Faith can be influenced by the people we surround ourselves with, the religions we grew up with, particular things we believe in, and all of them define us based on the degree of our confidence in faith. Founded on all these fragments of our life are the countless diverse forms and ways to make us believe in faith. Every faith involves a decision. It is not about what we claim to believe, but what we actually do believe based on evidence and facts that is true belief or knowledge. To understand the truth, it requires trust to accept the truth as it is, without a doubt. Faith, therefore, is acquiring knowledge through the struggle of life that enables us to understand and accept the truth; Having faith is essential for finding our purpose and meaning in life or our passion, which leads to the development of self-trust and identity.
To understand the concept of faith is to understand the dedication of a person towards their power to obtain knowledge that fits their personal or religious beliefs. The sacrifices we make every day to achieve knowledge, such as getting an education and getting a college degree, helps a person understand how faithful they are to their life and finding what their passion is. They can achieve reality as their vision becomes clear as to which belief is more fitting to them. Having faith is to acquire this knowledge, which allows us to rationalize the truths and the facts of our past and history. History is simply one’s interpretation of the past or an event that can be told through different perspectives. Hence, it is vital to understand and accept the truth, so we can find our passion and value in life or to have faith.
Struggle is the situation in which oneself carries the unbearable weight of others, foraging to find both purpose and worth, or suffering through the miseries of life. Struggle is necessary in order to emphasize how persistence could overcome adversity. Without life struggles, one does not have faith because it is through these hardships that one finds self-confidence and one’s purpose in life because these misfortunes helps to shape one’s mindset and attitude. Faith is simply a struggle for life in that a person who has struggled in life will always be sensitive towards others, will value people more than things, and will be slightly wiser than someone who has never seen struggle. When we struggle with something under our control and overcome that struggle, we learn to appreciate the value of that something better. We understand, first hand, the work, and effort that went into accomplishing or gaining that something. If given to us with little effort, we often value that something less than if we earned it. Struggling with something outside of our control is what shapes our lives. It brings to surface our true character. Through this, we start to develop self-trust by being aware of our thoughts and feelings and expressing them, following our personal standards and ethical code, knowing when we need to care for ourselves first, knowing we can make mistakes, get up and try again, and pursuing what we want without stopping or being limited by others; This is the true essence of having faith.
Jean-Paul Sartre proposes the idea of bad faith based on the human condition that is comprised of two parts: facticity and transcendence. Facticity is the set of facts that you have no power over (i.e., your body, your past, your place, and your history). Transcendence is your consciousness that is directed beyond itself and is constant “negating” or “being other than” (i.e., your freedom and choice). Bad faith, therefore, is denying either one’s facticity or transcendence.
In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir, Between the World and Me, Coates narrates his experiences and thoughts of being a black man in America. Growing up in Baltimore, Coates’ early childhood revolved around “the Fear,” which meant the ability to lose his body because it was not his to govern and secure; It belonged to the “Dreamers.” To protect his body, he had to learn the rules of the streets and how to discipline his body in school. He says, “I was black because of history and heritage” and realizes that being “black” was “just someone’s name for being at the bottom, a human turned to object, object turned to pariah” (Coates 55). He thinks being black solely meant “living in a box.” Thus, Coates is in bad faith, according to Sartre, for believing that this is the only way to live.
However, as Coates goes to Howard University, a historic all-black college, his definition of being “black” starts to change as he witnesses different attributes and behaviors of his race. From watching students freely playing saxophones, trumpets, and drums to seeing women with hijabs and long skirts, Coates’ view of the physical world expands beyond his current knowledge. He realizes that living and being in a black body meant more than merely “living in a box” because these people are able to express themselves and move their bodies freely without the control and rules of how to behave from society. Coates’ epiphany made him understand that he had been blindsided by the fear that he grew up with and that there was more to his identity than his history and body. Diversity doesn’t just exist between being “black” or “white,” but could also be found within his race. School had suppressed his curiosity in finding answers to what it means to live freely in America, but being at Howard, Coates found his freedom that he denied in the past or his transcendence.
