08/13/2012 02:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Are Spirituality and Faith? Not What Most People Think...

2012-08-02-5047890025_d44fb5a112_m.jpgSpirituality is not declaring, "The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it." That settles nothing. Such proclamations sound absolute -- sound certain -- sound as if the person making them is living by faith.

Want to know the truth? Most likely, it is this: declarations like these are often confused for faith, and no one is more bemused by them than the one who makes the declaration. Declarations of absolute certainty succeed only in hiding people from the reality of their own fear, as well as their inability, or refusal, to genuinely live by faith -- which could only ever be learning how to live in the face of uncertainty.

Faith is learning to live beyond the verbal crutches -- without the declarations people make that delude them into believing they are right, that what they believe is the truth, that their beliefs are more right than the beliefs of others. This IS the religion of most people, certainly the religion of many Christians, and it was mine for decades, too.

It is a terrible way to live. Yet, those who do are driven by the compulsory need to pretend they are right -- that their beliefs are correct -- and so debate, argue and defend those beliefs. Which is like trying to hold together a straw man in the middle of a wind storm.

How do you know when you are living in the delusion of your own declarations?

How do you feel whenever someone expresses a belief different from your own? Threatened? Uncomfortable? Or, what goes on inside you when another person questions your beliefs? Do you react? Defend? Get into debates? Disagreements? Do you feel the need to correct someone for what you perceive is the error of their ways?

Or, do you do the opposite -- equally revealing of your own lack of faith -- and that is to just withdraw from them, to refuse to engage them, to write them off, so to speak, to go your merry way, dismissing them as "lost" or confused?

But isn't it really you who is confused? Lost? Pretending to be certain with your increasingly loud declarations?

Spirituality is relinquishing the need to control which is only an illusion anyway. You cannot control anything, especially Life itself.

"I just accept things by faith," is often the statement made by those who feel powerless, unable to control reality, and who cannot accept the things they cannot explain. For these people, this sort of declaration most likely means they've found a way to just avoid the unacceptable by dismissing it -- by diving behind declarations and avoiding what they cannot control or explain.

And what is it they cannot control? Explain? Life itself. And what is it that is inexplicable and uncontrollable about Life itself? Everything!

This is the explanation for why religion, and religious people, become dogmatic, narrow-minded, absolutely certain that their beliefs are right, and others are wrong. It IS the spiritual illness of our time and it is anything but genuine faith.

Faith is so much more than the declarations you make. It is a life you live. It is life lived in the face of uncertainty -- what cannot be controlled. Saint Paul put it like this: "Faith is being certain of things you cannot see" (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, faith is an inner feeling of peace, of confidence, of certainty that, even though you cannot see around you anything that's certain or sure at all, that's OK. You no longer have to have it that way. This is the paradox -- in uncertainty, you find certainty. It's only ever when you try to make things around you absolute, certain, safe -- which is why religion and religious people typically make loud proclamations about their beliefs -- that you really have given up a life of faith in exchange for a collection of beliefs. You then make an idol of the Bible, for example, saying things about it -- how it is "infallible," "inerrant," "the absolute truth" -- and so create the illusion of certainty instead of the truth of uncertainty.

Begin today to live by faith, genuine faith, instead of empty proclamations. Which means, give up the illusion of control. In other words, exchange your catalogue of beliefs -- beliefs that could only ever reward you with the illusion of certainty, could only ever give you a temporary feeling of security or happiness and, instead, allow inner peace to emerge. It will. Naturally and with no effort on your part own. This is the meaning of faith. It is your natural state of existence.

You could think of faith as this inner, quiet confidence that, even though you cannot see, predict or control anything, it is no longer necessary to do so.

How might you have this kind of faith? Give up looking for it. You have it already. Seek not to control. This will take practice, however, lots of it in fact -- every day -- even every hour. Make it your spiritual practice to release -- to relinquish the compulsory need to control and you'll begin to make the wonderful discovery that easterners know and describe as, "the wisdom of uncertainty" -- what Saint Paul called, "the things not seen." You will begin to feel certain in the face of uncertainty. This is the mystery. You cannot explain this. You can, however, experience it.

This is the secret to happiness. It IS the way of faith. And it is the meaning of spirituality.

If you'd like to read more on the subject of spirituality, visit my blog at and sign up for my weekly newsletter.