Faith is a difficult concept to deal with, since it means so many different things to different people. Yet I try to discuss it, since we can not live without faith. We always believe in something, and our values spring from our beliefs. I am well aware of the fact that I can not write this chapter without sharing some aspects of my faith consciously, and probably much more unconsciously. I do not want to push my faith forward, and if you feel that I do, own your power to detach.
Everything we do, we do in faith. When we walk and lower our foot to ground, we trust that it will carry our weight, and that our nerves and muscles will control it properly. When we choose our goals and our actions, we do so based on our beliefs about the nature of the world and its cause-consequence relationships. Many choices and actions are so ‘simple’ that we act unconsciously, for example when we walk. We will make also complex decisions without knowing how they will turn out. We trust that what we do is correct for us, even when we do not know the cause-consequence relationships exactly. Our decisions are then based on faith. In many cases our beliefs are unconscious, although we may say that we own certain beliefs.
I am not talking only about those beliefs that we say we own. We may say that we believe in a loving God who forgives our sins and has granted us an everlasting life, but if our choices and goals do not spring from our belief, then it is merely our opinion. We may say that we believe in the survival of the fittest, but if our choices and goals do not spring from our belief, then it is merely our opinion. When I was controlled by pain, I thought that I believed in loving God - as I did. Yet I had much stronger unconscious beliefs that I was not a lovable person, and that the world was a painful place. I made many choices based on my conscious belief, but the way I lived my daily life in practice was based on my unconscious beliefs about reality. I think that the more we really learn to own our faith in issues we say we believe in, the less need we feel to defensively argue about our opinions of it. Faith is not an intellectual concept. Our beliefs are one of the deepest issues in ourselves, whether they are conscious or unconscious. They form the basis on which we define ourselves as human beings.
Many people say that faith can be weak or strong. I am not sure. We always believe in something, but in many cases we are not aware of it. When we were full of pain and fears, we believed that the world is a terrible place in which the only way to avoid suffering is to pretend and to hide, which caused only additional pain. We may have believed in our extraordinary intelligence and in our ability to make people do what we wanted them to do. We may have believed that pleasing people will grant us peace and love. I think that the amount of our faith is more or less constant: we believe in a model of life, and we live according to it. When our perception is clouded, our beliefs are hidden from our own eyes, but anyway we live according to them. When we speak about weak faith or strong faith, I think that the proper meaning of the words is related to our amount of faith related to a certain issue. When someone says, "My faith is weak", he might mean that the effect of his belief in God on his daily life is weak. In saying this, he says that his beliefs in other issues have more impact on his life than his belief in God. If he wants to strengthen his belief in God, he has to transfer his beliefs in something else to his belief in God. He can do it when he becomes aware of his other beliefs, and then he can decide to change them or not to change them. This is also the essence of recovery: we let go of the dysfunctional beliefs that were imposed on us, and we own new beliefs that advance our life. We can not heal if we cling to the old beliefs. We face ourselves, our beliefs about ourselves and others, we grieve the life that we have lived according to dysfunctional beliefs, and we are glad to own fresh and functional beliefs. In doing this, the total amount of our beliefs does not change. Our beliefs are always strong, and we make our choices according to them, either consciously or unconsciously. The more conscious we become of our beliefs, the more we can let go of those beliefs that cause us to live in disharmony. In the deepest level of our being, we become integrated into a harmonious whole.
How did we learn to walk? At first it was normal for us that everyone else walked on two feet except we. It never occurred to our mind that someday walking would be so easy and natural as it is now. Other people believed that one day we could walk. They were with us, and they demonstrated walking as a natural part of their lives. They helped us by lifting us up and by supporting us when we began to move our feet. Then there was a time when we were able to stand on our own two feet, waving back and forth. We took our first step. We stood up and fell, stood up and fell, but one day we walked. We learned to run, and now we know we can walk. In principle, we could also have refused to walk, but our life would be much impaired had we done so. When we were small, our minds were open towards the world, and it was natural for us to adjust ourselves according to what we saw and heard.
