Trust or Faith?

Elul Day 24

Recently I thumbed through an old well-loved book called Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Buddhist teacher and writer Sharon Salzberg. Salzberg opens the book with the story of her own "faith journey," and subsequent chapters address topics such as different kinds of faith, dealing with fear. and trusting ourselves. I return to this book often for new insights and ideas about faith, and actually posted briefly on this topic back in May. 

As I was glancing through the book, I noticed how trust and faith are at times used interchangeably, and I got to thinking about that. Are trust and faith synonymous? If not, how are they different? Certainly they are related concepts, but not necessarily identical. 

Trust seems to be more grounded in relationships, with ourselves, with other people, with groups of people and organizations. It is one thing to trust yourself, another to trust other people, and still another step to trust in community. Being able or willing to trust does involve some risk, such as risking the possibility of disappointment or sadness, even betrayal. There is also the possibility of great love and delight. Trust rests on a foundation of faith.

Faith seems deeper somehow. Faith holds out the possibility that there is some kind of safety net (psychologically, spiritually) always present to catch us if we fall. We rely on some measure of faith in order to build trust. 

Being faithful doesn't require a particular theology, but we do have a felt sense of it. A close feeling inside of what we can rely on, what we can trust. Sometimes it is difficult to let go of old patterns or behaviors that we have come to rely on even when we acknowledge that they are no longer serving us well. The old habit of trusting what is familiar is not foolproof; sometimes it is time to do something new.  This is not always easy. Sometimes challenging feelings come up when we are learning to rely on new things, new people, new behaviors. 

I think this is where faith comes in. Perhaps trusting someone or something new comes more easily if we have an underlying faith. For some people, it is faith in a Divine Presence that is their foundation. For others, faith is knowing that spring will come after the bare gray cold of winter. Faith that the sun is present even if it is obscured by rainclouds. Faith that we will exhale after we inhale. Faith that we each have some internal compass that guides us in every moment.