Don't Take the Bait

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

If you were fishing with an ordinary rod and line, you would need a hook and some bait in order to catch a fish. Attracted by the bait, the fish would get caught on the hook.

Well, it's not just fish that get snagged by hooks. It seems easy for people to take "bait" of other kinds and get snagged on mental hooks.

An article called "Taking Offense" is included in the book "Miscellaneous Writings," by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor. It says this: "The mental arrow shot from another's bow is practically harmless, unless our own thought barbs it. It is our pride that makes another's criticism rankle, our self-will that makes another's deed offensive, our egotism that feels hurt by another's self-assertion" (Pgs. 223-224).

The article also tells about the Roman emperor Constantine who, after being told that the head of his statue had been broken by a mob, indicated that it was "very surprising" that he did not "feel hurt in the least." Reacting to such erroneous causes of trouble, we nevertheless become their victims. But like Constantine, refusing to react, we cannot be drawn in. We can maintain mental freedom in any situation, refuse to take bait and be snagged.

Christian Science teaches that this freedom is at hand in any trouble because God is Love and we are all His children, perfect and blessed. Staying with Love - that is, maintaining a loving consciousness and refusing to react with fear, anger, jealousy - keeps us safe physically, financially, socially, morally. Evil qualities are not qualities of God. They can't therefore bait His children, who reflect His power and intelligence.

There is nothing in your identity as the child of God that can be attracted to error or evil. There is nothing in your nature on which error can barb itself. Your inherent spirituality and goodness empower you to reject criticism, disturbing experiences, illness, anything evil. None of these can have place in a consciousness filled with divine Love.

One year our family invited two young people along on a camping holiday and looked forward to their company. But instead of enjoying a good time, these two teenagers were tiresome and contributed as little as possible. This influenced the younger members of the party, who in turn acted up.

One evening we adults held a discussion to try to sort out a plan of action. We agreed that we'd allowed the situation to get out of hand and should have acted sooner to enforce some discipline. But wisdom said that to suddenly become heavy-handed would be counterproductive.

It occurred to one of us to rebuke these young people in the same spirit Jesus Christ would have; that is, to rebuke the error of the misbehavior but not the people themselves. Beyond this, we decided to stay quiet and trust the love of God to do the correcting. In this instance we decided to say nothing, while at the same time thinking of the Christly spirit of love.

The following day, and for the rest of the holiday, the behavior of the young people was exemplary. This was a great lesson for me in not taking the bait of anger or reacting in an explosive situation.

There are probably many times every day when a mental hook of one kind or another comes into your experience and tempts you. You may feel that you have blundered or that someone has deceived you. Once you've realized this, you don't have to dangle on the hook. You can change mental direction immediately - jump back into the fact that God is Love and controls all creation. Refuse to take the bait and react at any time. You have control over your thinking and your actions because you are the child of God, capable of exercising dominion through spiritual understanding.

One version of the Lord's Prayer talks of God's forgiving our "trespasses" and our forgiving "those who trespass against us." A sense of being trespassed upon is wiped out when we realize that the kingdom of God, the control of Love, is within us and found through inspired consciousness. God made no offender and no offense; no victim and no victimizer; no hooks and no bait. There is nothing in God's good creation that can take or cause offense. Understanding this brings freedom and healing.

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