Time Off for Bad Behavior?
`I'D rather she misbehave at home than in school,'' said my friend. She was talking about her daughter, who always came home with perfect reports from the teachers, but didn't always behave so perfectly at home. ``I guess kids have to let it out somewhere,'' she concluded. How many of us conclude the same thing about our children, ourselves, or others? It's easy to slip into believing that we can't possibly be good all the time. To cope with this apparent fact, people allow themselves ``time off'' for bad behavior -- and feel it's a necessary respite from working so hard to contain the bad by a covering of good.
This age-old belief that bad will inevitably burst out in misbehavior reaches clear back to the story of Adam and Eve. In spite of God's command not to eat the fruit of ``the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,'' they fell for the serpent's argument that evil was necessary to their happiness and ate the tree's fruit so that they would ``be as gods, knowing good and evil.''1
A knowledge of evil -- or an occasional indulgence in bad behavior -- is not, however, necessary for happiness. In fact, evil brings nothing but unhappiness and discord as Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, points out in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Human hypotheses first assume the reality of sickness, sin, and death, and then assume the necessity of these evils because of their admitted actuality. These human verdicts are the procurers of all discord.''2
As long as one believes that he is mortal, he will suffer the discordant effects of the belief that sin is somehow necessary to his experience. But the real man is spiritual, created by God in His own image, perfect and good. When we understand that this man is our genuine identity, we will no longer be fooled into believing that sin is necessary or that evil is attractive and fun or that it can be a reward for having tried to be good.
Christ Jesus illustrated this spiritual idea of manhood so clearly that it seems unimaginable to anyone familiar with the New Testament accounts of his life that he would have taken time off to ``let his hair down'' or ``sow his wild oats.'' The Master wasted no time in self-indulgent misbehavior, but himself obeyed the command he gave his followers: ``Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.''3 Clearly, he considered it possible and good for all his followers -- including us -- to demonstrate complete freedom from sinful behavior.
When our daughter was in preschool, I had an opportunity to see the healing effects of understanding more clearly that man is in truth spiritual, sinless, God-created. Our daughter's teacher indicated that she was very well-behaved, happy, and considerate all day at school. But when I arrived to pick her and several other children up each afternoon, she would whine and cling to me, behaving badly toward the other children as well.
At first I was tempted to think, ``Well, this is just her letdown time. It's natural that she has missed her mom, and now she wants me all to herself.'' But as I thought about the implications of that reasoning, I realized that I was thinking of my daughter as responding solely to instinctual drives rather than seeing her as spiritual and God-governed.
We have Biblical reason, however, for considering God to be the only true Mind, or intelligence. God's child reflects the one Mind unerringly, and therefore is not subject to unthinking impulses or bouts of bad behavior.
My spiritual reasoning along these lines led me to a clear conviction that our daughter didn't need ``time off for bad behavior.'' I concluded that it wasn't loving, then, for me to excuse or allow such behavior. Instead, I needed to acknowledge her full and perfect expression of God, Mind, and to behold her consequent sinless innocence -- and to expect her behavior to conform. This is exactly what I did.
The result was that the whining, clinging, unloving behavior ceased. I was met in the afternoons with the bubbling, joyous news of the day's activities from all of the children.
This is not to say that our children will never need correction. But we never need to accept hurtful behavior as unhealable, whether it appears to be ours or someone else's. We always have the right to uphold the view of man as having God-given dominion. And this will help us gradually work toward seeing the full expression of each one's real goodness.
1Genesis 2:17; 3:5. 2Science and Health, p. 481. 3Matthew 5:48.
You can find more articles about spiritual healing in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.
BIBLE VERSE Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.
I Corinthians 13:4-8