It's a wonderful feeling when a friend or colleague sees something in you that you didn't realize was there. Perhaps a talent, skill, or even a capacity to understand a concept you thought was beyond your reach.
I knew someone in college who was a business major but wanted to explore something totally different, just for a little variety in his schedule. He decided to try out for a school play. As soon as he showed up at the audition, he saw that everyone there was either a drama student or had some previous experience in the theater. He wanted to slip out the back door, but there he was. He decided he had nothing to lose.
The director asked everyone to glance over the script and read a few lines out loud. A short discussion followed that covered the meaning of the play. My friend was quite surprised when the director chose him for a leading role. He knew he would have to learn a lot quickly, but he felt encouraged, even inspired, by the director's confidence in his latent ability.
The student worked at his part, performed in the play with relative success, and went back to his business courses with a new appreciation for talents he'd never thought he had.
People who can see potential in others and who encourage them to develop it benefit society as a whole.
This is even more true when someone with a spiritual viewpoint sees people as God made them, as God's loved and perfect creation. When someone can see through our imperfections and limitations, and recognize who we are as God's likeness - whole, complete, and totally good - this helps us to better live up to that ideal.
When someone can see us in a spiritual light, we feel truly loved. We feel worthy, even noble. We feel we're beginning to discover who we really are. We feel the love of God.
In his classic exposition of St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians on love, Henry Drummond wrote, "To be trusted is to be saved. And if we try to influence or elevate others, we shall soon see that success is in proportion to their belief of our belief in them" ("The Greatest Thing in the World").
What I know about Jesus' life convinces me that he had this kind of belief in people. His knowledge of them went beyond the merely human information they accepted about themselves. He knew everyone's birthright as sons and daughters of God - totally spiritual - so he could see the real potential in people. He recognized and identified the goodness and intelligence that is inherent in each of us.
The theater director, because of his own experience and insight, was able to identify and anticipate the student's ability to awaken to and live up to performing his part. Jesus, because of his spiritual understanding of his own identity as God's expression, was able to recognize this truth in others. This spiritual enlightenment awakened and healed those seeking a deeper understanding of their identity.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, discovered the practical benefit of looking beyond the imperfections people accept about themselves to their perfect spiritual self as the likeness of God. She wrote: "Mortals seem very material; man in the likeness of Spirit is spiritual. Holding the right idea of man in my mind, I can improve my own, and other people's individuality, health, and morals; whereas, the opposite image of man, a sinner, kept constantly in mind, can no more improve health or morals, than holding in thought the form of a boa-constrictor can aid an artist in painting a landscape" ("Miscellaneous Writings," pgs. 61-62).
We don't have to wait for someone else to see us as we really are. Regular prayer helps us reach and maintain a spiritual viewpoint. Prayer acknowledges God as our perfect Father and Mother, and the truth of our real selves in God's likeness. There is more to us than meets the eye.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society