THE UGLIEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
I think the ugliest words in the English language are these:
"Sometimes you just have to have a little faith."
Offhand, I cant think of a single sentence that has wreaked more havoc than this one and its many variations.
Having a little faith means, almost literally, that you have abandoned your common sense and put yourself in the hands of someone else who is asking you to believe in something you cant see, and to do so just because they said so.
Theyve got you thinking that youre a cold and unfeeling human being if you refuse to let go and trust something else based not on any compelling reason, but because of faith. They would have you believe that not everything can be analyzed (theyre right on that one), not everything you do has to be calculated and sensible (theyre right about that, too), and therefore, once in a while you just have to have a little faith.
Its the therefore Im having trouble with. And heres why: How are you supposed to know what youre just supposed to have a little faith in? If youre a religious person, youre supposed to be aware of false prophets. How are you going to do that if you believe that, once in a while, you ought to just have a little faith?
This is how people lose billions in scams. Somebody calls you out of the blue and asks you to invest money in Florida real estate. Sounds interesting, so you start asking some good questions. They might even begin by answering them. You ask more questions.
At some point in the conversation, the person on the phone says, "You know, sometimes you just have to have a little faith."
Now, maybe you start to feel bad about pestering this person with all those questions (although, from my limited perspective, twenty minutes of questions prior to plunking down a large portion of your lifes savings is not unreasonable). Maybe hes sighing with exasperation, implying that none of his other investors felt compelled to go into this kind of detail. They were all trusting human beings, they all had faith so whats the matter with you, guy?
In short, this person is making you feel guilty for being a rational human being.
Worse, hes telling you that there is something wrong with you.
Trust me here (have a little faith): This is not a person whose approval you should be concerned about seeking.
When somebody tells you to just have a little faith, it usually means theyve run out of good reasons and can no longer explain themselves.
"Have a little faith" is not the same as "Trust me." There is nothing wrong with trusting people you have come to trust. It often pays great dividends.
An example: I detest administration. I am bored to tears by personal financial management, and my eyes glaze over when people start waxing poetic about their antics in the stock market (see that section). Yet I know that I have to manage my pennies somehow, in order to make sure I dont wake up broke one morning and have to go get a real job.
A few years ago, I met a guy named David on a golf course in Hawaii, where my wife was participating in the Ironman. It turned out that his wife was doing the same thing. We got along and golfed together for a few days, and talked a great deal about a variety of subjects. After we got back home, we continued to see each other and became good friends. I was never quite sure what he did for a living, because it was in the area of finance, insurance and the like, and I am abysmally ignorant of such matters. But I knew he was very smart. Over time, I also came to know that he had enormous integrity.
Then something unpleasant came up in our lives. It started with losing all the money we had invested in our (California, what else?) house. We were in real trouble and needed some financial advice, so at my lawyers urging, I engaged a huge and prestigious firm in New York to help us out. I wasnt sure of the right questions to ask, so I ran it by David. He guided me through the process, making sure we were getting everything we needed. He even came up with ideas that the big guys in New York had never thought of.
At one point I said, "Hey, how come you know more about this stuff than the people Im using?" And he said, "Its what I do for a living, dummy."
So we hired him instead. With David in the picture, we no longer have to give much thought to how our money is being handled (my wife hates doing that even worse than I do), except when he tells us that we have to, or makes us look at reports.
I suppose you could call that faith. But its not just faith, not because someone said so. Its faith built on a solid underpinning of analysis and judgment. I did thorough checks on all the financial products and companies that David recommended, and they always came up just as he had described.
Now its possible that, one day, David may take all of our dough and skip the country. But whatever money we lost would pale in comparison to the profound disappointment we would feel at having been so wrong in our judgment of character.
I dont think its going to happen.
Thats real faith, baby.
Incidentally, Davids the one who nagged at me to write this book.
from: A Practical Guide for
Everyday Living, by Lee Gruenfeld
* © Copyright 1996, 1997 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. - All Rights Reserved
Return to A
Return to Quick Index.
Return to Main Page.