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Complaining or correcting?

From The Christian Science Journal - February 20, 2013

Complaining, if we have a habit of doing it, can be the easiest thing in the world. From grumbling about our bank’s poor service, to inefficient city government, to a co-worker’s slowness. But if complaining is too often our fall-back position in the face of difficulty, we might consider how “correcting” can make a world of difference.

A spiritual understanding of the Bible shows that nothing in God’s universe really needs correcting. In fact, the first chapter of the first Bible book, Genesis, repeats several times that God saw what He created as good, indeed as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Logically then, that which needs correcting is nothing God has done, but is rather human thought and perception.

Along these lines, Mary Baker Eddy, in her main work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, wrote: “Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it” (p. 2). Several points in Science and Health indicate that we see the perfection of God and of His creation by looking beyond what the physical senses show (whether a troubled relationship with a spouse or a faltering economy) and by grounding our experience in what spiritual sense is communicating. 

Spiritual sense, a way of looking at reality that’s based on infinite spiritual goodness and involves spiritual intuition, gives us a tool with which to “correct” what would seem to be a cause for complaint. This change of thought doesn’t just improve how we experience others or situations but can actually result in substantial adjustments for all. The Bible gives many examples of how Jesus, the Way-shower, healed by seeing others as children of God. 

To illustrate, my wife and I received notice to attend an informational meeting regarding plans to rehabilitate the park that abuts our property. This land had once been an industrial site served by a railway, and trace levels of contaminants had been discovered in the park’s soil. We were informed that these trace amounts were not known to be harmful to adults, but that there was concern that the soil could harm children who might consume some of it regularly. Testing had revealed that the contaminants were stable—not moving into the nearby river or being absorbed by vegetation—and in order to protect all residents from possible harmful effects from the contaminant, it was decided to add a foot of topsoil over the entire park grounds and contour the land appropriately for safe drainage.

I knew there was something more I could do, instead of complaining or feeling helpless.

We and the homeowners of the other 22 houses that abutted the park took all this information in stride until the park administration announced that it was going to put up a permanent fence between the park and our backyards—a five-foot black chain-link fence, with no gates between our yards and the park. Park authorities were concerned that without a fence, homeowners would continue digging at the property boundaries. Many residents, without particularly thinking of it since the park boundary had never been clear, had extended their gardens a bit into the park. Park authorities were concerned that children, when playing between the yards and the park, might ingest some of the soil, and thus leave the park administration liable to lawsuits. However, the homeowners were upset because such a fence would be an eyesore in an historic neighborhood. Also, they were concerned that having only indirect access to the park would decrease the value of their homes.

My wife and I began attending the meetings that were organized to oppose the fence, and most of the neighbors, now with a common cause, quickly developed several plans of action. In general, the homeowners complained that the park administration wasn’t working well with the local residents to resolve the matter. 

I knew there was something more I could do, instead of complaining or feeling helpless. My wife and I prayed to “correct” our perceptions of what we were hearing about the project. I recognized that as children of God, made in God’s image and likeness, the park authority employees were not rigid nor stubborn, but were innately flexible and reasonable. 

I also prayed to know that the homeowners, all of them children of God, were not filled with distrust and suspicion, but love and honor relative to those who were rehabilitating the park. I knew that bureaucratic overreach was not what the park administration wished to practice, but that park administrators and residents shared the same desire to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. 

I kept at this “correcting” whenever these false views of those involved came to my thought. My wife and I joined in the discussions, politely wrote the park authority, and signed the petition against the fence. But especially, we continued praying.

What was the result? The park authorities changed their tune! When proposals were made to the relatively new executive director, she was open to considering other options. There were more meetings and discussions, and in the end the park authority gave residents a say in what style and height of fence each homeowner wanted. Further, whoever wished to pay for a gate received one. The park is lovely, safe for all to use, including the children, and the whole community is benefiting from the changes. 

Complaining rarely improves things, and often has the undesired effect of making us miserable. But by correcting thought to see people as spiritual, under the government of one God who creates only good, we can help everyone. Sometimes this means offering constructive input when appropriate, and sometimes it’s a quieter stand for good.  

This simple idea is relevant to family, to church decisions, and to government. We can apply it in countless ways.

Lyle Young, from Ottawa, Canada, serves as a Christian Science practitioner and teacher, and as a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors.

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