Building each other up
DURING my college years it was fashionable to ``put people down'' in clever ways. It got to be a constant game, which in my case developed into harsher cynicism and sarcasm. After a while, cynical criticism of others got to be an entrenched habit, and I began to feel that others were putting me down as well--depreciating me. I felt victimized by others and complained frequently about it. I had just become interested in Christian Science. The two university friends who introduced me to it were well liked and a lot of fun to be with. I also considered them to be creative, clever, and humorous in their insights about themselves and others, but I noticed they never put people down and rarely indulged in serious complaining about others. They invited me to their Sunday School, and I went. I had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions. One time the teacher asked me what I thought about the commandment ``Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.'' 1 I replied that I thought it meant not to spread lies or rumors about someone, and not to testify falsely about someone under oath. The teacher asked me what I thought it meant to lie about someone. The whole class discussed this in the light of the Bible and of Christ Jesus' ministry. One idea that struck me was that if we accepted the basic spiritual premise in Genesis, that God made man in His own image and likeness, wholly good, we should be wholehearted in this acceptance, and not be so willing to bear false witness against the child of God's creating by attributing selfishness, meanness, and apathy to him. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, `` `Thou shalt not bear false witness;' that is, thou shalt not utter a lie, either mentally or audibly, nor cause it to be thought.'' 2 As the significance of these ideas began to sink in, I consciously worked at bearing truer witness toward those around me. I would catch myself when critical words were about to pour out of my mouth. I even began to catch myself when tempted to put down someone silently in my thought. There is a beautiful hymn I love, which includes this verse: Help us to build each other up, Our little stock improve; Increase our faith, confirm our hope, And perfect us in love.3 ``Be ye therefore perfect,'' Jesus instructed his disciples, ``even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.'' 4 I was looking for man's spiritual perfection instead of looking for faults. That didn't mean I never saw any faults. But when I did, I tried to realize that these were not really part of anyone's genuine nature as the child of God, and that's why they could be corrected and not be limiting. Building up became my interest. Not building up in the sense of building up ego (mine or anyone else's) or merely flattering. But building up and encouraging native Godlike qualities such as patience, mercy, joy, intelligence, unselfishness. I'm not going to claim that it happened all in a moment, but this building up of a truer sense of man--this bearing witness to man as the image and likeness of God--did gradually have a great effect on my experience, particularly in the area of improved relationships. But there was also a physical healing that came about at the same time. An itchy, irritated skin condition on my back and arms simply faded and never returned. The uncomfortable condition had plagued me periodically for years. I would like to be able to say that I never think a critical or sarcastic thing about anyone anymore. Once in a while I do, but when it happens, I'm aware of it. I feel the strong contradiction with the spiritual truth I have come to know and love. So it's caught quite quickly, and I strive to use that moment to continue to build up. 1 Exodus 20:16. 2 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 67. 3 Christian Science Hymnal, No. 105. 4 Matthew 5:48.