In these turbulent times, faith can be a bulwark against cynicism and despair. It can help us maintain a generosity of spirit toward patients, colleagues, and ourselves.
Recently, two patients I’ve worked with for a few years independently reported major positive changes in their relationships with their spouses. Both patients had struggled with marital conflict, and each had had difficulty negotiating change. It was striking to me that there were two breakthroughs in the same week with two different patients coping with similar challenges. I reflected that in my own life I’d been studying the ancient teachings of my faith tradition, particularly focusing on interpersonal relationships.
As clinicians, we bring our whole selves to every patient encounter. How rested we are, how stressed we are, and our general state of physical and mental well-being can all impact how we interact with patients. We can’t help but be affected by larger social, political, and economic forces that affect our personal lives and the lives of our communities. We also appreciate that our experiences with, and the insights we gain from our personal engagement with the arts, humanities, and literature, as well as religion, can enlarge us and deepen our understanding of ourselves and the human condition.
Through the ages, people have turned to faith traditions for guidance, wisdom, and meaning. While the details of our modern lives are particular to our current times, prior generations have also encountered social and personal upheaval and challenge. Faith, at its heart, is a very personal matter. But in these turbulent and often vitriolic times, faith can be a bulwark against cynicism and despair. It can help us maintain a generosity of spirit toward others and to ourselves. It can help us develop a sense of both humility and hopefulness for the future. In these ways, our effectiveness in our relationships with patients, and all the important people in our lives, may be enhanced.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.