Faith is not willful forcing or self-hypnosis where we intellectually try to own new beliefs. This kind of faith is often escape from reality, and refusal to accept the fact that what we do always originates from our deep beliefs, were they conscious or not. The essential element of faith is surrender, and we already surrender to our beliefs. Whatever we do, originates from our ‘faith’. When we learned to walk, we did so through surrendering ourselves to the process of learning to walk, and we did not argue about related theories. We may believe in loving God, but if we deep inside us believe that we are a burden to everyone else, our life will be dictated by our deep-rooted belief of worthlessness, and we can not surrender ourselves to the love other people give us. Instead, we will be searching for people to love us and to assure us that we have at least some worth. Our unconscious belief will drive us, and eventually in our quest for acceptance we might really end up being a burden to people around us. Only when we surrender to our feeling of worthlessness, we can own our worth as children of God who have great worth and who can share love in grace and truth. Much of this is done through grieving our deep-seated attitudes after they have become conscious. We let the love of God replace our quest for love, and in doing so we integrate divine love in our life. It will shine to us and to other people when the time is right, and not a moment before. The love of God has brought us where we are, and it will lead us towards a new life of love and peace. The love of God is manifested through broken and incomplete people who believe in goodness and whose behavior is not dictated by their wounds. We let God heal our wounds, the deepest of which may be our beliefs in our worthlessness and in our inability to love with healing love.
We learn to know our beliefs in silence, listening to our feelings, to our intuition, and through reflecting on our goals and choices in acceptance. We surrender to ourselves. We can say, "I believe in God who loves me and everyone else, and that is why I feel myself miserable, or I don’t trust that the future is good, or I want to avoid certain situations, or I want to get as much money as I can". In doing so, we will slowly become aware of our true beliefs. Slowly and painfully we come to admit that what we believe is not what we thought. Then we can consciously begin to integrate new and healthy beliefs that spring from our conscious beliefs. In doing so, the amount or our faith does not grow. When our unconscious beliefs are brought into the light, we surrender to them and then we may or may not want to let go of them. We understand that our faith was not weak, but in fact it was controlling us with great power. Unconscious beliefs are always stronger than we are. They are our master. When they become conscious, they lose much of their power, or if they are beliefs we want to keep, they are strengthened. We can integrate dreams in a deep level in our life only when there is space for new beliefs, or when our beliefs are in line with our dreams. In the end, we will become our dreams and a manifestation of our faith. When our actions and goals spring from our faith and dreams, we are our dreams come true, and we already live a life destined to attain our dreams.
Owning new beliefs and truly integrating them in our lives is not easy. As I write this, I am saying goodbye to a belief of being worthless and a burden to other people. A month earlier, I discovered a shameful family secret related to my childhood. I knew it was a meaningful one for me, although at the time of discovery I did not have a slightest idea of how to process it. I thought of it every now and then, and gradually it began to accumulate feelings or sorrow and worthlessness. I know I am worthy and not a burden to other people. I also know that my God loves me with great love and that I am capable to love. This gives me courage and confidence to surrender to the false belief that I am worthless, and surrendering to it gives rise to much grieving. When I surrender to this belief, I see how my life has been dictated by it. When the belief was unconscious, it had great power over me, and I was not aware of it. Now I am aware of it, which is dreadful, but I am in the process of letting go of it. However, letting go of it does not mean that I suppress it, but that I grieve it and the consequences it has had in my life. I am safe since I know it is a false belief, and surrendering to it does not mean I own it. Rather, it means that I can surrender to the feelings and losses caused by it, and then I am able to surrender to grieving it.
I believe in healing and recovery, and this faith is much stronger than the faith of being worthless. As long as the belief in my worthlessness was unconscious, it did not bother me since I was not aware of it. Becoming conscious of unconscious false beliefs is terrifying, especially when we see how they have dictated our lives. We do not suppress them, but surrender to them in an attitude of accepting and understanding ourselves. When we do it, we are able to grieve. In the end, our true conscious beliefs will replace them, and it occurs naturally and without willful forcing. Grieving paves the way for new beliefs, and then they will be solid and not disturbed by contradicting unconscious beliefs. If I did not grieve my old false belief of being worthless, I should use my willpower to assure myself that I have worth. I would not be at rest, and the old belief of being worthless would torment me every now and then. The essence of grieving is letting go, and we can not grieve without surrendering to whatever we grieve. I surrender to the feelings and losses caused by my false belief. When I surrender to my belief of being worthless, I am not indulging in self-pity, since I know it is a false belief. Without this knowledge, I would pity myself, but now I am grieving and letting go of it. In the whole process, I am happy since I know I will be healed.
