Edicts for living (10) Keep Your Faith

Many applied psychology approaches use this principle for living and aim to help people have more faith in themselves and their lives. For example, in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) the importance of maintaining a ‘future focus’, keeping perspective about the problems and balancing these with the joys of life and personal achievements are all aims of therapy with individuals.

Martin Luther King’s words about the need for finite disappointment and infinite hope gave rise to this tenth edict for living, as written on my Nobel Peace centre postcard. Well it applies to everything In life that I can think of. The point is to keep going, keep hoping and having faith and to draw a line under the disappointments. One way or another, throughout the Pandemic we have all had to keep our faith.

In my own life I’ve been reminded of this many times and have found, not for the first time, that football has been an analogy for everything else that was going on. After the first eighteen months with its three lockdowns and all the personal and economic losses that few could avoid, in August last year the premiereship returned . For my team it wasn’t the most auspicious of starts as we were bottom of the table and 20 places above us were our arch rivals. Anyway, eight months later things have changed and we are now in the top four with the possibility of a Champions League place next season if we can maintain our form. It’s not an unusual example of keeping the faith: since the game began this is what has kept millions of fans going, season after season, through all manner of world events.

I wrote the above before we played the current number two in the table. We were by far the better team for the first half but then something changed. Maybe the weight of expectation on the favourites to win was to blame; maybe there is such a thing as luck, perhaps there was a lack of faith; maybe we just weren’t good enough? Probably all those factors and more were to blame but anyway, they got two very ‘flukey’ goals soon after half time and that was that. Disappointing, definitely, but to the point where there is no more hope? Absolutely not. And why? Because there’s always another game, another season, other players, other managers. The possibilities for positive change are endless but one thing remains and that is faith.

Of course, there are other meanings given to the word ‘faith’ and one commonly used one is when it is used as shorthand for belief in a formal religion.  In the west generally, this particular usage is not what it used to be with the wane in church-going, a less widespread belief and some strong criticism of formal religion.   I recently went to see ‘The Book of Mormons’, a stage show satirising such faith.  I had heard it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I was curious to find out why it was billed as one of the most popular shows in the West End. Actually, although I admired the skill and stamina of the performers I found it an uncomfortable and depressing experience.  The depiction of Mormon missionaries, religion in general and the indigenous population of Uganda abounded in stereotypes and some rather unpleasant and inhumane behaviours.  Yes, I realise the show was playing for laughs and some of the audience seemed to find it funny but it left me cold. The messages about religion, race, culture, women and human nature were depressing, insulting and negative. Let’s face it, the world has been having a tough enough time lately so theatre musicals might be expected to lift the spirits. The flyers about the show littered all over the London Underground suggested the show would be funny and feel-good. In reality, because it offered very little cause for hope in the world and in people I found my own faith a little shaken.

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