Doubt: A Definition of Terms

How we define something frames the way we think of it. The way we think of something directs our beliefs and behavior. If it is “bad,” we avoid it or feel guilty if we indulge. If it is “good,” we feel justified or righteous, or guilty if we don’t measure up.

There are four words that carry a lot of weight which often get jumbled up, confused, or otherwise tangled: certainty, uncertainty, faith, and doubt. Part of this is because people think certainty and faith are the same and doubt and uncertainty are the same when they are really quite different.

I look at certainty/uncertainty as a kind of spectrum; something that deals with knowledge – verifiable facts and decision making. Where I land on the spectrum reflects how sure I am about my choice. A definite “Yes.” or “No.” shows certainty, while “Maybe.” or “I don’t know.” indicates uncertainty.

While certainty and uncertainty reflect choice, faith and doubt reflect action. They are visceral – in the gut – beliefs.

Faith can uplift and sustain you, while doubt corrodes and undermines. Both are active, living things that grow the more you tend them.

Well-tended, faith opens doors and creates a path forward with unexpected opportunities. It is a nurturing of the soul. 

Doubt is not the same as lack of faith or even lack of trust. When is allowed to thrive, it breathes and grows and eventually corrupts everything it touches.DD

Doubt, like faith, requires a commitment.

The most obvious place the work of faith and doubt show is in our beliefs about ourselves.  

Faith manifests as a core trust in the ability to make the choices and decisions that are best for you. It shows in the level of ownership you have of your space and your life.

Self-doubt shows as the inability to make any kind of decision. You surrender your personal autonomy to those around you and then live with the choices they’ve made for you – even if those choices lead to things like poverty or drug addiction.

When these four words get mixed up, it is easy to get tangled in self-judgment. Understanding that there is room between the extremes of faith and doubt for consideration before choice – before action – makes room for self-forgiveness and, ultimately, growth.

It is important to understand that, like certainty and uncertainty, faith and doubt are on a bit of a sliding scale and that lack of faith does not equal doubt. It simply means that you are not yet ready to a commitment to action.