Driving to work the other morning, I caught myself gripping the steering wheel a little more firmly, anticipating the careless drivers I would encounter because of all the stop-and-go traffic.
Yes, the traffic snarls were wild, but the drivers' attitudes didn't appear to be that way at all. Even more surprising than the stress-free drive I ended up having was the uncovering of a false notion. I had accepted that an especially busy commute brings out the worst in people. It didn't prove true.
But what we're thinking about others is not the only thing that requires careful attention. Stop and consider what you're accustomed to thinking about yourself.
Do you see yourself in a positive way, as someone who strives to be good and do good, someone who is willing to stretch, to learn useful lessons, to grow? Or, are you dissatisfied with what you see? Do you think you have little or nothing of value to offer to others?
If we're harboring destructive concepts about ourselves, they need to be punctured so that we're not reproducing them in our lives.
But how to begin? An artist might recommend this approach: look away from the canvas and focus instead on what you're trying to depict. This suggests turning from the self-image of a human being with all sorts of shortfalls, to God and His image. To the purely good and perfect and divine Maker - and your likeness to Him. In the words of Christ Jesus, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
Once we learn that God is Love, for example, it becomes increasingly clear what our true nature must be, and is: caring, compassionate, benevolent - Godlike. Any notion we have that being revengeful or self-centered defines us can then be seen as a lie about us - not as a fact - and then be dropped.
Love is a term that's synonymous with God. Truth is another. So is Life. Exploring the many names for God (found in the Bible) gives us a much broader sense - a very real sense - of the infinite good that He is expressing in each of us. Such spiritual study is like opening a box from the attic and finding a treasure you'd forgotten - or perhaps didn't know - was yours.
Here's an example of what having a better thought-model does for us. A friend of mine was reading Mary Baker Eddy's book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" and came across a reference to God as "the great Giver" (pg. 112). She thought a lot about this description, and how it applied to her. She had to admit that, for the most part, she wasn't a very giving person. Perhaps a more accurate description, she thought, was selfish.
Still, she kept gazing at the concept of being a giver, a great giver. And she saw this as a powerful, transforming truth, revealing one aspect of her actual, Godlike nature. Not something that had to be created, but rather uncovered.
From then on, my friend started looking for ways to be unselfish, to give more of herself, whether that meant giving greater care to others, greater attention to tasks, having greater patience, whatever. Now she sees herself in a different light, as a good giver, with every intention of being a better one. She is seeing more of who she really is as God's own likeness.
Which brings us back to the question "What have you been thinking about yourself?" There may be some things you think could be better. Well then, isn't it refreshing to look to a new model - to God and His perfect, spiritual likeness? And to bring out that masterpiece on the canvas that is your life?
Such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. II Corinthians 3:5
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society