YOU won't open the Bible and read of anyone saying to his neighbor, "Take a reality check!" You may, though, have heard this phrase used recently. It can mean "Get your thinking straight," "Wake up, dope," or "Be more worldly minded." It certainly isn't a flattering phrase!
Being cynical isn't something we should feel pressured to do, no matter how often we find these attitudes in friends or in the media. Maybe it seems more adult to be frank with people. But out-and-out cynicism is never necessary or in the least bit helpful, whether you're an adult or a kid. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, discussed a better attitude for everyone of all ages in Miscellaneous Writings: "Beloved children, the world has need of you,-and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives" (p. 110).
You can open the Bible and read about men and women who wake up spiritually. And they find this changes their own lives and benefits their neighbors. For instance, the book of Exodus records Moses as awakening to the realization that God is the great "I AM." Seeing a bush that was on fire, but that did not burn up, Moses was awestruck. He said, "I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt" (3:3). He saw this as a symbol of the eternal nature of being, and realized that God is the only true creative power. This discovery utterly altered his life, and impelled Moses to lead the children of Israel out of their captivity in Egypt. (Suppose Moses had reacted sarcastically to that sight of the burning bush? He might never have realized its lesson and saved a nation!)
The Bible teaches of man's true, loving nature, especially through the healing work of Christ Jesus. Increasingly understanding the Saviour's example, and striving to follow it, could be thought of as taking "a reality check" in a very positive sense; it involves waking up to spiritual reality.
God is good. Since God is the true source of identity for all, we can think carefully about the things we say about ourselves using the personal pronoun I. We can consider whether what we're saying is something God could be saying about His children. For God to know anything of man, He must first know it of Himself. If God can't be saying, "I am unhappy," "I am spiteful," or "I am sick"-and He can't-then these bad things aren't true of you or me either.
We can help others by taking great care in what we think about them. If what we are thinking about another isn't good, it isn't part of his true identity. This does not allow us to gloss over bad personality traits; it challenges us to see beyond them and to help correct them.
Taking this kind of "spiritual reality check" helped me to overcome a sensitivity to cynicism in others, which used to be very disturbing to me. But one evening when I was walking home, I checked up on reality; I prayed to know what God's view of man is, so that I could think rightly about all my fellowmen. I thought about what Christian Science teaches-that man is the expression of God. "God isn't cynical!" I thought. So how could man, His image and likeness, be cynical? Man must express freshness and brightness, harmless wisdom, and childlike trust. I saw that I could be a witness to this true nature of man, no matter what I might be hearing.
I have felt noticeably less sensitive to cynicism since that time. It's not that I just ignore the characteristic if I encounter it. Now I prayerfully dispute it! I see it more quickly as being a lie about my fellowman. And interestingly, whereas I once felt subjected to the cynical outlook of others, this has faded. There have been changes in some relationships, and I have come to be more selective in my choice of reading material and entertainment.
God has no cynical offspring, but only children full of trust in His goodness. Knowing this gives a better view of things. Improved lives inevitably follow.