THERE'S no question that warfare brings out the worst in mankind. But times of crisis can bring out the best in us, too. Even under the most challenging conditions, men and women show a remarkable capacity for compassion, moral courage, and generosity. ``...at first light I awoke to see one of the soldiers carefully laying an extra blanket over the six of us who were sleeping on the floor.'' So an American journalist wrote in The New York Times of the Iraqi Republican Guards who held him captive. He also tells of food that was shared, although it was terribly scarce, and of life-saving protection given him under hostile gunfire.
Perhaps the soldiers were ``just doing their job'' -- following orders to deliver the prisoners alive. But perhaps the real reason went deeper and tells us something of the essential nature of man. Couldn't the kindness have sprung from the simple recognition that Arabs and Westerners share a common humanity? Goodness surfaces even when evil tries to suppress or ignore it because good is what was there all along -- good is what is real and powerful.
The Scriptures have a lot to say about the true nature of man. In a letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes, ``Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.'' The spiritual identity given man by his creator includes such God-derived attributes as affection, integrity, and wisdom.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in No and Yes: ``Man is more than physical personality, or what we cognize through the material senses.... Man is the eternal idea of his divine Principle, or Father.'' On the next page she adds, ``Man's real ego, or selfhood, is goodness.''
All of us have had moments when we caught a glimpse of man's genuine nature, which is spiritual and good. Maybe it was at a time when we found ourselves or someone else acting more nobly, more unselfishly, than we had thought possible. But why isn't man's goodness more apparent on a constant basis? Isn't it because we tend to think of men and women as flawed mortals -- formed not by divine Spirit but by material forces? It takes effort to see what is actually true of the man of God's creating. It requir es a willingness to turn to God in prayer and ask Him to reveal the truth about His own creation.
Our yearning to understand Deity and to know man truly is a prayer that's always answered. Our efforts to understand God and His creation more fully are rewarded with new spiritual insights into man's perfection as the offspring of God.
We've all had times when it's been hard to express good or to do what we felt was right. When we're treated unjustly, for instance, we may be tempted to feel resentment or to look for revenge, instead of responding with forgiveness and forbearance. At such moments, it's helpful to remember that evil -- called resentment and revenge in this case -- is not a legitimate part of our identity. What we're wrestling with, really, is a false concept of man as mortal.
Victory over such undesirable traits comes more quickly, then, as we affirm the spiritual fact that man -- our real nature -- is truly God's own child: spiritual and good. What appears as evil is a deception -- no matter how convincing it seems to be. And even our little victories over evil each day weigh on the side of good. Our individual efforts to express God-given righteousness bolster the irrepressibleness of good. Every prayer that recognizes the spiritual good in man blesses us and everyone.