NO one was safe from my criticism. Friends, family, neighbors, fellow church members -- all were possible objects of censure or criticism from me. Appearances, houses, personal problems, were all given a once-over and usually found wanting. As soon as I formed a criticism in thought, I began to criticize myself for being small-minded and unloving! I had been raised in Christian Science, and its basic teaching is Biblical and imperative: ``Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.''1 I knew that destructive criticism was the antithesis of my religious commitment, and I wanted freedom from this serious fault. I began to pray.
I reasoned that God is Love and that to love is a divine demand. And I realized that God would not give us a law to fulfill without giving us at the same time the ability to fulfill it. I also realized that I needed to understand more clearly the spiritual fact that there can never really be an absence of love, because the source of all genuine love is God, omnipresent divine Love. Experience had already taught me that being unfairly critical points to one's own lack of spirituality. Earliest teaching in the Christian Science Sunday School begins with the First Commandment, ``Thou shalt have no other gods before me.''2 The one God, divine Love, created man in His image. That's me. That's you. It's the true selfhood of every individual with whom any of us comes in contact! That selfhood may seem far from real to our present sense of things. Nevertheless, it's everyone's actual nature as an expression of the divine nature. To strive to discern something of that spiritual reality is to obey the First Commandment through a desire to love what God has truly created. The Bible tells us that He saw everything He had made and declared it to be good!
I knew that wanting to stop destructive thinking is one thing, but that to actually bring the spiritual law of love into practical demonstration demanded more than wishful thinking. I kept praying.
One day when I was studying my Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy,3 I came across the word envy. I felt that word had special meaning for me, although I didn't feel I had anything anyone would envy and I couldn't think of what I might envy. But I have learned that God answers our prayers, and it is our job to maintain an attitude of listening so we can hear divine direction.
I saw that the term covet is related to envy. Immediately I turned to the Commandments and read, ``Thou shalt not covet....'' How many times I had failed to see the full import of that law of God! I began to see that although I had not coveted ``things,'' I did covet a great deal. For example, I coveted certain positions held by other women -- positions recognized as remarkable for them to have achieved. I envied women who had achieved something in the literary world. The list went on and on.
I continued to pray and to know that God, as the one infinite Mind, would show me how to expunge this covetousness. I began to see that by envying someone else, I was accepting the carnal mind's suggestion that I was somehow incomplete, unworthy, unloved, and that if I could express the qualities and talents that others had, I would be complete, worthy, and therefore more loved. I began to see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Mrs. Eddy writes: ``Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity.''4 That was it! I had my own niche to fill! No one could fill mine, and I couldn't fill someone else's. God has given me my own niche, and because He preserves and governs each one of us, no one has any need to covet or envy another! Each one of us is provided for through divine grace. There is no lack of quality or quantity in any aspect of God's spiritual creation. Each and every one of Love's children is whole and complete, and we have the God-derived capacity to understand this fact.
There are numerous things I won't be, and that's OK with me. I've found my niche helping others through prayer to see God's loving provision for them, and, as you know, I've had this article published!
1Matthew 22:37-40. 2Exodus 20:3. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Retrospection and Introspection, p. 70. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32