A grandmother, speaking from experience, used to offer this maxim on giving compliments: ''If you're going to give a pan of milk, don't skim it'' - don't lower the quality and impact of your praise by adding derogatory remarks.
We may occasionally hear someone referred to as ''perfect - that is, almost perfect.'' By the time the speaker has gone on to describe imperfect physical characteristics or dispositional traits, even near-perfection has taken a beating.
But we'd still like to do justice to the Godlike qualities an individual expresses. Christian Science enables us to do this without compromising basic honesty. Isaiah counsels, ''Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?'' n1 We might view this as an admonition not to evaluate anyone on a strictly human, material basis. The problem of reconciling what we see with what we'd like to see both in ourselves and others confronts all of us at times. So it's important to keep in thought man's genuine , God-bestowed identity as the true selfhood of everyone.
n1 Isaiah 2:22.
Perhaps we'd like to express approval when we observe someone living according to Christian standards, but we hold back because we don't know the person well enough. We can cherish the impulse to praise by holding to an understanding of the perfect man of God's creation. From this pure spiritual standpoint we'll discern the appropriate course to follow.
Divine Mind is a term that describes the all-knowing aspect of God. ''Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind,'' n2 we read in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. n3 We can persist in loving our own and others' spiritual identity, and through this fidelity become prepared to accept God's guidance as to what to do and say. The Bible assures us , ''A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,'' n4 a figure combining the pleasant appropriateness and high value we want our words of appreciation to convey.
n2 Science and Health m p:1. n3 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. n4 Proverbs 25:11.
The results of viewing our fellowman spiritually have been illustrated in my own experience. Although I had made little conscious effort to attain a more kindly approach in dealing with others, a relative who hadn't seen me for a long time, upon coming for a visit, spontaneously told me that I was becoming agreeable to live with. I didn't take personal credit for this, because in the interim I had become a student of Christian Science, and the improvement had been the outcome of my regular study of its teachings. As I had learned more of man's relationship to God, revealed in the Bible, I had gradually outgrown a tendency to view others as adversaries, and had gained a better sense of everyone's Godlikeness.
Christ Jesus' awareness of his sonship with God enabled him to perceive the needs of others and, through God's power and love, to meet those needs. This Christ-spirit that Jesus so fully lived is present for all of us to express in our everyday dealings. Christliness elevates and beautifies all our associations , and increases our recognition of our own and others' worth.
Jesus was prompt to commend good work. In his parable of the talents n5 each degree of accomplishment received approval. Worthy efforts might be commended even when others don't make the highest score or do some great thing; the supporting team is needed and deserves appreciation too. We should be as willing to bestow merited praise as to receive it.
n5 See Matthew 25:14-29.
In a world apparently disrupted by divisive forces our trust must be in God, the universal Parent, and in the man of His creation, who is always worthy. Mrs. Eddy writes, ''God is our Father and our Mother, our Minister and the great Physician: He is man's only real relative on earth and in heaven.'' n6 Let's honor our spiritual origin, which includes everyone, spiritually endowed with qualities from God.
n6 Miscellaneous Writings, m p. 151.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due. . . . Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfiled the law. Romans 13:7,8