Additionally, Coates’ awakening intensifies as he goes to New York and France for the first time. In Howard, diversity existed, but only within the black spectrum. Upon arriving in New York, he sees cross-cultural interactions and relationships that he never encountered before. He was in shock to see this because this was something he never thought was possible. Moreover, being in Paris for the first time made him step out of his comfort zone. He says he felt like an “alien,” “a sailor” because, for the first time, he was alone in a foreign country (Coates 124). Everything he learned and mastered growing up, such as the rules of the streets and the disciplines in school, no longer applied. By living by the standards and regulations of society, Coates realizes he was living in his own sphere, not experiencing the things he should have been able to. He learns to accept himself and his body through his transcendence and the journey of obtaining new knowledge. He feels that being black could also mean the right to freedom and entitlement to happiness in a dominant white society despite his history. Coates was able to develop his own identity through his struggle of living in the “Fear,” which is his faith.
As a child, Coates was stripped of his identity, forced to “perform” his role as a submissive subject/object. His history and heritage projected an image that he felt obligated to follow. Coates lives with constant faith because his life is a continuous struggle of racism for being a black man in America, and there was nothing he could do to change this fact. Coates’ journey from moving out of Baltimore and into New York and Paris for the first time, however, has changed his perspective of what it meant to be black. At first, he thought being black meant confinement and living to societal standards and expectations to protect his body. Through his experience in Howard and his trip to New York and France, being black feels normal to Coates because he no longer felt confined in a diverse society. This newfound knowledge enabled Coates to have faith that he lacked at first because his struggle of life and existence gave him a new meaning of life.
In particular, Prince Jones’ death greatly impacted him because he knows how easily it could have been him in that situation and reminded him of the “old fear” he grew up with as a child. Coates felt anger and rage because he knows he can never truly escape his struggle in life. However, rather than feeling trapped and letting his facticity define him, Coates used these emotions to develop self-trust, which is required for forming almost all beliefs, according to Zagzebski. Zagzebski argues that emotions have meaning, can be evaluated, and are rational, and this can be seen in Coates’ situation. Coates channeled the emotions of feeling unjust in the world he lives in as his form of identity by choosing to be a writer. Writing gave him a sense of comfort and is the only thing he could turn to and secure, given the facts of his body and the past. For this reason, Coates’ preceding knowledge of his history and his body as an adolescent evolved into a form of expression as he acquired a new understanding and knowledge of his freedom through the struggles of his life to become a writer.
For the most part, Coates struggled with internal and external conflicts as he finds faith. Internally, Coates holds conflicting disagreements between his heart and his mind. Coates was always curious and felt like society, in particular schools, has been hiding the truth from him. He feels that there is more to who he is then what schools and society have made him to be. At the same time, he knows that being black also means obedience and submission towards the “Dreamers,” who are essentially white privileged families because he cannot change the past or the history of America. The dilemma of “being black is” and “being black feels like” arises as a result. Meanwhile, Coates continues to struggle with society’s oppression, which adds to his internal conflict with himself. Coates’ struggle of life has shaped his mindset and allowed him to appreciate better the things he has (i.e., his son, which is the reason he wrote this book as a letter to him to tell him what he has experienced and learned so he will have a better life than he did). Through his struggles, Coates developed self-trust by being aware of his thoughts and feelings and expressing them by pursuing what he wants to be, demonstrating the importance of having faith.
Faith, or a struggle of life, can be applied to many areas of life in our pursuit of knowledge and the acceptance of the truth. However, it is not about what we claim to believe, but what we actually do believe based on evidence and facts that is true belief or knowledge. Acquiring this knowledge is crucial to helping one find their purpose in life and develop one’s identity and self-confidence, which is what it means to have faith.