What do you do when you have to interact with someone every day who is just plain unpleasant? Sometimes people have such an attitude that we resent having to deal with them at all. But because they work where we do, or live next door, or even with us, we just don't have a choice.
I know a number of people whose day turns sour the moment they remember that they have to deal with someone like that. How do we prevent someone else's behavior from ruining our day? How do we overcome their faults with good?
There is a great short statement in the Bible that has given me pause for thought: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). That sounds fine, but I've been looking for the how.
As I thought about this, I was reminded of the Bible's account of Noah and the ark. We are told that his neighbors' thoughts and behavior were constantly evil. We aren't given any more details, but it sounds pretty bad. Noah, though, was a good man. And he was instructed by God to build an ark and bring two animals of every kind into the ark.
It struck me that I could think of this as a spiritual metaphor. I could think of the ark as a place in consciousness that was a safe place, a harbor from the storm, a place separate from contention, a place of peace. Then I would seek out at least two good qualities in everyone I dealt with and bring those qualities into my "ark." I was looking for traits that were worth preserving.
For example, I used to work a lot with someone who was grumpy, uncooperative, and generally hard to get along with. Yet he was dependable, honest, and very knowledgeable in his area. But most people avoided him, and if his name came up in conversation, it was invariably negative.
I made a point of bringing honesty and dependability into my ark. Noah and his crew of animals were in the ark for more than 40 days and nights. What if we were to collect the best features of someone we had trouble dealing with, and then kept those in our mental arks for day after day. That is, we would refuse to dwell on their faults but would insist that their identity included these good features.
Every good quality actually has a spiritual source. They are part of the identity of man and woman created in the likeness of God, as the Bible says. When we recognize these values in another, we are also awakening to the spiritual forces of good that work in us all.
Writing about this process of seeking out the good in another person, Mary Baker Eddy, the author of the best-selling book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," notes: "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, 18831896," pgs. 6162).
If we choose to seek out the better qualities in the people around us, and then insist on identifying them this way, our interaction with these people will change. I've seen it happen over and over again. We'll learn how to overcome evil with good. Many times, two qualities aren't enough to bring about this change. We may need to fill our arks up. But if we recognize more qualities each day, we'll eventually swing the balance over to the good side, and we'll discover that this produces genuine results.
Put on therefore, as
the elect of God, holy and
beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness ... forbearing one
another, and forgiving one another, if any man have
a quarrel against any:
even as Christ forgave
you, so also do ye.
Colossians 3:12, 13