When someone asks you what you believe in, where does your mind initially go? When I hear that question, I involuntarily begin drawing religious associations. My mind veers straight towards God. And while answering such an open-ended question with such a non-specific answer may seem appropriate, I am inclined to search a bit deeper than that. Because God, in truth, is an oversimplification. An infinite amount of feelings, experiences, principles, and convictions bundled up into one simple, three-letter word. What does it mean to believe in God? What does that mean to me? I use God because it is easy. Despite how boundless the concept is, the word itself is universal.
But getting to the point where I could openly say that I do believe in God (whatever that means) was certainly not easy. In fact, it was one of the most difficult journeys I have ever been asked to take.
As human beings, we are predisposed to believe in something greater than ourselves – faith is a part of our inherent, genetic makeup. No matter how many hardships we conquer throughout our lives, no matter how many classes we take and no matter how old we get, we will all remain utterly ignorant. All that resides within us and our entire perception of reality is nothing but an illusion – an interpretation of something that we will never, ever be able to fully (even partially) comprehend.
Yet we are all born with an innate need to know; an intrinsic and unwavering desire to somehow make sense of it all. Finding something to believe in (something greater than ourselves) satisfies this inborn yearning for reason and purpose and meaning and logic. We develop a belief of our own, or our parents pass one on to us at birth. Or our communities instill us with theirs, or maybe just try to. And through a prolonged process of trial and error and self-discovery and personal growth and heartbreak and success and feeling and failure, we foster a belief in something greater.
And we all do, regardless of what we may think. Some of us will come to believe in organized religion; the Gods that have been passed down through spoken word and scripture since man came to understand the importance of conviction. Some of us will come to believe in the goodness of humanity, or the beauty and authority of the natural world, or in art, or in money. Some of us will come to believe in the sheer futility of it all (though it is quite difficult to live a fulfilled life when we stubbornly deem everything as pointless and insignificant). In any case, we all come to believe in something. In recovery, however, our inclination towards some sort of devotion, however vague, becomes an absolute necessity. We no longer have the luxury of nihilism – even though believing in nothing at all is still kind of believing in something. We are required to develop a sense of faith and begin placing that faith in something greater than ourselves. Many of us choose altruism, at least at first.