LOADS of money, nice cars, a happy marriage, peace in the world, are a few typical examples of what people want. Whether what we're striving for is worthwhile or not depends on the ideals that impel our actions. Our ideals largely determine how we act, what we accomplish, and how satisfied we feel. Ideals that have their roots in God's will bring out good results. However, if our ideals are merely material--and therefore limited and imperfect--we're likely to act in ways that leave us feeling empty and unsatisfied. As an artist's brush delineates upon the canvas an image held in the artist's thought, so do our actions, health, and relations with others mirror models held in thought. We live out our ideals. For instance, if we were to view others as hard to get along with, we'd likely find ourselves frequently at odds with friends and neighbors. Our life experience patterns our expectations. It's good to know, then, that we can change--can improve--our ideals.
In my earlier days, my main goal in life was to earn money. I believed happiness came from having lots of things--the biggest, the best, the most impressive. I pursued my dream with zest. My earning ability increased but my happiness didn't. There were moments of exhilaration and rejoicing, to be sure. But overall there was a large vacuum looming in my life that I yearned to fill with something of genuine meaning and value. Finally I made an honest appraisal of where my pursuit of material gain was taking me. I discovered that I had been expecting to find enduring joy in worldly things. This quest for eternal bliss in a temporal place would never be fulfilled. True happiness is found only in God. I was ready to pursue a more spiritual ideal.
The book of Psalms in the Bible urges, ''Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace'' (37:37). Peace of mind had proved elusive for me. But in the message of this Bible verse I began to find hope. It was telling me that if I made a sincere effort to understand my genuine, God-created identity I would discover in my life more of what it means to be God's ''perfect man,'' and the result would be peace.
The perfect man is of God's creating. He is spiritually whole, at peace. God has already given him everything necessary for eternal happiness. I dropped the imperfect model of man I had been holding in consciousness--the one of always seeking something material in order to be happy--for the spiritual one of God's making. I didn't have to make myself into something, but I could wholeheartedly accept the way God had already created me--complete and perfect now.
Since I saw that I could find happiness and completeness in God, I gave up my intense effort to find satisfaction where it can't be found--in temporal things. I strove for spiritual-mindedness. The effect on my outlook and health was dramatic. I found contentment within, peace of mind, and freedom from feeling as though I always needed something more than was already at hand.
Improved ideals lead to improved living. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in her Miscellaneous Writings, ''Holding the right idea of man in my mind, I can improve my own, and other people's individuality, health, and morals; whereas, the opposite image of man, a sinner, kept constantly in mind, can no more improve health or morals, than holding in thought the form of a boa-constrictor can aid an artist in painting a landscape'' (p. 62).
The right idea of man is a spiritual one, formed and shaped by God. When we turn our mental gaze away from less than ideal views of man to the perfect child of God's creating, our thought is lifted to new and fresh possibilities for better living. The best ideal to hold to is the spiritual one coming from God--fetterless, free, unlimited. As we cling to this true, spiritual view of man, limited mortal views of ourselves fall away. Our ideals have improved and our life experiences improve as well.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.