As much as we cling to traditional ideas of how life should go, no matter how well you plan out your path, how clearly you can see your future spread out ahead of you, the truth is that everything you picture ahead for yourself is just an illusion.
As a society, we buy into expectations. We believe that if you are a good person and always do the right thing, life will reward you. If you get a college degree, you’ll be rewarded with a good paying job. If you work hard at your job, you’ll get promotions and job security, topped off by a comfortable retirement. If you get married, you’ll live happily ever after. Yes, we used to have faith that our politicians will keep their promises, our clergy will practice what they preach, our pampered kids will grow up happy and respectful, and our commitment to exercise and eating right will grant us a long, healthy, active life. Of course, everyone knows that there’s no written guarantee things will work out this way. We just have faith. Or do we anymore?
To have faith is to have a complete sense of trust in someone or something. As a country (and in other countries, too), there’s a collective sense of growing anger and anxiety, because more and more we can predict less and less of what we will actually get in return for putting our faith in hard work and sacrifice. Earn a dozen advanced degrees; it doesn’t change the fact that there aren’t enough jobs to go around. And when was the last time you heard of someone getting a raise? Heck, you’re just grateful that you haven’t been fired or laid off. As for happily ever after with the same person? Not in this YOLO world of self indulgence where the real wedding vows are, for better or I’m outta here and in sickness I do part. Politicians let us down, clergy give in to sin, kids sue their parents for imposing rules for living under their roof, and marathons and granola bars can’t out distance a heart attack, cancer, or Alzheimer’s. The cultural, economic, religious, and political systems don’t operate to reward the way we’ve always trusted they would. Expectations aren’t so predictable anymore. Faith has broken down. And, maybe, we’ll be better for it.
As faith in things and people around us crumbles, we have the chance to start building faith up again where it truly belongs–within us. If you put your faith, your complete trust, outside of yourself and onto some distant goal or expectation, you set yourself up to become a victim of circumstance. Consider this: If you go to college just to get a high paying job, you’re a victim of the job market and end up missing the real reward–the chance to educate your mind. Whether there’s a job waiting for you on graduation day or not, by working to better your mind you guarantee that you will be rewarded–with an educated mind. That educated mind can recognize a far wider selection of opportunities and perhaps even inspire you to create your own. The reward is in the doing, the investment should be in yourself, not in the goal. This principle holds true in all areas of life.
How might your life change if you started to build faith in yourself in the here and now, not in the destination to come someday. What would happen if you invested in doing your best at your work, one-day-at-a-time, in being a loving committed person to those you care about, in promoting good government and getting directly involved with your elected officials, in honoring a higher power by treating others with respect and charity, in providing a good role model for your kids, and in maintaining your body with enough discipline to keep it working as best as it can? If you were to take each step of your life with faith in yourself, not in your expectations, would it matter so very much what lies at the top of the staircase?
Faith is not about the goal, but about what gets you to the goal, even when you don’t end up where you expected. Build faith in yourself, one step at a time, and wherever you end up will be where you’re meant to be.