IN the Bible we read of Solomon, who prayed that he might receive ``an understanding heart''1 to judge the people. Even though many of us will never find ourselves in a position of great responsibility like Solomon's, isn't an understanding heart what we need most when a relative, friend, or co-worker has done something wrong or something we disagree with? The ability to respond in a loving, helpful way is sometimes challenged by the temptation to judge or condemn destructively. Whether the person who needs our help is filled with remorse or is trying to convince us that his actions were justified, an understanding heart will help guide us to know how to respond. It will open our thought to God's guidance, to the direction of the one Mind.
There's an abundance of learning and growth to be experienced by everyone involved when these challenges occur. My daughter and I discovered this a few years ago.
One evening while I was preparing supper she came to me quietly and said, ``I got in a fight today.'' As I looked down at two bruised cheeks, I wondered how I should handle this. Should I punish her? Should I preach? Neither one of those choices seemed right, and then I realized that what I needed to do was to listen. I needed to listen to her and listen to God to know how I could help.
She ended her lengthy, blow-by-blow description of how it all happened by saying, ``Boy, I wish I could go back and change things.'' I assured her that at times we may say or do something that would have been better left unsaid or undone, but self-condemnation is not the way to free ourselves from the regret we feel. We can always learn from these experiences, however, and that's where the opportunity lies. Challenging times and circumstances may threaten our poise, but an honest desire to live a life that reflects God is a motive that will be blessed and give us the necessary strength to withstand any form of temptation.
Direction can be taken from Jesus' response to the adulterous woman. He said, ``Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.''2 Isn't that what's really needed--not to ignore or condone sin but to help the individual involved feel release from self-condemnation? This is the key to the freedom which leads to the realization that we are capable of fulfilling Christ Jesus' command ``Go, and sin no more.''
Jesus told the Pharisees, ``Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.''3 Will giving in to the temptation to preach or condemn self-righteously contribute in the highest way, in a genuine, lasting way, to the healing of the situation? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy.''4
Through prayer and purification of thought we need to cultivate the spiritual perceptiveness that discerns the true selfhood of our fellowman as the perfect child of God, not a mortal separated from God, susceptible to wrong thinking and acting. We do need to be alert to sin and not just brush it off glibly. But we also need to realize that it is never a part of man, God's likeness. Separating the sinful thought or deed from our perception of the individual is certainly necessary in order to gain the ``correct view of man'' and forward healing.
The challenges we face may be more serious than a schoolyard fight--perhaps there's a problem with drugs or promiscuity. But challenges can be resolved when we are willing to help those in need by resisting the temptation to condemn, and replacing it with the natural and sincere desire to heal.
What a wonderful privilege it is to be a part of the growth that occurs when we help others reaffirm their inherent desire to express God's nature, to see that they are, in their true selfhood, God's flawless offspring right now.
1I Kings 3:9. 2John 8:11. 3John 8:15. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476-477. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Proverbs 17:27