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The answer to victimization

(Adapted from a Christian Science lecture)

From the December 1997 issue of The Christian Science Journal

I don't want anyone to be victimized! And I don't want to be victimized! My deep feelings on this subject go back to a time when my husband and I were starting a tennis business. We had scraped together all the money we could and had just enough to be able to open our business. Each item of merchandise represented a financial sacrifice.

On opening day, business was quiet until a nearby school let out. Then about fifteen teenage boys came in together. At the time, I thought they were potential customers, curious to explore a new sports shop. So I chatted with them and answered their questions. There were so many of them, and they were all over the store. It wasn't until after they left that I realized a significant portion of our merchandise was missing. The boys had shoplifted it!

I was so hurt, and incensed at the injustice of the situation. The injustice didn't stop there, either. We didn't have any more gang problems; yet that incident turned out to be the least serious in a series of victimizations that went on for nearly the next two years. As each situation came up, my husband and I prayed as we had been taught to do through our study of Christian Science, and that particular problem would be solved.

The business thrived in spite of the challenges. I feel certain now that the unrelenting chain of injustices was not God's will. The power of prayer, based on understanding the spiritual truths of God and His creation, could have broken that chain at any point. Even that first injustice could have been the last.

Victimization runs a broad spectrum—from terrorism to sexual and physical abuse to theft to minor occurrences such as having another driver cut in front of you in traffic. Most people occasionally experience injustice; some people live out the role of the perpetual victim.

What is the natural thing to do when we feel that our rights have been denied? Protest! But how we protest is the key. If we do so in a frustrated, unprincipled way that leaves the basic problem untouched, nothing is accomplished. Some ways of protesting even perpetuate the problem. Think of what often goes on in a poverty-stricken or even affluent neighborhood. Feeling deprived of something they need or want, many protest by stealing it from their neighbor—creating cycles of victims.

Ineffective ways of protesting go on in the court system in the United States, its courts literally clogged with people protesting victimizations by suing each other. Yet once a lawsuit is resolved, the individuals involved are just as vulnerable to injustice as they were before.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the complete statement of Christian Science, provides answers to victimization, answers that grew out of a New Hampshire woman's personal experience with it. She was Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science.

Injustice came to Mrs. Eddy first in the form of chronic, recurring illness. From childhood she had been sickly, often deprived of being able to do the happy things that her brothers and sisters enjoyed. As a young adult, she married. But during the first year of marriage her husband became sick with yellow fever and died. Stricken with grief—and pregnant—she went home to her family.

After the birth of her baby, she was even more ill. Her family loved her dearly. But after she suffered several years from recurring bouts of invalidism, they decided to place her little boy in the care of a woman who had sometimes looked after him as a baby. The woman's husband approved of this arrangement. You can just imagine what this did to a mother's heart!

Two years later Mrs. Eddy got married again—to a man who promised he would help bring her child into their home. After they were married, however, he went back on his word and insisted on leaving the child where he was. And within a few years the family that had her son moved west without letting her know where they were. It turned out that her husband wasn't good at handling responsibility in other areas either. After years of struggle to make the marriage work, she finally divorced him on the grounds of adultery and desertion. She was surely living out what so many people feel—that because of illness or lack or family domination, they have little say as to how their life goes.

Mrs. Eddy could not accept the belief that her troubles were either God-caused or God-allowed. Such suffering and loss were not in accord with what her heart told her of God. She had always felt God's presence as tender, unspeakable Love.

She investigated all sorts of remedies for her ill health. At times she felt she had been cured, only to have the illness recur. Then she suffered severe injury as a result of an accident, and her situation was thought to be hopeless. She asked for her Bible and read accounts of Christ Jesus' healings. As she read, she glimpsed the truth that life in God, Spirit, is the only reality, and she was healed—and continued in good health. She found the healing she'd been searching for nearly her entire life! She was well, living a consistently normal life for the first time.

We could say that Mrs. Eddy found that she had the right to protest, and came to understand how to protest through a humble yielding to the power of God.

It became clear to her that Christ Jesus presented to the world a much higher understanding of God than the commonly held conceptions of Him. The Master's teachings and works show us not a limited god with human characteristics—sometimes protective and sometimes vengeful—but the one all-powerful creator, the only cause, boundless good. Jesus taught us to know God as a tender, loving Father who would never will suffering on His children. Through his healing work, the Master proved that man is God's spiritual child—cared for, cherished, protected, brooded over by an omnipotent Parent and exempt from cruel laws and conditions.

God, who is All, the only power, forever causes His children to be perfect. He doesn't need to manipulate them into being so. The Bible teaches that God's child is His own image and likeness. God maintains the sinless perfection of His likeness, of His reflection, simply by being what He is. Being perfect Himself, He maintains the perfection of His likeness.

Mrs. Eddy saw that Jesus had lodged an all-time protest against the victimizations of the flesh. Through healing, he illustrated that we have the right to protest, and he taught us how to protest by giving us a higher way of praying. Mrs. Eddy would write in Science and Health, "It is neither Science nor Truth which acts through blind belief, nor is it the human understanding of the divine healing Principle as manifested in Jesus, whose humble prayers were deep and conscientious protests of Truth,—of man's likeness to God and of man's unity with Truth and Love." Science and Health, p. 12.

