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Words cannot hurt me

From the October 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal

While living far away from my home country, I found myself a target of mean-spirited comments for reasons I could only guess were racial or ethnic and cultural. As a youth I had been familiar with that kind of prejudice, having been harassed in my own school many times for choosing or defending a friend who might not have had a dark enough skin color (as was more accepted by those who were native or part-native in the area). But in this case, far away from familiar scenes and close friends, I felt deeply hurt and alone. 

Like a seed blowing across barren rocks in search of a place to take root, I tried desperately to feel part of the community. And as a seed is sometimes prepared for germination by fire, I was to see how what feels at the moment like a frightening situation cannot truly hurt, but can actually bring thought closer to God and His immaculate design of love. 

Words that ring with spiritual truth have been capable of tremendous good. Indeed, as a youth in the midst of trying situations, my heart had been comforted many times over by words that surpass human ignorance, pettiness, and persecution, and hint at or declare the unity and brotherhood of all mankind. St. Paul’s words particularly freed my thought from discouragement: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). 

Christ Jesus taught his followers that we all are the sons and daughters of God, and that the kingdom of God is right within us. He did not stipulate any qualifications for such a gift but assured us that this fact and all it implies is God’s Word—proclaiming our right to sonship with God. He freely voiced these facts as gospel, and he did so with such conviction that even those who opposed these ideas were often astounded by the authority of his words.

Knowing the omnipotence of the divine presence, Jesus bravely voiced the truth as he understood God to know it, and could not be bullied by the predominantly oppressive thought of the age into reaction, fear, or silence. In fact, he showed us that abrasive thoughts or opinions, or even diseases and other inharmonies, can be healed if responded to with the kind of prayer and authority that honors God’s love as omnipotent power. This kind of prayer naturally moves thought along a more enlightened path, and leads to a deep desire within ourselves for goodwill among men instead of an anxious need to be right or manually manipulate circumstances. 

Prayerful, healing thoughts, which Jesus’ words and life illustrated, and which any of us can apply to our daily living, are such a welcome presence and power in today’s world. On the other hand, divisions and inharmony of every kind seem to threaten mankind’s well-being and brotherhood at every turn and make illness and hardship appear the norm. We learn spiritual lessons when we confront those threats with spiritual conviction. This can be life-transforming, as I found out.

One day in the new country where I was living, while I was riding to town, my motorcycle slipped on some gravel, fell on its side, and landed on top of me. As it took a long time to get it off of me, I was badly burned by a large red-hot piece of metal on the bike. 

I now had a different view of myself and my fellow beings and could let all the angst, dismay, depression, and worry go. 

A medical nurse with whom I was acquainted happened to be in the vicinity. She bandaged the wound and implored me to go to a hospital, declaring that the burn was so severe that it would never heal without medical help. Although grateful for the woman’s kind intentions, I felt strongly the need to become more aware of God’s Word instead. My thought felt cluttered with confusion and the hatred of others toward me, and I longed for the spiritual peace that comes from feeling the presence of God’s all-encompassing love.

I called a Christian Science practitioner in my hometown to help me do this. She quoted a hymn in which God is depicted as saying, “The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design / Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine” (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 123, adapt. © CSBD). I was stunned at how quickly my thought submitted to this comforting idea of God’s tender care for me—His own child. The dross, which I identified as being a belief that I was on my own, separate from God with feelings of isolation and fear, simply dissolved. I felt in its place a profound sense of love that I knew was the presence of God expressing Himself in peace and goodwill everywhere on earth. 

Christian Science is singular in its recognition of and full allegiance to the one infinite God and His spiritual image and likeness, man (a term that refers to the spiritual identity of each of us). It regards God and His idea as the one and only reality. But when our thoughts and words are a reaction to what the physical senses report, they reflect merely our present imperfect perception of reality. The Word of God reflects His unchanging law, divine Love’s essential nature, and reveals the true nature of God’s creation. And when we allow God’s Word to permeate the way we think, instead of heeding the physical senses, we naturally reflect the love of God wherever there is a need for healing.

