Recently I was having a conversation with my roommate about these two words. I said, ‘“I have faith for sure. But hope? I’m not so sure I have hope.” Those words felt sad as they left my mouth.
Faith feels grounded. I’m connected to Mother Earth. I do have faith. Faith in myself. Faith in getting through. Even faith in having friends, laughter and love. Hope felt light, etherial, like something elusive I couldn’t grasp or hold on to.
Later when I was thinking about losing my excess weight, I realized that I had a lot of hope but not a lot of faith. What was going on? I do hope I will lose weight. I do not have faith I will lose weight? Why? Because I haven’t been able to yet. And in my multiple years of trying over and over, I don’t believe I can necessarily figure my body out. But I hope I can.
My ideas of Faith and Hope definitely needed some description and definition so I could figure out how and when these words play out in my heart and my life. Faith and Hope felt differently to me in different contexts, which might seem an obvious thing to say, but in reality it wasn’t like I was choosing these reactions, emotions, or thoughts, they sort of just came upon me and I wanted to understand my thoughts and feelings better.
According to Dr. Brene Brown in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection,” hope is not an emotion, it’s a cognitive choice. We can learn hope and we can teach hope to others. My job in the weight-loss industry, is actually one that teaches, encourages and imagines hope. According to Dr. Brown’s research, Whole Hearted people engaged consciously in hope. Hope was closely tied to having goals and developing the perseverance and tenacity to hold on to those goals. If the goal wasn’t easy, people didn’t lose their way. And if the goal was too easy, those with hope didn’t discount the accomplishment, as if “It was too easy, so therefore it must not be good.”
Faith came up differently according to Dr. Brown. Here’s how she defines faith. “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
She goes on to note that so often people who claim they are faithful, act with certainty in their resolutions, which perhaps isn’t faith at all? Faith is the mystery. I can’t know what will happen and I’m willing to live in uncertainty. Life is uncertain. How can I be certain of anything actually? However, I’m willing to keep putting one foot in front of the other without knowing anything beyond this moment. I definitely practice not catasrophizing an unknown future. I see so many people who do this, when they actually don’t know anything about anything. You can’t! You can’t know beyond this moment, this instant, what will happen in the next. You can imagine for sure. You can project. You can suppose. But you cannot know for certain. And that mystery is faith.
A lot of people get amped thinking and worrying about an unknown future. They sort of find they “can’t help” thinking their thoughts and having their feelings. But even that thought isn’t true. It’s a discipline of the mind. And the first step is to decide that we don’t want to feed into our worry and anxiety anymore. We don’t want to amp up with obsessive thoughts trying to control an uncertain future.
But in the discipline of my mind, I have to guard carefully those outside forces that influence my thoughts and feelings in a negative way. If I am going to hear hate, fear, and anger from others who are complaining, amped and worried themselves, or if I am going to listen and read sources of discord, then I must know that my thoughts and feelings are vulnerable to these negative influences. Because the mind will find every resource to prove you are right. It can’t stand being wrong. So if you are worried or fearful about anything, the mind will find ways to prove you right. You are not immune to this process.
Also I rely on my faith because of my past; I have survived and even thrived with difficult situations. This is the gift of age. When something crosses my path that makes me uncomfortable, I know that I’ve done other difficult things, endured, gotten through, made it, learned, grew and that once again, I can take on the lesson life is presenting me.
What I’ve realized thus far from this research, is that I hope that something will click with regards to the acceptance of myself. It’s not a one-shot realization either. It a willingness to try multiple times, willing to learn lessons sometimes repeatedly, as I practice my understanding of health in my body, mind and spirit. I hope that at some point, I’ll do enough inner personal work that I’ll finally be able to do enough to lose weight and that I’ll have done enough work to maintain a smaller size.
My faith regarding my body is a mystery because I feel a sense of calm in the unknowingness of my situation. I know from my past what I can and cannot do, what I’m willing to do and not do and I am willing to keep growing, exploring and trying. I never give up. I always expect that everything is teaching me something and it’s up to me to wake up to the lesson. Again, not a one time only wake up. I get to practice a lot.