Christ Jesus demonstrated God's supremacy by lodging an authoritative protest against whatever would suggest that man is anything other than God's expression. And he did this by protesting for the allness and goodness of divine Love and man's perfection as Love's likeness. The Lord's Prayer, given to us by Jesus, is an example of Christly protest. It acknowledges and praises God's sovereignty and supreme power. It stands up for and honors things as God created them.

What is the natural thing to do when we feel that our rights have been denied? Protest! But how we protest is the key.

When Jesus began his public ministry he preached this message: "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. 4:17. Wasn't the Way-shower saying that Love's perfect, spiritual creation is right here at this moment? All that's needed is for each of us to change his or her perspective—to yield to what God knows of His creation and to live in accord with it; to give up a hurtful, mortal viewpoint for a spiritual understanding of God and man. Then we can see and enjoy things more as they really are, as our tender Father-Mother God causes them to be. Science and Health states: "We cannot deny that Life is self-sustained, and we should never deny the everlasting harmony of Soul, simply because, to the mortal senses, there is seeming discord. It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony." Science and Health, p. 390.

Our mental standpoint, our perception of God and man, determines the nature of our experience and our ability to help the world. In speaking of Jesus' perfect, spiritual viewpoint, Science and Health says: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy." Ibid., pp. 476–477.

Jesus lodged an all-time protest against the victimizations of the flesh—through healing.

We live out the view of things we accept—either the false, carnal view or the true, spiritual view. If you were wearing a pair of glasses that had a smudge on one of the lenses, whatever you looked at would appear to have that smudge on it. If the smudge were to represent the misconception that God's likeness can be either a victim or a villain, you would see victims and villains everywhere. If, however, you were to clear this imposition from your view of yourself and others, your experience would be entirely different.

While the injustices in your life may not be due to any personal fault, still, it is in your thinking that they can be eliminated. I don't think that my husband and I were doing anything wrong when we had this series of unjust events. But we became disillusioned with people. We expected others to cheat us, and we got what we expected. Yet we were praying. As we grew to honor God as the only cause and the cause of good alone, we began expecting goodness as the only possibility. Then things were good.

Science and Health does not imply that instances of victimization are imaginary or unimportant. They're sometimes tragedies that cause people to see themselves as victims and to live out this false view of man. Yet our past doesn't have to determine our future! Effects from atrocities of the past can be healed. Then they can't play themselves out again and again.

To see someone as a poor victim of misfortune is to be part of the problem. Yet when we care enough to strive to see things as Jesus saw them, we find that the effects of the past can be truly eradicated. In this way we can do something about lingering effects from even the most severe victimizations.

To illustrate, let me tell you about a friend of mine. She was not only attractive, she was unusually beautiful. She was not only educated, she was highly educated. She was conscientious, talented, loving. She was dedicated to her work. I would have thought that everything would have gone well for her, but it didn't.

If she tried to take a trip, her car would break down. If she took her car to be fixed, the garage would cheat her. She was constantly being victimized. No matter what neighborhood she lived in, no matter what job changes she made, she found herself in unusually discordant situations—divorce, lawsuits, job displacements, a son killed in an avoidable accident. She fell in love with a man who said he wanted to marry her. Then she found out that he was already married!

My friend was a woman; yet most other women weren't falling into the degree of injustice she was suffering. And my friend was African American; yet her problems seldom seemed racial. In fact, there didn't seem to be any pattern to these abuses or anything in particular that she was doing wrong.

One day it came to her to consider how she was seeing herself. When she thought of herself, was she identifying with her true, spiritual heritage—with the Scriptural teaching "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" Mal. 2:10. Or was she identifying with a human race, one that had a history of being treated cruelly?

Immediately she knew what to do. She took in hand the Bible and its study aid, Science and Health. I didn't hear from her for several weeks. Then one day she called. In a hushed, awed voice, she said: "I am not a victim. No one is a victim, and no one is a villain. Man is God's likeness!"

Because she was a longtime student of the Bible, this truth was something she had known before. But now she had spent weeks in study—accepting what is spiritually true, standing diligent guard over each and every thought that came to her and each and every word she uttered. Now she was feeling more like God's child than a member of any group of people. I knew she had found her real heritage and could never go back to experiencing the sort of injustices she had suffered before.

Now, I'm not going to say, "And she never had another problem again." She still has things to work out here and there just like the rest of us. But the pattern of living out the role of a perpetual victim was definitely broken. How we cheat ourselves when we identify with any race or nationality or locality or bloodline! Man is the child of God.

To yield to the spiritual truth of your being is not to admit that the things you've suffered were just imaginary. The way people had treated my friend's ancestors was a human tragedy of the worst sort, and people had been unusually cruel to her. Science and Health does not teach that discrimination, abuse, illness, and so on, are not real to the common way of looking at things. What Science and Health does teach is that injustice is no part of God's creation. It doesn't belong to the spiritual reality of existence. Anything less than what is completely good is not God-caused. Therefore injustice doesn't have to be put up with.

Though it's in vogue today to accept that our lives are ruled by forces outside our control, this general consensus does not make it true! Whether one has fallen into the role of the habitual victim after a disturbing event, as my husband and I did, or one has more or less been "born" into it, as was my friend; whether victimization is chronic or only occasional; whether one is the victim or one is the victimizer, the power of Christ, Truth, demonstrated by Jesus, sets free. Victimization of every sort can be utterly eliminated through constant, diligent, Christly protest.

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