What about the threatening voices that don’t come from another’s mouth, but appear to come from right within oneself? Thoughts filled with self-condemnation, discouragement, disappointment, failure, mistakes, and suicidal temptations can feel insurmountable and threatening at times. But isn’t our consciousness a worthy citadel to defend? What a relief it is to know that these aggressive thoughts or suggestions are not authentic; they are merely the same hollow echo of hatred appearing this time as our own thoughts. Knowing this, we can refuse them as we would a destructive thought suggested by someone else. Prayer that humbly acknowledges the supreme reign of God shuts the door on these would-be intruding thoughts with a calm, Christly peace of mind.

This applies to worries about symptoms of disease or accident. In the case of the threat of illness or the not-so-hopeful theories and beliefs we hear about youth or old age, the willingness to think, speak, and live only thoughts from God is vital and can change our experience. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Matter is an error of statement” (p. 277). Our remedy for this error of statement is always spiritual truth—the truth that per God’s Word, man is made in the image and likeness of God.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, / My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply,” says the hymn mentioned earlier. That “fiery trial” was teaching me that both the apparent discrimination and the injury were not of God; they were only “errors of statement,” beliefs or suggestions—powerless to harm my true being.

A few hours after I prayed with these ideas, the pain became to me a mere suggested belief that I was not the spiritual reflection of God—“an error of statement”—and on my consistent and insistent mental voicing that I was indeed a spiritual idea of God, the pain disappeared. I now had a different view of myself and my fellow beings and could let all the angst, dismay, depression, and worry go. I felt a sense of us all belonging to God. There really was only one man—God’s man, reflecting His nature, character, and substance. 

The next day, I attended a party on the nurse’s boat in the harbor, and she witnessed the healing I had experienced when I dove into the water with only a slight discoloration in the place of the burn. Within a week my normal skin color returned, and my thought about those around me became more forgiving and compassionate. When I next rode in the little truck that was the public transportation, it became an opportunity for joyful exchange, and I felt free to join in the tradition of singing on our way to town. My stay in that country ended sooner than initially expected, but the glimpse of universal brotherhood continued to prompt me to strive for greater demonstration of it in my daily life. 

Jesus’ words may have caused him to be persecuted, but that did not stop the light of his words from blessing the earth for every generation to come. As Mrs. Eddy explained in Science and Health: “In divine Science, man is the true image of God. The divine nature was best expressed in Christ Jesus, who threw upon mortals the truer reflection of God and lifted their lives higher than their poor thought-models would allow,—thoughts which presented man as fallen, sick, sinning, and dying. The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea,—perfect God and perfect man,—as the basis of thought and demonstration” (p. 259).

Human belief, voicing itself through popular theory or personal opinion, often argues against the infinitude, supremacy, goodness, and even existence of a God who is Love, but these mental or verbal provocations cannot dethrone God. Sometimes those attacks can feel pretty personal. If we feel overwhelmed with a sense of evil because of hateful statements or actions by others, we have simply to stand back, so to speak, and quietly seek a more spiritual perspective, in the masterful tradition of Jesus of Nazareth. Standing mentally with the spiritual law of Love in any given situation will inevitably lift our view to the spiritual standpoint we seek; and from this elevation, we will not be tempted to give our consent to hating our fellow man, no matter what ephemeral opinion is voiced. The belief in evil vainly boasts of a mind able to oppose itself to God, good, but God’s Word declares His allness, and His supreme law and governance. 

As Mrs. Eddy put it: “Above the fogs of sense and storms of passion, Christian Science and its art will rise triumphant; ignorance, envy, and hatred—earth’s harmless thunder—pluck not their heaven-born wings. Angels, with overtures, hold charge over both, and announce their Principle and idea” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 374). 

Errors of statement—whether taking the form of verbal assaults by another, thoughts parading as your own, or even physical ills—need not make us afraid. God’s Word, how He thinks of us all the time, is the Truth—the law of Life—and we can count on it.

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