Persisting in my faith in humanity

Like so many, I was deeply saddened on Saturday when Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate for the Supreme Court. It was another blow to to the future of our country, and I found myself thinking “How can the people who voted for him sleep at night? How can anyone so callously and thoughtlessly give this obviously unfit man a lifetime appointment to such a powerful position? Are there no limits anymore?”

The sheer cruelty, ugliness, and insanity regularly displayed by Donald Trump and his followers have frequently elicited such thoughts in me in the past several years. Indeed, I have to admit that my faith in humanity has been seriously shaken. Oh, philosophically I retain that faith; as a student of A Course in Miracles, I continue to believe that in spite of our darkness, our true nature is of God and thus is ultimately good. But on a practical, everyday level, I’ve been shocked and appalled at just how dark that darkness can get. There are moments every day when I am struck speechless at the latest example of utter barbarity or sheer Kafkaesque insanity.

So, I’ve been looking for ways to bolster my faith in humanity in a time when it seems that faith has no firm foundation. It’s a big issue that touches every area of my life, of course, not just my daily engagement with our crazy political scene. One thing I do is my Course practice, and that has been extremely helpful. But I’ve also found it helpful to put what is happening into a mental framework that makes faith in humanity sensible and rational to me. I find that I really need that to give me the inspiration and strength I need to get through my day.

This framework encompasses both the darkness and the light of our nature. Looking at the dark side, I’ve tried to cultivate a healthy skepticism without descending into bitter cynicism. By “skepticism” here, I mean being skeptical about apparent goodness. I mean a willingness to acknowledge just how dark even consciously well-intentioned people’s motives often are (including my own), to see through the face of innocence, to say along with my partner Patricia “Tengo mis sospechas” (“I have my suspicions”) when faced with dubious proclamations of nobility and goodness. The key is to be able to do this without succumbing to the temptation to cynically say “They’re all rats. End of story.”

Looking at the light side, I’ve tried to cultivate a healthy trust without letting it descend into naive gullibility. By “trust” here, I mean trusting in genuine goodness. I mean a willingness to see the real good in people (including my own), to give them a chance to express the better angels of their nature, to have faith in their ultimate goodness even when that goodness is hard to see. The key is to be able to do this without succumbing to the temptation to gullibly say “It’s all good. Sure, Mr. Nigerian prince, I’ll give you my credit card numbers. What could possibly go wrong?”

I think the challenge with both the dark side and the light side is that we have a tendency to think we are doing the healthy option when we’re actually doing the unhealthy one. In other words, we think we’re simply being appropriately skeptical when we’re really being deeply cynical, and we think we’re being appropriately trusting when we’re really being dangerously gullible. In my experience, this second confusion is an unfortunate tendency of spiritual seekers, who naturally want to cultivate spiritual trust, but can easily be taken in by charlatans who want to exploit that trust. The only way I’ve found to undo these confusions—and this way is far from perfect, given our human fallibility—is the constant effort to be vigilant, discerning, and committed to the truth.

The attitude I’m trying to cultivate, then, is skeptical trust. This sounds like a contradiction in terms, but I don’t think it really is. It simply means taking both the darkness and the light seriously. It means looking at the darkness of human beings squarely and honestly, while also searching for the light and trusting that the light will have the final word. It means standing before everything that seems to argue against faith in humanity, and persisting in that faith nonetheless.

This isn’t easy, but without persisting in my faith in humanity, I don’t think I could even get out of bed in the morning. I think this is the only way to make it through these troubling times, the only way forward to a brighter future.

12 Replies to “Persisting in my faith in humanity”

  1. Thanks for this Greg. Skeptical trust reminds me of the “gentle firmness” Jesus encourages in our Course practice—seemingly contradictory but actually describing the quality we are after with precision. Your persistent faith in humanity is inspiring. I, too, have felt challenged of late and feel support from this writing.

  2. Thanks Greg, I really appreciate this piece. I find that many students struggle with looking only at the light when studying the Course. To me it seems that the Course is saying: look at the darkness (indeed the world I see is mostly darkness) AND look at the light. I like your skeptical trust phrase. We look the darkness in the face, while knowing that it is not the real truth of the person or the situation.

  3. Thanks Greg. Over the last 2 years I’ve been looking at all the darkness that seems to be engulfing the entire planet. It’s like I’m watching a train wreck and I can’t look away. I keep asking for help to see past it. To call on the light I believe is there to somehow guide me in my actions within this madness. I still have faith, although there are times…. Your comments are helpful. Janet’s reminder of “gentle firmness” is too.

  4. Thanks Greg. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a train wreck and I can’t take my eyes off it. The whole planet seems very dark right now. I so often feel confused as to how to respond, how to be the love. How can I be here and “listen to the still, small voice within” so as not to be overwhelmed by the darkness.
    Your comments and Janet’s help.

  5. I have long been an ardent follower of Marianne Williamson, and so, it was natural for me to look to her for guidance when our political scene changed so drastically in 2017. I made plans to protest, to attend Sister Giant conferences, to stay abreast of all the ways in which this administration is corrupting our laws and voting system and . . . You get the point. And THEN, I prayed about it. Should have done that first, because I was told very clearly to rise above the battlefield, to trust in the process, to have faith that God has the well being of all of us under control, and to leave all my concerns in His Hands. To butt out effectively. Not what I wanted to hear. My ego was deeply offended, and quite frankly, still is. But I know enough to believe that Voice, and even though I am reluctant on so many levels, I continue to try to rein in my own fears, my own hatreds, my own skepticism, and anxiety and depression. And that’s where I am now, trusting (as much as I can) God. And Robert Mueller and his ilk, people in Washington who really have the knowledge and expertise to effect change. Hope that makes sense.

