I NOTICED on the subway this boldly lettered sign: ``Smoking in this car is selfish and illegal.'' Illegal, yes, but selfish? I hadn't thought of it in those terms before. There's much written about ``passive smoking'' -- the harm that may be experienced by non-smokers when they are near smokers. But several of my good friends smoke, and I had never thought of them as selfish. I thought also of a government report released recently in which it was stated unequivocally that smoking is an addiction. My heart went out to those who wanted to give up smoking. Would they now feel more discouraged and less willing or able to try to be free of smoking? I know two wonderful people who gave up heavy smoking quickly. One is a student of Christian Science, the other is not. In fact, the other individual is my husband. I suddenly wondered what my friend and husband have in common that enabled them to quit. (Both smoked up to two packs a day.) I was amazed at the answer. Both wanted to contribute more of themselves, their love, their caring, their energy and vitality, to the lives of others. In short, they were motivated by unselfishness. For each of them it was not so much a matter of giving up something as it was a desire to give to others.
My friend wanted to become a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and actively share Christian Science. My husband had a desire to better care for his family.
A particular incident contributed to this desire. Our basement was flooded with several inches of water and had to be bailed out. My husband was ill and coughing so terribly that he could only sit and watch. So there I was trying to take care of a toddler with one hand and empty our basement with the other. He said later he felt so helpless watching me work alone. He suspected the heavy cough might be caused by smoking, so he vowed that he would never have another cigarette. He never did. That was over twenty years ago. He has never experienced a heavy cough again either. For a few days after he stopped smoking I knew that he was struggling with the desire to smoke. Yet he didn't. His unselfishness led to complete healing.
This does not, of course, mean that people who feel guilty about smoking need to feel an added burden of guilt that they are selfish and unloving. But it does mean that the problem of addiction goes well beyond physical reasons and ramifications. If we believe that man is strictly material, then addiction can seem to be simply a physical problem. However, as we begin to understand the mental nature of existence and that true identity is spiritual, the outcome of God, subject to good only, habits can quickly change.
The very ability to love others has its source in God, who is divine Love itself, and points to man's real, spiritual nature. As we come to understand that the desire to love and care is evidence of man's reflecting divine Love, we'll see that our desire to do good has the power of divine Love behind it. That power is stronger than any addiction. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``The power of Christian Science and divine Love is omnipotent. It is indeed adequate to unclasp the hold and to destroy disease, sin, and death.''1
The two individuals mentioned earlier were motivated and strengthened by love for others. But no less important is our understanding of our own nature as God's beloved child. Christ Jesus said: ``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.''2
Such love is not selfish. It expresses the greatest humility of all, because it means we're admitting that we have no selfhood apart from God. To love ourselves is to admit our relationship to God, to recognize that God creates man as His image and imparts to us His own spiritual goodness. Acknowledging this fact is a form of prayer, which enables us to love God with all our heart and soul. This spiritual affection frees us to love others as well as ourselves. Mrs. Eddy writes, ``True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us.''3 Love is to be felt and expressed in order to contribute to our own well-being as well as that of others. Love, which has its source in God, is a power that can heal any addiction.
1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 412. 2Matthew 22:37-39; see also Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18. 3No and Yes, p. 39. - NO BIBLE VERSE TODAY -