Thoughts on Faith

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Jane, other people seem to be able to find faith much more easily than I do. I’m of Jewish background but I never believed I was one of the “chosen people” in that I don’t think anyone else is less chosen. I’ve never embraced the idea of a God that watches over me or my loved ones or cares if I win or lose a tennis tournament. And I’ve never taken Bible stories literally. I do believe in what I call the Great Mystery, and I know I can’t possibly fathom realities that exist beyond my five senses. So I’m not cynical. But I wonder if I’m missing something.

You and I are very similar in our beliefs. Having disclosed this, I will now tell you that I am a person of faith. You are too. We all are. We all believe in something, usually many things, even if some of them are our worst self-judgments or the most limiting of beliefs.

Sometimes I put my faith in the brain tumor I had removed in 2003. I can believe in its power to return unexpectedly and with a vengeance. Do I want to believe this? I’m sure you can imagine that my “No” here is more like “No way!” Here’s what I choose to do with that thought. First, I recognize that it is just that—a thought. I may be right about it someday; I hope I’m wrong. But I have a choice about putting my faith in it. Why would I want to? Maybe because I use the brain tumor to remind me how precious life is and that every day counts. If that’s the lesson I want to get from it, then I think I’ll put my energy into making each day meaningful. I can change my faith to a belief in the power of living every day to the fullest. That way, maybe I won’t need a brain tumor (again) as a wake-up call.

I also sometimes believe that I have to struggle where others don’t. How could that one possibly serve me? It does give me a good work ethic, a chance to prove to myself how much perseverance I am capable of, and a feeling of having put in “a good day’s work.” I rarely feel lazy. But is this belief in struggle where I really want to place my faith? I want everyone I know (and even those I don’t) to be released from unnecessary struggle, to have ease, to have basic needs met without fear. If I want that for everyone else, can I allow it for me? It seems that if I can give up some of the guilt I’ve obviously carried, I could begin to have faith that life can be abundant without the kind of struggle I’ve endured in the past. And if I begin to have faith in my own worthiness, maybe I’ll be a better role model to others who also want to walk a gentler path.

A product of parents forced to flee Nazi Germany and Austria, I often have faith that evil is more powerful than good. That one can lead me to deep despair. My faith in evil triumphing over good has been tough for me to change because I think that if I expect the worst, I won’t be disappointed. But then again, my attempts to defend against disappointment have been pretty futile. When I listen to the news of someone doing something horrific to another being, it still gets to me. So if I can’t steel myself against disappointment in human nature, why hang onto a belief that magnifies the worst? I can choose to remember that Hitler’s reign did end, that the Berlin Wall fell, that millions of us are working to raise the awareness of genocide in Darfur and elsewhere, and that there are decent people everywhere doing good deeds that will never be broadcast on the nightly news.

I used to have faith that my weight would always be an issue although this faith has been (gratefully) slipping in the last couple of years. I think it started with a willingness to see it as just a belief. Once I did that, I could question my own authority.

We are never lacking for faith. We all believe; we are just not always conscious that we are perceiving the world, our relationships, our health, and ourselves through our belief systems. As soon as we recognize that we are putting our faith somewhere, we can begin to choose consciously where we want to place that faith.

What we choose to believe in matters because we perceive according to our beliefs. In other words, “Believing is seeing.” And what we believe and see and experience we project out into the world. I want to offer the world faith in good over evil. I also want to demonstrate faith in the healing powers of love, joy, and compassion. Where do you want to place your faith?

To learn more about Jane Straus’s life coaching work, read excerpts from her book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life (Jossey-Bass, 2005), view Jane’s TV interviews, and listen to her radio interviews, visit

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