A recent comment about faith on an online ACHD group I belong to got me thinking. I listen to people talk about faith—people in the CHD community, my regular community, the religious community for sure. I see a lot of people go to church, temple, synagogue, and pull out their prayer rug. If you ask them why, they tell you it is their faith. They do these things because they have faith in their religion, their religious leader or their particular religious scripture. They have faith, as if faith were an object. As if the person who belonged to the right religion had the real faith and everyone else’s faith was somehow counterfeit.
I often wonder what people would do if you asked them, show me faith? People talk about putting on their faith or gaining their faith as if it were a coat or a medal of honor to be worn for other to see.
I believe faith isn't an object. You can't see, touch, taste, hear or smell it. You can't even be sure that the person talking to you truly has it. Faith isn't tangible. You can't gain it from a book, person or particular religion. You have to have it. You have to breed it in your heart or your soul. It has to come from you. It has to be yours and only yours. Only you can know what your faith is. Only you can know how strong your faith is. Only YOU! Sure, you can show me acts of faith or talk about acts of faith. But I can't see your faith inside you.
Faith for me is more like a feeling. Faith is like love, empathy, compassion, jealousy, anger, hatred and fear. You can have them. You can contain them within your being, your heart, your soul. Use them as tools to help or hurt yourself or others through your own actions. But you can't give them away. I can't give you faith, although I can have faith in you. I can't give you love, although I can love you. I can't give you compassion, although I can treat you compassionately. By the very same token I can't give you hate, although I could hate you. I can't give you anger, although I can be angry at you. And I can't give you fear, although I can be afraid of you.
To me, faith works like other feelings. You don't need someone to tell you about your faith. It is yours. YOU own it. Like all feelings, the more you nurture them the more they grow. The same is true for all feelings, both the good and the bad.
My CHD has taught me these lessons—they haven't always been easy ones. I have had to give up a lot of the things I used to love to do. I could have given in to anger and fear of what was happening. Instead I chose to work on strengthening my faith and love of life. I truly believe that if I did not have my CHD, I would have gone through life without learning these lessons and I would, in fact, be a lesser man for it.
Here's how I practice my life: I try to cultivate faith, love, compassion and empathy within myself. I do that by practicing acts of kindness. By helping when I can and believing that I am meant to be there. I mindfully tell myself to believe. It is not something that happens overnight. You have to work at it, the same way you would work at anything else. It takes practice and time. You have to accept that at times you will make a mistake. You have to tell yourself that there is a reason. You see, the last thing I want to share about my belief in faith, love, compassion and empathy is that the more you practice them the more they grow within you. The more space they take up, the less room for things like jealousy, hatred, anger and fear.
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