Honoring the good in others
HAVE you ever wondered why it is so easy to criticize and find fault? Maybe we feel that finding fault in others in some way lessens our own wrongdoing or limitations. Or maybe a part of us feels that seeing the shortcomings of another makes our own efforts appear more successful. Christ Jesus shows us in one of his parables the humility that dissolves the desire to criticize. Two men are praying. One attempts to prove his worth by condemning those around him. He prays, ``God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.'' The other man humbly asks forgiveness: ``God be merciful to me a sinner.'' The great Teacher continues the lesson of the story: ``I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.''1
Destructive criticism often catches us in the trap of exalting ourselves at the expense of others. Lifting ourselves up in this way can be a Pyrrhic victory. We eventually learn that lasting good is gained by true achievement--not by trying to build on the failings of others.
This became very evident to me several years ago. A vacancy was expected in the position of department chairman in the high school where I was teaching. It seemed obvious to me that I was in contention for the position. Even others assured me that I should take steps to be ready for this opening.
But one day when I arrived at work I was told that not only had the vacancy occurred but the position had been given to another. It was supposed to be open for applications before any appointment was made, but the procedure had been changed this time.
Because of my ambition for personal achievement, this apparent injustice really hit me hard. Bitter tears were followed by recriminations against all involved. Even others encouraged my sense of injustice. But as a Christian Scientist I eventually turned to prayer when it became clear that criticism and the blaming of others were not going to resolve this situation for me, and in fact were destructive.
The humility to accept our own faults, I learned, can become the first step toward seeing the good inherent in others. Appreciating others turns our focus away from personal desires and self-justification. Instead of berating people for what they can't be or can't give, we become aware of what they can offer and what they are. This humility that Christ Jesus shows so well in his parable, this willingness to forgive others because we see much to forgive in ourselves, opens our eyes to the inherent good in man.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, saw through her deep study of the Bible that the true selfhood of each one of us is spiritual, the offspring of a loving Father-Mother God; that we all express the one infinite good. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she writes: ``Man, made in His likeness, possesses and reflects God's dominion over all the earth. Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God.''2
We can be lifted out of injustice as we come to see that there are no losers, no incompetents, and no malcontents in God's spiritual universe. As the expression of God, everyone has a unique gift to offer. To look at others compassionately and to appreciate and encourage the good they are expressing open the way for our own achievement.
And this proved to be true. I did eventually leave that teaching position but not through bitterness. It was a natural step forward at the time. The subsequent years have brought satisfaction and a great love for my fellowman--something I had never been able to find before. And along with this has been the healing of any sense of injustice.
This all did not happen immediately. And the struggle to overcome the temptation to criticize is an ongoing one. But as soon as I started appreciating others, seeing the good in others, I began to lose the sense that I wasn't appreciated.
It became clear that we can't achieve in a vacuum. Successes and satisfaction are not solitary activities. They are shared with others--with all those whose efforts do so much to encourage and support our progress. It has been proved to me that honoring the good in others leads to greater rewards in one's own life.
1See Luke 18:10-14. 2Science and Health, p. 516. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Exodus 20:16