HAVE you ever noticed how easy it is to believe the worst about others? For example, someone is accused of making a serious mistake at work or of having a personal problem of some sort--drinking, perhaps. Despite any good this person may have done in the past, suddenly it seems everyone is ready to believe that the individual is guilty. This attitude even appears in some news media when allegations are made about local or national officials. And if the individual is unjustly accused, the effects can be devastating. Surely there is a better approach to finding out what, if anything, was done wrong.
The first step in such an approach might be to consider Christ Jesus' teaching that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. How happy would we be if someone were to say things about us that were false and didn't try to find out the facts? Even if the charges against us were true, would we really appreciate having everyone gossiping, speculating about our future or career? It doesn't sound very pleasant, does it?
Nor does gossipy behavior really help to bring out the better aspects of our nature. As the Master told his listeners: ``Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.''1
Yet when accusations are made against another, we may be involved in some way and need to know what to do. In her Miscellaneous Writings Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives us a useful caution for such circumstances: ``He who judges others should know well whereof he speaks. Where the motive to do right exists, and the majority of one's acts are right, we should avoid referring to past mistakes.''2
Telling the truth regarding the individual or standing up in support of him or her can be productive. But sometimes this merely widens the debate instead of silencing it. In the long run, the best course of action is prayer.
To begin, we can realize in prayer that God is all-knowing Mind and everpresent Truth, as the Bible clearly implies. And we can trust Truth to bring any wrongdoing to the surface. This divine process does not come about because God knows evil and uncovers it in order to condemn, but because Truth, by the very nature of its infinitude, exposes it. The mistakes or misconceptions in the picture become evident as not part of God, Truth. We see the errors for what they are: impostors that would blind us to God's government and presence and to man's true nature in God's likeness.
Most of us have probably seen a clever imitation of an orange or of some other fruit. At first glance, maybe we have thought the imitation was actually real. But knowing what a real orange looks, smells, and feels like, we weren't fooled for long. Similarly, as we get a better understanding of what God, Truth, really is, we will be less likely to be taken in by falsehood.
Our prayer can also embody a trust that God is divine Principle, Love, governing every aspect of man's being through divine law. The operation of this law protects innocence and exposes guilt. Yet if there has been a mistake, the usefulness of the individuals involved need not be destroyed. If they recognize the error they have made and are willing to give up this behavior, their lives can be restored and richer than before, because God is Love.
Vital to this clearing away of the mistake or deliberate wrongdoing is a change in outlook. And our prayers can help this to come about. For one thing, we can recognize that God's man is completely spiritual and is ever at one with his Father. This man has no desire for anything but Truth, Love, Principle. And since this is our--and everyone's--real nature, our prayer can help bring to light God's man in ourselves and in those around us.
A change toward more Christlike behavior may not come about all at once, but as we prayerfully persist in trusting Truth and living truthfully, we will begin to see more and more evidence of it in our lives.
1Matthew 7:1, 2. 2Miscellaneous Writings, p. 130. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Exodus 20:16