Taking Everyday Leaps Of Faith

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - March 15, 2006
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The 19th century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, believed, “God is totally other than man, therefore between God and man exists a gulf that faith alone can bridge, hence it requires a ‘Leap of Faith.’”

When Kierkegaard coined the phrase “leap of faith” more than a century ago, I doubt he could have realized how far beyond his simple concept of man’s relationship with God would become its relevance. How could he have imagined how universal and timeless its application would become? How could he have imagined the complexities and uncertainties of the world in which we live today?

Indeed, today’s technology - lightning-fast communication, information overload - over-layed by the uncertainties, anxieties, ambiguities and subconscious levels of fear in our post 9-11 world have, whether we’ve realized it or not, made faith our constant companion, the “source” by which we are able to live and move forward each day.

In a world that reminds us daily of the fragility of life, we arise each morning, down some juice or coffee, grab some breakfast, brush our teeth, and go anyway - a small leap of faith! Read the morning paper with the coffee - a little bigger leap of faith. This is the little leap of faith that nearly 3,000 people made the morning of 9-11-01 as they left for work in the towers.

Throughout each day, almost every decision - as trivial as it may seem at the time - is a leap of faith because we simply can’t know with absolute certainty to what fate that decision may lead. When we make decisions informed by experience, or current information, the leap of faith is smaller. On the contrary, acting on a hunch or instinct is a bigger leap of faith. But sometimes we don’t have the experience or the information to make the “exactly right” decision, and hunch or instinct feels too risky, so we are frozen by inaction. Good leadership - including “self-leadership” - includes the ability to act anyway, especially if we have faith that any negative consequences of the less-than-perfect action will be less negative than the inaction.

Obviously, bigger decisions - to marry or not to marry, to change from this job to that job, to go with chemo or radiation - require bigger leaps of faith. But remember, the word “leap” implies forward, and that is the essence of progress.

My friend and speaking colleague, psychologist Carl Hammerschlage, says, “If you have to know where it is that you are going, you can only get to where you have already been!”

In other words, if we don’t want to be stuck in the past, we can’t put off moving forward just because we may not know exactly where we will end up. Personal progress as well as social progress require those “leaps of faith.”

Faith is the belief in things unseen. Faith is the opposite of fear, and it’s far better to live faithfully than to live fearfully. The choice is easier when we understand how often we take “leaps of faith” anyway, frequently not even realizing it when we do.

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