One day my daughter told me that whenever someone did something thoughtless or unkind to her, she felt justified in being hurt and angry. It was the other person’s fault, not hers, she reasoned, and therefore she had a right to be upset.
But then my daughter noticed something. She recognized how her reactions in these instances were actually connected to a lack of self-worth she was harboring. She realized that to the degree she understood her true identity as the complete and perfect child of God, and therefore entirely good, the actions of other people would not hurt her.
In Mary Baker Eddy’s Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, an article titled “Taking Offense” says: “Nothing short of our own errors should offend us. He who can wilfully attempt to injure another, is an object of pity rather than of resentment; while it is a question in my mind, whether there is enough of a flatterer, a fool, or a liar, to offend a whole-souled woman” (p. 224).
How do we recognize ourselves as this whole-souled man or woman who does not take offense? In the same book, Mrs. Eddy writes: “How shall we reach our true selves? Through Love” (p. 104). Turning to divine Love and asking God to help us love more can aid in working through challenges in any situation. The more we love ourselves and others—the more we see the man God has created—the less we take offense, no matter what other people do.
Opportunities to learn how to love more are plentiful. Several ideas have been helpful to me in recognizing them. The first is Christ Jesus’ statement that the kingdom of God is within each of us (see Luke 17:21). This implies that our true selfhood is good and recognizable. Jesus saw every person he encountered as the pure expression of the supremely good God. Whenever I find myself tempted by doubt, it is Jesus’ words and example that bring me back to the rock of Truth.
The second idea came from an article I read long ago in one of the Christian Science periodicals about handling cases of disease deemed incurable. The article noted that all diseases are really instances of mesmerized mortal thinking, but God is the only real Mind, and this Mind cannot be mesmerized and contains no incurable diseases. Negative personality traits may also seem incurable, but they too can be reversed with the truth about man’s spiritual individuality.
The more we see the man God has created, the less we take offense, no matter what other people do.
How wonderful to realize that we do not have to confine our view of ourselves or others to a material sense of man! Christian Science teaches that all identity comes from the one and only creator—our Father-Mother God. The man God has made is composed of His spiritual qualities and ideas, which are never limited. Think of the quality of integrity, for example. If one person expresses a great deal of integrity, does that mean there is less for others to express? Often, it is just the opposite. When one person expresses a good quality, others may be inspired to express more of that quality too.
No matter how long we have believed in negative aspects of our personality, they have never been what we really are. A false belief has no power to turn a myth into the truth.
A friend shared this next concept with me. She once told a Christian Science practitioner she did not feel worthy of healing. The practitioner responded emphatically that this type of thinking is egotism. This surprised my friend, but she realized it was accurate. The word egotism refers to an inflated sense of one’s own importance. When we hear that word, traits of pride and arrogance come to mind, but self-depreciation is also a way of inflating self by keeping us from acknowledging God as our totally good creator.
When we understand that God is the exclusive source of our identity, we no longer entertain thoughts of pride or self-depreciation. We need to see ourselves as God’s perfect idea in order to honor His allness.
I have had many opportunities to grow in my understanding of the fact that we all are complete, whole expressions of divine Soul. Here is just one example that happened many years ago, when I was doing student teaching in the field of chemistry. I was working with a supervising teacher, and in the beginning we worked well together.
However, one day on the way to school, I heard something on the radio regarding nuclear energy. I thought it was very interesting and shared this information with one of my classes. Afterward, my supervising teacher came up to me and was absolutely furious that I had brought this topic up in the wrong unit. His face turned bright red in anger. I was stunned by his response. This interaction occurred on a Friday afternoon, and we left for the weekend with no resolution.
After I returned home, I was overwhelmed with feelings of indignation. I felt this man was completely out of line, and I really wanted to tell someone how awful he was. However, I knew tattling about someone’s faults doesn’t bring healing. After wrestling with thoughts of self-righteousness for some time, I was not very successful in loving or forgiving this individual. But then an insight came to me: Even though I was having difficulty feeling love for him, I knew that God loved him, and that I reflected God’s love. In reality, God is the only source of love, and divine Love is infinite.
When Monday morning came, my supervising teacher entered the room with the same red face he’d had when he left. I don’t recall now what I said to him, but I do remember yielding to God’s infinite presence and feeling God’s love flowing through me. I literally saw the anger and redness drain from the teacher’s face, and that was the end of the problem. It was never mentioned again, and our relationship was harmonious and warm the rest of the semester.
There was another time in my experience when the negative actions of another toward me were of a much greater magnitude. A practitioner shared with me that love and forgiveness are our Christian duty to our fellow man, no matter what the offense. I brought my actions into line with that counsel immediately, but my thoughts took much longer.
One night when I was praying about the situation, the thought came that if we truly love our fellow man, we would never rehearse or replay in our thought the circumstances that felt so hurtful. I endeavored to follow this angel message. The very next day, I received a phone call from the other individual. The words from that person expressed such a turnaround that there was no doubt the Christ had touched us both and a healing had occurred.
Mrs. Eddy tells us in Miscellaneous Writings that those who are giving us the greatest challenges are really our best friends. She says, “Primarily and ultimately, they are doing thee good far beyond the present sense which thou canst entertain of good” (p. 9). Imagine: Our worst enemies are really our best friends! Why? Because they force us to go much higher in our understanding of Love.
No matter how wounded we feel, we can take to heart Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “The relations of God and man, divine Principle and idea, are indestructible in Science; and Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order or spiritual law, in which God and all that He creates are perfect and eternal, to have remained unchanged in its eternal history” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 470–471).
Loving patiently in the face of adversity is not always easy. Expressing the grace that does not react but instead envelops each individual with appreciation, tenderness, and spiritual truth—no matter how they treat us—takes watchfulness and effort. But loving is what God is doing every moment of every day with each one of us, and it is what we are truly doing as God’s reflection. We can grow in this recognition of grace as we follow the Golden Rule and learn to love others as we love ourselves.
I treasure the blessings that have come as a result of learning about divine Love, and I know there are many more blessings waiting as I continue to exchange material views for God’s spiritual view. I love this line from Hymn 85 in the Christian Science Hymnal: “All Thy love we have for loving” (Edith Gaddis Brewer). Learning about God’s love continually enlarges our sense of family and helps us recognize all of God’s children as complete and beloved.
Jesus is our perfect role model in this endeavor, and our growth in grace is supported by his example. The truths Jesus taught point to the only reality that ever has existed or ever will exist. They show us the very substance of our being, and as we hold to them, we will recognize ourselves and others as perfect, whole, and unhurt, just as God sees us.