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You Gotta Go Big

Michael J. Montegut, Ph.D.

Bottom of the Box, LLC

Just as a small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it - likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicament and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them. - Viktor Frankl

Faith plays a huge part in the maintenance and strengthening of long-term resilience. Faith is not the same as hope, and it is not necessarily spiritual or religious. It is Faith that fuels those leaps into the unknown. Faith allows us to step into the abyss. And it is Faith that spreads our wings in the face of the wind. It needs to be big to weather the fiercest storms. Finally, Faith is the ultimate admission of vulnerability, of lack of control.

At first glance, Faith and hope seem similar, but I think of them as quite different. Both are necessary, critical components of resilience. Hope comes from outside ourselves, and Faith comes from within. Positive events and circumstances give us hope. It runs along the surface of our lives and threads its way in and out of the events that define us. But Faith is the thing that keeps us afloat in turbulent seas and gets us up in the morning when the future is uncertain.

Paulo Coelho said it best, “None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still, we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.” No matter how prepared we may be, we can not control or know the future. To move forward despite our frailness, our lack of omnipotence, and omniscience, we must have Faith. And we must do these things because, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, “It is not for us to forecast the future, but to shape it.”

We’ve all heard the adage, “You gotta have faith.” It is the thing that allows us to take steps in the dark and to proceed forward in the presence of uncertainty and fear. Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” In the dark, it is the thing that gives us the courage to move forward.

Faith need not be spiritual or religious, though it is a significant component of religion and spirituality. It is something that anyone can cultivate. One can have Faith in one’s self, in one’s preparation for a challenge. Most of us have Faith but may not call it that. If you trust and believe in loved ones and their support of you, that is having Faith in them. You feel empowered to take those leaps into the unknown because you know they will have your back.

And just like other character traits, we all have Faith of various types and to some degree. Take the simple act of leaving the comfort of solid ground and air for the water. Alan Wilson Watts astutely observed, “To have Faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” Faith works when we let go and stop our frantic grasping.

Faith gives us the wings to harness the wind, the courage to take that first step. It is the shelter in the storms of life. With hope, a little optimism can help, but with Faith, it has to be big and strong. It has to be nurtured and cultivated, be it by self- belief, the particular support of others, or through belief in a higher power. And, yes, Faith that is small will blow out in a storm. But Faith that is strong and big, it only gets stronger in the face of adversity, because Faith serves us best when we are on the ropes. It seems that Faith inexorably links to grit, also known as perseverance.

Hope is about holding on; holding on to specific desired outcomes, holding on to other wants and needs, holding on to the things in our lives. Hope is about looking to the future we want, which is excellent and needed. But Faith is about letting go. Letting go of everything we see for the future; letting go of our wants and desires, letting go of control. Faith is about accepting that we have done what we can and then spreading our wings and gliding off the precipice. St. Thomas Aquinas drives this home, “Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.”

With Faith, big, strong Faith, one can derive strength from life’s travails, one can step with confidence onto that first step in the darkness and keep feeling for the next step and the next because many times in life one has to step from the light and into the dark to reach brighter, warmer illumination.

So, yes, you gotta have Faith! The bigger the Faith, the better.

Aquinas, T. St.. Compendium of Theology. 1947. ST. Louis MO: B. Herder, 1947. Aquinas, T., Regan, R. J., & Baumgarth, W. P. (2002). On law, morality, and politics. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub. Coelho, P., & Costa, M. J. (2008). Brida: a novel. New York: Harper. Frankl, V. E. (n.d.). The unheard cry for meaning: psychotherapy and humanism. New York: Simon and Schuster. Falco, H. (2010). I Am: the power of discovering who you really are. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. Saint-Exupéry Antoine de. (1942). Flight to Arras. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. Watts, A. (1962). The way of Zen. Harmonsworth (Middlesex): Penguin.

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