Most of us can probably recall more times than we'd like when pride and hurt feelings got the better of us.
The importance of not letting this happen struck me again when I read a report in this newspaper on a war in central Africa. An official there was quoted as saying, "This is what it comes down to: an ego problem" (Aug. 19, 1999, pg. 7). How many large- and small-scale wars could be averted, how many wounds prevented, by a commitment to lower the ego level?
Being aware of the need to control personal reactions is a first step. Really wanting to is even better. But what actually enables us to do it is the understanding of a priceless endowment that we've all been given: "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God" (I Cor. 2:12).
"The spirit of the world" may produce rivalry, pride, fear, and their ilk. But we haven't been given the worldly spirit. It is superimposed, unnatural. It can never actually become part of us because we are God's. "The spirit which is of God" is the nature we inherit from our Maker. It gives us unconditional ability to express love, meekness, and conscious self-worth. So even if the spirit of the world tries to overcome us, we can be sure that, as one early Christian writer put it, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4).
God, the source of all being, can be defined as the one ever-present, all-knowing Ego. This is expressed in the goodness of God's spiritual creation. Observing people who have significantly subdued personal ego is pure delight, comparable to viewing a good painting or hearing a well-performed symphony. That's because they're expressing more of God's nature. And when you're in the presence of goodness, what you're aware of isn't a personal ego at all. What you're aware of is the infinite Ego, seen through an individual likeness of God.
One of the most striking examples of personal ego giving way to the one Ego is in the account of the Passover meal that Jesus ate with his students before his trial and crucifixion. The Gospel of Luke indicates that at this time, the disciples had been arguing with each other about which of them would be the greatest. Imagine it! On the eve of this monumental test, when Jesus needed their support more than ever, he had to deal instead with their petty rivalries.
His response was unforgettable. He washed their feet.
And that's what the eternal Christ does for you and me when we're coated with ego dust. It washes away anger, disappointment, or any stain by repeating: "Remember the spirit God gives you. You have unlimited patience, forgiveness, love, meekness. Nothing can hurt you or diminish your worth, because you are God's own likeness. Drop the imposed spirit of the world, which is not yours, and accept your goodness."
Because Christ does this again and again for each one of us, we can follow that example. At the moment we're tempted to react in the spirit of the world, we have God-given strength to stifle those reactions and find a way to wash feet instead - that is, to help others see the true spirit they've received by actively expressing it ourselves.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, followed this example to a remarkable degree in dealing with her own students. She once wrote to them, "Scientific Christianity works out the rule of spiritual love; it makes man active, it prompts perpetual goodness, for the ego, or I, goes to the Father, whereby man is Godlike" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1902," pg. 8).
It's our God-given nature to practice active love instead of reaction. This lowers the ego level and contributes to deep and satisfying peace.
And 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 3:4, 5
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society