Our reaction to emerging good faith may be complex. While we may feel refreshed and energized by a potent realization or suitable worldview, moved and touched by the rightness good faith, we may also recoil out of fear and habit. If our good faith stands at odds with prevailing faith, familial traditions, and our own public identity, we may be hesitant to announce and embrace it. In fact, we may cling doggedly to the person and ideas our climate seems to expect. We may pit numerous pressures against the true and clear sight of good faith.
This happened in my case. Rather than fully acknowledging the teachings capable of making me sound, I stayed in my spent exoskeleton, becoming, in my desperation, even more dogmatic. When given opportunities to pursue what could make me grounded and well-adjusted, I fled in the opposite direction, choosing to defend doctrines and ideas I did not, in my reborn heart of hearts, accept myself. As an aspiring Christian theologian who had come this far and invested so much, I thought I had to stick with it and play the part. It seemed the sensible choice. As a Christian told to endure in faith (a certain kind of faith, that is), I thought I had to bear down and “believe.” It seemed the righteous thing to do, the way to overcome potentially damning doubt. This resistance, however, did not endear me to anyone, nor did it help me grow. It hardened and divided me, making all those around me quite miserable.
This kind of opposition to good faith lies at the root of so many problems. Consider the many people who guard inner identities, suppressing their inner selves because they feel the alternative invites disaster. This suppression often manifests in public denunciations of the very identity within, of the very good faith the person in conflict should, for the sake of their well-being and the well-being of those around them, recognize and admit. Life and flourishing languish in the dark, kept down by a poisonous dread and a need for security. The spark of good faith grows dim under the weight of so many pressures.
After enduring this conflict, I have nothing but understanding for those who battle it. In their denial and hesitance, they may act in harmful ways toward themselves and others. They may do real damage for which they need to atone. But they do this because they suffer.
So how does it end? How does one finally exit this terrible state and proclaim good faith? Ultimately, one might grow tired of constant dysfunction. One might really see the opportunity for completeness afforded by good faith. One might wish, after years of searching and exertion, to finally live. But these inner admissions must be followed by the brave act of announcing and living into one’s good faith. One must step forward at some point, fully aware of potential consequences but also fully aware of the much greater potential rewards.
For me, this commitment takes the form of fully investing in the Dhamma, in the way I discovered (or the way that discovered me) quite inconveniently. I must be honest in the good faith fashion. These teachings make me a better person, a more agreeable friend and relative. They allow me to breathe easily and beam, to think of others, to improve myself. They fit and do good work. This is good faith.
If you should find good faith, do not ignore it. Do not cling to the comfortable or the culturally commanding. Nothing can be of more valuable than real vision, than the truth of good faith made manifest in your life. It may sound trite, but be who you are. Do not convince yourself of the necessity of something ill-fitting. Do what makes you better, what brings healing and vitality to you and those around you.
This is good faith, a powerful and joyous thing. I hope we all find it.