To live for a principle

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

I fell in love when I was thirteen. Not with a boy (that didn't happen until some years later), but with a cause. I wasn't particularly looking for an ideal to commit to. I was happy at home and in school. But one summer I volunteered at a day-care center for children of migrant workers. Mexican braceros harvested the fields surrounding our California town, and the children who were too young to pick crops were cared for at the community church.

There was nothing glamorous about the work. It consisted mainly of changing countless diapers, interspersed with play, hugs, and dishing out rice, beans, and jello. I absolutely loved the job. And it became the first of many satisfying volunteer efforts for various social causes.

One of the crucial and delightful discoveries to be made in life is that devotion to an unselfish ideal brings satisfaction. The American suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony labored for half a century for the cause of women's rights. Mrs. Stanton did her work primarily from home while caring for a large family. Miss Anthony tirelessly traveled the country as a lecturer. In a tribute to her lifelong friend, Stanton said Anthony's life illustrated the fulfillment that comes to those committed "to live for a principle, for the triumph of some reform by which all mankind may be lifted up...."

To live for a principle makes us happy when it unselfs us. Unhappiness, in fact, has its root in selfishness. Not necessarily in the obvious selfishness of wanting all the toys for ourselves, but in the more fundamental mistake of thinking that we're separate selves with merely personal well-being to build up and defend. In the deepest sense, being unselfish includes ceasing to believe that you're separate.

You are wonderfully distinct and individual, but not separate. A central truth in Jesus' teaching and acts of healing is that each of us is in reality a purely good and spiritual identity, permanently united with the one all-encompassing Love, God. He prayed for his followers, "... that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).

Practicing unselfish love helps us progressively feel that we are one with God. The great religious traditions point to prayer and communion with Spirit, coupled with service to others, as the primary way to lift up oneself and all humankind. Christian Science Founder Mary Baker Eddy writes: "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, - a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love. Regardless of what another may say or think on this subject, I speak from experience. Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God's gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 1).

Many reformers find that sustained commitment to a cause is possible only by knowing that God works in them and through them. Mrs. Eddy, a contemporary of Stanton and Anthony, devoted herself to carrying on Jesus' reforms - awakening people to the kingdom of heaven, spiritual perfection, here. Her mon-umental work showed that the Christ-power to heal disease is the result of a confirmable, divine Science. But her mission, following Jesus' own example, went beyond even the compassionate desire to alleviate suffering. It was to glorify God by proving that He does not countenance sin or disease in any form. Jesus proved that evil is in fact a substanceless illusion, which is shattered by understanding God's allness. To forward the triumph of such a reform in human thought is indeed a principle worth living for.

Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

John 13:13-15

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.