  6. Today’s reading from the Course:

    Anything in this world that you believe is good and valuable and worth striving for can hurt you and will do so. Not because it has the power to hurt, but just because you have denied it is but an illusion and made it real. And it is real to you. It is not nothing and through its perceived reality has entered all the world of sick illusions. All belief in sin, in power of attack, in hurt and harm, in sacrifice and death has come to you. For no one can make one illusion real and still escape the rest. For who can choose to keep the ones which he prefers and find the safety that the truth alone can give? Who can believe illusions are the same and still maintain that even one is best?

    45 Lead not your little lives in solitude with one illusion as your only friend. This is no friendship worthy of God’s Son, nor one with which he could remain content. Yet God has given him a better Friend in Whom all power in earth and Heaven rests. The one illusion that you think is friend obscures His grace and majesty from you and keeps His friendship and forgiveness from your welcoming embrace. Without Him you are friendless. Seek not another friend to take His place. There is no other friend. What God appointed has no substitute, for what illusion can replace the truth?

    46 Who dwells with shadows is alone indeed, and loneliness is not the Will of God. Would you allow one shadow to usurp the throne that God appointed for your Friend if you but realized its emptiness has left yours empty and unoccupied? Make no illusion friend, for if you do, it can but take the place of Him whom God has called your Friend. And it is He who is your only Friend in truth. He brings you gifts that are not of this world, and only He to whom they have been given can make sure that you receive them. He will place them on your throne when you make room for Him on His.

  7. Thank you for all of your kind replies, everyone!

    Nancy, since you concluded with “Hope that makes sense,” I thought I’d share a bit about what makes sense to me. Of course, by all means, follow your own guidance. But speaking more broadly, I think it’s going to take a lot more than Robert Mueller and company to effect real change. Indeed, real change has historically come from the activism of countless ordinary people. Washington changes when the call of the people demands it.

    So, I think each of us has an important role, and many of us will be guided to an activist role like the types of things Marianne Williamson is talking about. Certainly that seems to be the case with me. Yes, we trust God, but God works through us.

    Well, that’s my two cents. 🙂

  8. Greg, I absolutely agree with what you’ve said, and I didn’t mean to imply that I was guided to do nothing. And I AM involved. However, I believe that you and I and so many other like-minded people are not the problem. As in Germany, in the 1930’s, a good percentage of the population does not understand the issues at stake here, and perhaps things have to get bad enough where they will understand. For us, I think, that happened quite a while ago, but for many it hasn’t happened yet. And I’m not talking just the US. Imagine the enlightened thinking in the UK with Brexit looming large. They must believe themselves on the edge of catastrophe, and perhaps they are. Maybe we are breaking down our institutions to rebuild them correctly. I don’t know, but it’s certainly a difficult time to be on this earth, and trying to make sense of it all. Very scary. Infuriating. Chaotic. Depressing. Sickening. Maybe all of this is necessary to our continued growth, as painful as it is. I am so thankful that I have the Course. I have Jesus to wipe away my tears. To assure me there is no death. To tell me that there is no justice until all of His brothers have justice.

  9. Nancy, thanks so much for your poignant response. I really relate to so much of what you’re saying. These do feel like very difficult times. It seems like we’re experiencing an especially strong wave of insanity these days.

    I’ve always connected with the guidance Jesus gave to Helen about why she was scribing the Course: that the world was in an “acute emergency,” therefore many people were being called to help in a “celestial speed-up,” and Helen’s particular role in that was to scribe the Course. That was written in the 60s, but I think “acute emergency” pretty much sums up our state today. May we each find and fulfill our role in that celestial speed-up!

  10. Thank you all. It is so good to know that I am not the only one trying to deal with this depressing situation without letting it affect me. I have been using the Course’s teachings in the following way: trying not to judge what is happening because I do not know it’s purpose and being willing to accept that the purpose the Holy Spirit gives to everything is forgiveness. So I ask the Holy Spirit everyday to help me forgive Trump and the others that support him so I can see the Son of God in them. If I could do that, they will be my saviors since at last I would really know my true identity I am also asking for guidance in what I should do to be helpful in this difficult times. I belief we all have a function to do and that the Holy Spirit can guide us. If we all work in our forgiveness and seek for guidance, I believe this nightmare can become a happy dream. Jesus gave us the tools to do this and he assures us that he is at our side to help us. So I feel happy since all this mess is taking us a step forward to our return to God.

  11. Thank you, Sandra, for sharing your application of the Course to this situation. I especially like the element of your asking for guidance about how to be helpful. Many people have a tendency to use the teaching of forgiveness as a rationale for not doing anything. But as you say, we each have a function in this situation, something to do in response to it, and the Holy Spirit can help us find it. Thanks again!

  12. Before I started doing the Course many years ago, I did a heart-based practice where I focused on sending pink light from my heart to the person (or situation) that needed it. I never really stopped doing it, since it seems to work in getting me out of my head (and all the reasons why I am right/better/higher) and into my heart. My practice now is whenever I am tempted to look away from Trump or turn off the tv so I don’t have to hear his voice is to look directly at him, focus on my heart, and let the love/light flow. I also say a Course-based prayer (“You are still God’s Holy Son. . .”). It helps.

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