February 25, 2021

You Gotta Have Faith

In the immortal words of George Michael, you gotta have faith. Well, George, sometimes its not that easy is it? My understanding of what faith ‘IS’ has been evolutionary. It was simpler when I was young because doubt is learned. Doubt is learned through knocks to your beliefs. Knocks that keep knocking.

I have come to understand that faith and trust are different things. Trust is an agreement we have with a person or an object. We trust that other drivers will stop at stop signs, for example. We trust that the brakes will work and that someone did their job in checking them in the manufacturing process. We trust these objects and people will keep our trust. 

When that trust is broken, it is easy to take that evidence of lost trust, and then lose trust in that object forever. If your brakes fail, you might have a hard time trusting the safety of cars. To trust that the brakes will work, you will need a bank of experience from that object (the car or indeed the entity that produces brakes), that the brakes won’t fail again. With trust, there is usually a way of making a rational decision about taking a chance – and the more experience you have, the more expert you become about the right and wrong times to trust objects and people.

It is why contracts are an important device. Most good relationships start with good contracts, even if you have to tear it up at the end. It puts the factors of trust onto a table and the deal can be struck according to those terms.

Trust is a calculation. A ratio that your vulnerability to harm is worth the risk of gain that is involved in the trust. It is an imprecise calculation because we don’t always have all the information, but a calculation nonetheless.

Faith is different. Faith is a unilateral contract – a deal you make with the universe that you won’t have to rely on contracts, that people will do the right thing. That ‘good people’ will prosper and karma will take care of the baddies. 

As anyone who has been knocked around by life will attest, there is no evidence in faith, no calculus. Time and time again the universe tells us that faith is wasted and doubt arrives to put that lens of calculation on everything. Doubt is an actuarial that will always err against a future where faith pays off.

But it was Tim Costello who taught me about ‘faithing’ – a verb. While ‘trust’ might be a calculation, faith is something that you do. Faith absorbs doubt, and so when there is evidence that faith will fail – ‘faithing’ is a choice to do it anyway.

Trust is a calculation. Faith is a choice that will rarely payout. But you gotta have faith, or rather you gotta ‘do’ faith. On the occasions that faith is rewarded, it is a jackpot rather than a dividend.


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