Overcoming Prejudice

WHEN I hear of prejudice, I think first of bias for or against a person because of his or her race. Of course there are other prejudices--ones toward people of different nationalities, social standings, education, sex, or wealth. Prejudice can be overt and aggressive, but it is as likely to be a subtle influence that affects how we value others. Prejudice is divisive and undermines harmony. How can we be free of it?

Prejudice arises when we judge individual worth by material standards of appearance. Is this an accurate way to measure a person's value? Christ Jesus didn't think so. He taught his followers, the Bible tells us in John's Gospel, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (7:24). The material senses do not see the reality of man, because they can't perceive God, the divine Principle of man. To judge righteous judgment, we need spiritual sense. God made man in His image, in the image of Spirit. Man reflects the beauty of Soul, the wisdom of Mind, the fitness of Truth, the order of Principle, and the caring of Love. Matter cannot define him, because man is spiritual.

Our prejudices result from judging materially. Christian Science, however, provides us with a way to overcome both material sense and the prejudice that stems from it. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the author, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: "Divine Science, rising above physical theories, excludes matter, resolves things into thoughts, and replaces the objects of material sense with spiritual ideas" (p. 123).

People often believe that having one color of hair or one shape of the body or living in a certain place, makes them better than those who are different from themselves. But matter is not the substance of man. All that is material will change and disappear. Only Spirit and its idea are real and substantial.

But what if you've been taught to be prejudiced or to hate certain people? Is there any way to overcome this destructive behavior? One way is by learning to recognize the expression of spiritual qualities in those we meet. If you were to describe a friend to me, for instance, you might speak in terms of kindness, fidelity, honesty, affection, courage, caring, goodness. Not one of these qualities is material.

When you look for these qualities in people you may be ac-customed to thinking of as your enemies, you aren't just ignoring or glossing over unlovely aspects of their character. You're learning to challenge the material picture, which contradicts the truth of God and man, with the spiritual idea of man. As you begin to see who and what the man of God's creating is, you're replacing, for example, the belief of cruelty with the spiritual fact that man is the idea of omnipotent, omnipresent Love; you're rep lacing the picture of lawlessness with the understanding that man--you, me, everyone--reflects God's perfect government. Such prayerful discipline enables us to overcome error in our thought. We will see the goodness of others in terms applicable to our daily lives. The walls of our limited preconceptions will come down. God knows no sides, no limitation, no exclusion in His creation.

Spiritual sense is an attribute of God. It is the reflection and demonstration of divine Love, Spirit. As we love, we see spiritually, and as we see spiritually, we love. This cuts off and destroys material sense, which is the root of all hatred and prejudice. The hostility, intolerance, and prejudice dissolve in the face of spiritual sense and divine Love.

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