THE flight attendant moved down the aisle, dispensing smiles and refreshments with cheerful expertise. What caught my attention was her attitude toward the passengers--it was consistently loving and sincere, regardless of the age, gender, or appearance of the one being served. Watching this set me to thinking about my own attitude toward others. Do I maintain an impartially loving view of humankind, unaffected by appearances or circumstances? Certainly we're not to love sin or to ignore it when we're confronted with it in others. But we do need to cultivate an impartial love for all of God's offspring. In all honesty, I had to admit that I had room for improvement in this area.
Reflecting on what I could do to remedy this, I recalled how simply Christ Jesus told his followers about their common heritage. The opening words of the prayer he taught them--the Lord's Prayer--are ``our Father.'' 1 This adjective our points to the fact that each one who crosses our field of mental vision has, in truth, the same origin--God. The individuality of each one is in no way lessened by this relationship-in-common. On the contrary, it is this spiritual view of identity that enables us to express more of our true individuality and to discern more readily the genuine individuality of others.
In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy2 defines man not in terms of gender or age, ethnic or educational background, but spiritually--as ``the compound idea of infinite Spirit; the spiritual image and likeness of God; the full representation of Mind.'' 3 (Mind is a term for God implied in the Bible.)
This spiritual view of man allows for infinite expression of individuality. And it also relieves us of the mistaken notion that we can legitimately judge an individual's worth by the outward picture. After all, human judgments can be unreliable, because they're based on material observation, not on unshakable spiritual fact. And appearances can be deceiving!
Whether we're faced with a boss who appears to be prejudiced against our race or gender, or a pupil suffering from cultural deprivation, we can keep our own mental picture clear. Maintaining a ``single'' eye tends to illuminate the whole body of our experience and opens the way for more consistent good. It's easier to move ahead when there's ample light to show the way. ``If . . . thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light,'' 4 Christ Jesus taught.
Keeping our view of ourselves spiritually clear is of equal importance. Ac cepting the negative implications of such labels as ``high-school dropout'' or ``unemployed executive'' can lead to a downward spiral of thought. True, those terms may describe the human condition, but they are not law. They have no relationship to one's inherent completeness and perfection as the offspring of God, of infinite good.
It's evident that our viewpoint largely determines the nature of our experience. I've watched belligerence melt into genuine kindliness when I've been consistent in holding to the spiritual facts of man. Suspicion has turned to affectionate regard and genuine productivity has replaced grudging participation in direct proportion to my refusal to believe that the outward view represents fundamental truth.
When skepticism about spirituality is erased, our perspective is altered. Outward conditions lose their apparent ability to limit the good in our lives. When spiritual intuition, rather than material observation, is our basis for judgment, the most delightful improvements occur.
There's truly only a single, genuinely accurate view to hold--the spiritual one. There may be frequent challenges to this much-underrated approach to the daily business of beholding our fellow beings, but we have a powerful ally--God--on our side!
1 Matthew 6:9. 2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3 Science and Health, p. 591. 4 Matthew 6:22.