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Hope for the hopeless

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

June 1, 2005



Hopelessness isn't a normal thing for me, but in this instance, I couldn't figure out what to do.

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My son, whom I adore, was continually getting into trouble. No sooner had we worked through the crime and punishment for one kind of mischiefmaking than he'd devise a whole new batch. And it was getting more serious as he got older. By the time he was in sixth grade, his schoolwork was suffering. Intelligent as he is, he was pulling Ds and Fs in all his classes.

Everything I tried had failed. Teacher conferences, sitting down with him during homework, lecturing him about paying attention in class, none of it had any lasting effect. Revoking privileges such as computer time or television didn't do any good either, and just made our time at home stressful.

Where can you go when situations seem hopeless? When human efforts don't even make a dent in the problem?

One particular evening, after he'd been subjected to another of my tirades and sent to bed, I just broke down. I knew I was failing at helping him, but couldn't think of anything I could do. I was terrified about his future and overwhelmed at facing this alone.

So I contacted a friend of the family who's also a Christian Science practitioner. She knows my little guy pretty well. And as I poured out the story of all his escapades, suddenly she burst into laughter. "Sounds like he's one clever boy! Don't you worry about him. See the good in him."

This brought me up short. I knew she meant I needed to see that my boy truly embodies only good. He is inherently good because he's created that way by our mutual Parent, God. God is all good, and His creation follows suit. My son's mischievous and undisciplined moments were not the final word on him. I had been defining him only by his actions; my friend reminded me to define him by his being.

I protested at first. Didn't he need to toe the line? Once we were off the phone, though, I thought about it more deeply. This sentence from the Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy clarified things for me: "To calculate one's life-prospects from a material basis, would infringe upon spiritual law and misguide human hope" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 319).

I could see that's exactly what I had been doing. I had been extrapolating his bad grades into a lifetime of failure for him. I was "calculating [my son's] life-prospects" from a limited, mortal basis instead of seeing his genuine potential as God's child.

I didn't fully understand what this meant, though, until the next time his irresponsibility resulted in a failing grade. I went ballistic. He stood there with tears in his eyes. In the middle of this I heard my friend's cheerful voice in my head - "See the good in him!"

I stopped suddenly, and just looked at him. He stared back at me. I thought about how much I loved him and what a great guy he is, generally. I thought about his cheerfulness, his creativity, his helpfulness. All these things show his connection to that divine Parent. And because God is All, if there's any good in my son, it's all good. Standing there looking at my boy, for the first time in months, I saw only good.

I heard myself saying, "I'm not going to let this ruin our evening. We're going to forget about it for now and have fun." He took a relieved breath, and the tension drained from him.

That evening, we had a relaxed family time. And I subsequently found the calm to let go of my anxiety about his grades. I listened to my friend and tried to see only the good in him all the time. When he came home with a bad grade, I just kept saying, "I have faith in you, and I know you'll figure this thing out. You're intelligent and capable, and when you see it, too, it will show for all to see."

Both he and I felt that the turning point for his grades took place then. I asked him about it recently, now that his seventh-grade marks are indeed where they should be in the As and Bs category. It took some time, but it was my learning back then to see the good in him that made the difference.

As I write this, I'm reminded of this passage from Psalms: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God" (Ps. 42:5). When you turn to God, nothing is hopeless.

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