SOMETIMES it's a convenient excuse for avoiding a clear ethical choice, a handy cliche for justifying our mistakes. We might present it as the reason for second-rate work. It can be the explanation for everything from an error in judgment to a perceived health problem. We all know this one-note cry we call pressure.
But what is pressure? I wondered one day when I was facing a decision that troubled me. The decision, in simple terms, was part of that most familiar battle we all face between right and wrong. One way was sure to make me popular and to produce the human admiration and affection I craved so badly. The other way would clearly isolate me, perhaps even leave me friendless.
The pressure came from the fact that one way--while pleasant and easy to achieve and very tempting--was just plain wrong, and I knew it. The other way looked lonely, even a little boring. I worried I'd look like a fool. I worried a lot in those days about image, about what others thought of me. The one thing this latter choice had going for it was that in my heart I knew it was the right thing to do. Right behind these conflicting thoughts came a rising sense of pressure.
I wanted to answer my question in a deeper manner than ever before. I wanted to understand why it seemed so hard to make the right choice. As a student of Christian Science, I was familiar with many Bible passages that had brought me peace before. One of them, from the book of Isaiah, reads: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
This did comfort me, but I wanted to dig more deeply into the Bible's message. I decided to explore what Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has to say about pressure in her writings. I was certain I would find many passages that talked about pressure. To my surprise, I discovered that Mrs. Eddy uses that word only once in her published writings. She explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Christian Scientists must live under the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out from the material world and be separate. They must renounce aggression, oppression and the pride of power. Christianity, with the crown of Love upon her brow, must be their queen of life.
While this wasn't exactly what I had expected, as I pondered these ideas fresh insight came pouring into my searching thought. I realized that false responsibility, peer pressure, all of the claims that present themselves to us in our daily lives as pressure, are material suggestions knocking for admittance at our mental door. I knew, however, from my study of Christian Science that man is not really a mortal under pressure at all. Man conceived of in his true and pure spiritual state is, in fact, never confused, dilatory, under pressure. Under God's perfect direction, His creation, man, always knows what to do, always has time to do it, and can never be bullied by doubt or fear. I saw at once that in my natural reflection of these spiritual truths, I am governed by God.
My particular battle had to do with the use of drugs and alcohol. I was managing the careers of professional actors and musicians during the 1960s. It was a permissive era, and I was right in the middle of it, being pushed to join in if I was to be successful and popular in my business. My standards were quite different, but nevertheless I felt the pressure to conform in order not to be excluded.
I was able to resolve this issue for myself through prayer, which helped me think through who I really am, who I really want to be. I wanted to embrace in my life more of the spiritual purity Christ Jesus taught. I longed to reflect my highest concept of a truly good man, the man I was learning of in my study of Christian Science. I knew the standards I'd been taught were my roadmap to this goal, and pressure to deviate from this course had no place in my life.
A great deal of study and prayer went into this question over many months. But I began to see that there is a "constant pressure I could recognize and dwell within. This is, of course, the gentle, ever-present whisper in my ear to be obedient to God's command that I "come out from the material world and be separate. And the key to all of this is divine Love, God. For spiritual Love is both armor and attraction.
One day I went to my office, sat down, and looked around for a moment. Suddenly I knew I had made my decision. More to the point, I felt at home with the decision to continue to abstain from drugs and alcohol. It was where I belonged, where I wanted to be. What pressure was I worrying about? It was gone. It never came back.
Later I was talking with one of my most important clients and a world-famous musician friend of his. "This guy, his friend said, pointing at me, "is so square he doesn't do dope, or smoke or drink! Without a moment's hesitation my client shot back: "That's why he's my manager.
In the very moment we choose, from the heart, the route closest to what we know is good, we have already conquered any human sense of battle or pressure. We are free right then and can confidently expect to see the certain evidence of our victory. Love reveals this to us with perfect assurance, wonderful timing. The only pressure we're left with is God's quiet assurances to us, His beloved children.
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