The Bishop of London said to the newly married Prince William and Catherine Middleton, “The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves.... [T]he more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed.”
One can only imagine the self-sacrifice that will be required of the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But of course it is not just royalty who must submit to the demand to think beyond oneself.
For all the attempt to attribute to men and women an inherent self-interest and animal instinct to gain for oneself, what if we as children of God are actually designed to be unselfish?
Spiritual viewpoints have a rightful tendency to turn ordinary views upside down, and defending unselfishness as a normal attribute may feel like a jolt. But from experience most of us know the agony of self-absorption – the pathos of constantly worrying about whether we will have what we need or get what we want. It is a hypnotism that does little to cultivate character or spiritual growth.
But, oh, the freedom of reaching beyond oneself and finding a way to support someone else’s progress! That divine expression moves us into wider horizons of thought and experience, discovering more goodness than we could ever outline for ourselves.
I think the founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy, would have enjoyed a conversation with the Bishop of London. She, too, deeply valued marriage and understood that unselfishness has much to do with true happiness. She wrote, “Unselfish ambition, noble life-motives, and purity, – these constituents of thought, mingling, constitute individually and collectively true happiness, strength, and permanence” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 58).
To associate unselfishness with happiness protects unselfishness from accommodating abuse, martyrdom, and joyless resolve. Happiness implies a freedom to be one’s uniquely wonderful self, an individuality made by God for the purpose of glorifying His goodness as His image and likeness. Unselfishness implies the freedom to share the best of what we are, for the blessing of another.
Mrs. Eddy brings clarity to the point of how it is that the children of God are inherently spiritual and unselfish: “Finite man cannot be the image and likeness of the infinite God.... Man is more than a material form with a mind inside ... Man reflects infinity, and this reflection is the true idea of God. God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis” (Science and Health, pp. 257-258).
The basis of unselfishness is the infinitude of our true nature, moving into new outlooks and capacities. There is a rightful rebellion against the strictures on thought that put us and others into finite boxes of limited opportunity and expression.
In an age when divorce rates can be as high as 1 out of every 2 marriages, there is much to be said for helping couples find a stronger foundation for commitment. A valuable question is this one: Does this relationship inspire me to want to give to a spouse more than I am expecting for myself? Intrinsic to that question is this: Does this relationship support me to give my best?
Wanting to be with someone because of pride of physical appearance; a hunger for affection and sexual gratification; the desire to control someone; or because of dishonesty, distrust, or jealousy – these have little to do with coming to know what we have to give and the freedom to give it. The promise is that everyone can more quickly reject these ungodly traits, and marriage commitments can be anchored in respect, humility, and the peace of our own God-endowed spiritual individuality.
Ultimately, what we are looking for is the understanding that there is one source of love – the divine Love, God, the Creator and maintainer of all life. This is the God that the Bishop of London called upon to bless the royal couple’s future, and the God we can call upon to bless our own happiness (whether we are married or single). Perhaps the most wonderful part of this Father-Mother of creation is that the Creator has the whole of creation within His-Her grasp. Even though each of us is adored and nurtured by our Creator, the Divine cannot be over involved in any one of us, and neither should we. The freedom to live within the freedom to love others – this is happiness indeed.
The great promise for all relationships is that we have been divinely enabled to live with the Creator’s wide perspective. What a promise for many decades to come!
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