As I think of the event, I am thunderstruck about how perfectly everything unfolds. Had the secret been revealed to me a moment before than it was, I would not have been able to deal with it constructively. I had no part in disclosing it, but an official document was presented to me and merely read it. I really shiver in front of the love, wisdom and caring of my God. He knows what I need, and he gives it to me at once when I can handle it. I am loved with Healing Love, in Grace and Truth.
I began to heal by reading stories of other people healing and they gave me initial direction and some confidence that maybe I could follow the same path. I discussed with safe people and they assured me that my direction was right. I did not know what was in front of me, yet I did what I could do to take my own weak steps in that direction. As the time passed, I was healed and changed in ways I could never have imagined. At the moment I know my God loves me with great love, and his wisdom surpasses my all thoughts. My faith has become strong, and the stronger it is, the less need I feel to defend it or argue about it. My faith is not an opinion, but trust in God and in his goodness. We can argue about opinions, but not about trust.
The stronger our faith in loving and healing Higher Power is, the deeper issues he can lead us to cope with. We learn to be happy and full of hope even in the middle of intense grieving. We already see the outcome in faith, and we see our dreams come true bit by bit. Each grieving will increase our faith, firstly because letting go of dysfunctional beliefs makes space for healthy beliefs, and secondly, we see how our life is changed during the process. We become free of unconscious false beliefs controlling us, and we own fresh beliefs about ourselves, other people, our God and the universe. Our eyes become open to the tremendous amount of love in the middle of which we live, and we learn to love everything and everybody. When we surrender to the boundless love of our God, we become lovers at rest. We will see the unseen reality, and we realize that our dreams are true.
Faith involves three important elements: knowledge, trust and dreams. Faith is built on what we know, and not on what we don’t know. Thus, faith can be tested and changed - it can grow. If our faith is ‘blind’, we cling to it even when the reality constantly contradicts it. This is also the way an addict lives, without knowing it. Of course, there are times when we have to wait and trust, and keep pushing in faith even when everything else seems to work against it - this is the real meaning of faith. What I mean by blind faith is faith that can not be openly criticized or renewed. This faith needs to be aggressively defended, since it arises from a system of rigid doctrine, and 'salvation' is a consequence of having a proper doctrine. Actually, the salvation is then based on the works and thoughts of the individual, and thus the object is faith in the correctness of one's faith and not trust in God who can take care of us even when we are wrong. This faith has no space for rest and dreams, except trust in having the right system of thoughts, which actually means trust in the wisdom of the individual concerning the idea of God and religion. This kind of faith may a necessary step towards a deeper surrender to God, but it is such only if it will become rooted in our life by experiencing the goodness of God in our daily life. If it does not lead us to rest in the love of our Higher Power, we can not experience being unconditionally loved. If we deep within experience that our Higher Power, Life or the Universe love us only when we do the right things, we will become victims of our own actions, and our self-acceptance is not based on what we are, but what we do. We do good works because we are good, but we are not good because we do good works. Our Higher Power loves us, always. No matter we do, we can not change his attitude towards us.
Our faith has been fully integrated in our life when it can not be separated from our living, when everything we think, say or do has been surrendered to God. This means that our life then has no special place for faith or God, and actually we can not distinguish 'faith', since it does not exist as a separate object within us. Everything we do, we just do, and there is no such concept as whether or not it is done in faith. It is done in faith, but to think so is meaningless, since it would imply that we could recognize faith someplace within our thoughts or feelings. Living in faith transforms to being in faith, but even this thought is absurd, since there is no other way for us to be - we merely are ourselves and there is no other way for us to be. In this paradox, we lose our faith since we can not recognize it or say, "My faith is strong". Actually, I would like to say, "My faith is weak", since I don't know how to defend it. But I also know there is no need to defend it. What would I gain with it? God loves me, with or without my faith. My faith plays no part in it. I experience God's love towards me, and it is evident in everything that happens to me. Is there anything to defend? God's love surprises me almost every day. He works in ways I never thought. If I would defend something, I would defend my concept of God, and I have seen many times that he is not interested in my intellectual concept of him. Neither am I. In the end, faith is surrender to something that can not be exhaustively defined and to something that is destined to surprise us every day.
