From Egocentrism To Spiritual Love

I UNDERSTAND from a teacher at a nearby college that there's a term to describe a young child's perspective of the world. The term is egocentric. What this means is that the child's early perspective of the world has him at the center. This doesn't necessarily mean that he's "selfish as we commonly use that term. It's just that the young child isn't familiar with much beyond his own needs and limited experiences. But as he matures, he becomes cognizant of others and their needs.Perhaps there's a parallel in the development of our own Christianity and love for others. When one first awakens to the promise of Christianity--its hope for healing and salvation--it all seems to relate to "me. This phase is certainly seen in those who came to Christ Jesus. Multitudes came for healing. Relatively few came, however, to take up the healing work of others. Here's something else I learned from that teacher. If children are simply criticized because of their egocentrism, little is accomplished. The fact is, a child has tremendous potential to develop beyond egocentrism. The teacher's task is to develop this potential. Perhaps one of the things we need is less criticism of how others may fall short of the standard we might wish for them to meet. We can pray for more wisdom to know how better to love unselfishly. Then we'll be able to help others develop such love. The Science of Christ furnishes the understanding that man is spiritual, the image of God, who is Spirit. The more we learn of man's spiritual identity, the less we'll be held back or discouraged by the fallible and sometimes brutal aspects of human life. Spiritual sense is a term that describes the innate ability we each have to perceive spiritual reality--to feel the presence of divine Love, or God, so tangibly that we actually discover the wisdom and strength to reflect Love and to overcome evil. Anger, hatred, disregard for the welfare of others are rooted in some phase of conviction that evil is the reality. Important early lessons in Christian Science are learned as we no longer accept evil as an authority or an equal to God. Writing about the early stages of development in individual study and practice of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, its Discoverer and Founder, spoke specifically about the beginner. She writes in Retrospection and Introspection: "The neophyte in Christian Science acts like a diseased physique,--being too fast or too slow. He is inclined to do either too much or too little. She goes on to say, "If beset with misguided emotions, we shall be stranded on the quicksands of worldly commotion, and pract ically come short of the wisdom requisite for teaching and demonstrating the victory over self and sin. Then she counsels, "Be temperate in thought, word, and deed. Meekness and temperance are the jewels of Love, set in wisdom. Restrain untempered zeal. 'Learn to labor and to wait.' There is nothing more valuable in outgrowing a merely egocentric affection than the willingness to labor and to trust so thoroughly in God that we learn to await the outcome of His law. Love and prayer undergirded by self-surrender to God's omnipresence enable us to grow out of egocentrism into the spiritual perception of man as God's loved child. Then we'll see developing in us genuine, spiritual love because we recognize what God has created and we can't help loving His spiritual creation.

This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the July 22 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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