Our Higher Power loves us with unconditional love. Whatever comes on our way is the best that ever could happen to us. I had known it intellectually, but deep within I questioned many things that happened to me and rebelled against them. Through my difficult times in recovery I have learned that everything serves the purpose of love. We learn to love and we become people capable to love. We can fully surrender to our Higher Power only when we understand and experience that he loves us and that he has the power to love us through all possible circumstances. The voice of the rebel gradually silences as our whole mind surrenders to God. Then the primary meaning of faith is satisfied and hopeful trust. The objects of faith (books, candles, signs, whatsoever) then become simple ways to guide our thoughts towards God, and they lose much of their ‘holiness’. They become a part of our commitment to God, but we also understand that we can commit ourselves to him even without them. Actually, the question is God's commitment to us, and it is so conclusive that we can grasp only minuscule details of it.
When I went through heavy times, regretting the past and worrying about the future, I did not have a slightest idea of what I would be in the end. I thought I would finish with antidepressants to survive. I am almost every day astonished about myself, especially because of having no defenses. There is simply no need to defend myself, since everything is in the hands of categorically loving God. There are difficult times, but they are lessons to be surrendered to, and not to be fought against. They are the means of God to love me - as well as the pleasant moments. Earlier I used to reserve specific moments for God and for 'building' my faith. I am sure that he used them and worked though them, but he has done his greatest work in my life through the unexpected things. Especially though them he pointed out that what he wants is a humble mind willing to ask questions, and not a mind that 'knows' how to reach him. A humble and quiet mind is teachable in every circumstance, and not only during religious moments. Our 'holy' moments can at times direct our mind towards our religious actions and not towards our Higher Power himself. God can not be exhaustively defined in human terms. In our life there are no holy moments - our whole lives are holy and in the hands of God. We will make mistakes, ask stupid questions, rebel and be angry with God, but they are a part of learning and growing. Our God knows how limited impression we have about him, and he delights in revealing his greatness to us. We will rebel when our principles are challenged, and I am sure God is amused by our mutiny. Anyway, he comes close with love and in his humble majesty, teaching us in all possible circumstances.
What is integrated and where? Simply said, Everything is integrated into Almost Nothing, or the other way round. We lose our identity as distinct persons or egos, and what remains is 'I with God', 'I in God' or 'God in me'. Our 'old' everyday ego will disappear, or actually it will have no meaning apart from our union with God. We find our meaning without knowing what it is, but we also know that we don't have to know. My experience of the process is that it is radical, although it happens slowly and sometimes with much pain. It is strange for me to say that I have become selfless and satisfied with what I have. My ego is not the same it used to be - it exists in union with my Creator, restfully annihilated in him. I know I could start desiring many things for myself, but the question is why? I am peacefully satisfied in my rest on the shoulders of Infinity. Many things I used to strive to attain have become meaningless. They are simply nothing compared with God's majesty around me and within me - or I in his magnificence. The goodness of God surprises me almost every day, internally or externally, and I know the best I can do is to be quiet 'around' him. Shortly said, infinite peace and rest are integrated into a minuscule restlessness and pain. I would not want to rip myself off from Infinite Being in order to own my microscopic Ego in restlessness, pain and separation. There are no holy moments, although there are specific times when I want to be quietly present in the front of God. Yet these times are no more holy than the other times of trying to live a good life, and moments of failing to do so. Each failure can be holy if we learn to forgive ourselves, and when we understand that we can not live a perfect life, we learn to forgive others, too. We are human beings, and we are good. We are the best thing that ever has happened to ourselves. Unless we appreciate it, there will be no rest for us.
As I write this, I have just finished reading Soul's articles about Borderline Personality Disorder for one more time. (As a side note, it is interesting to experience how the texts read some time ago speak differently later.) I have identified many traits of BPD in me, and it feels only natural. Reading the articles once again raised enormous sorrow due to my years stuck in self-hate, hating something that actually was not me but rather lack of me, or lack of my self. However, the sorrow was peaceful, although very deep, since I understood that I have learned to love and respect myself. My obsessions, shame and anxiety have already gone, and subtler issues have now been uncovered. The traits of BPD are more or less chances to grow and to learn to love myself in fresh ways. There will be many more tears for me to cry, but they feel like warm drops of spring rain, giving birth to a new, fresh world worth of living every day. I also understood in a deep way, how fragile and easily scared my inner child is. I rejected him and punished him, although none of it was his fault. No wonder he has many tears to cry. When I approach him, he is so sad, and so innocent, that I can only feel love and compassion towards him. He is worth of all the goodness and faith I can give. He is the one I want to protect with all the ways I can. He is my real self, and he is so weak, yet so compassionate and loving. He is also easily scared. Let us give our inner children rest in faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Out of Pain