A Christian Science perspective: How other people's views of us may adversely affect us, and how we can find freedom from those influences.

I came across an article with a provocative headline the other day. It read, “Study: Ogling women makes them worse at math.” Basically, the study wanted to figure out what happened when men and women felt objectified, something the researchers defined as people being “judged on body parts or sexual function without regard to other aspects of their personality.” So several members of the study team were trained to stare at men and women in an inappropriate way, then the men and women were asked to take a math test.

The women who were objectified did worse than women in a control group who were not. (The men showed no difference.) Moreover, other research has shown that women do worse on math tests when they are told before starting: “Girls are bad at math.”

We often think of contagion as being a process of microbes and viruses. But how often do we think about mental contagion? Yes, we admit that we are influenced by our friends, our parents, our co-workers. Still, these studies are shocking – showing the degree to which we unconsciously allow others’ thoughts to shape our experience. This is mental tyranny, and thankfully it is something that we can summarily reject.

How? We can start by understanding our origin and nature. Mary Baker Eddy, the author of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (see p. 525), refers to the Icelandic Bible translation of this verse from the first chapter of Genesis: “And God said, Let us make man after our mind and our likeness; and God shaped man after His mind; after God’s mind shaped He him; and He shaped them male and female” (verse 27).

So all that we are is the likeness of God’s mind. We are not a body to be ogled or a brain of doubtful mathematical aptitude. We are an image of God’s thought, and the allness of God precludes the intrusion of anything unlike this perfect likeness in this image. This frees us from aggressive mental intrusion. “The illusion of material sense, not divine law, has bound you, entangled your free limbs, crippled your capacities, enfeebled your body, and defaced the tablet of your being,” Mrs. Eddy wrote (Science and Health, p. 227). She provides the remedy: “Citizens of the world, accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God,’ and be free! This is your divine right.”

The truths in the Bible invert the law of mental suggestion that these studies identify as a fact of the human condition, and instead show the spiritual reality. The book of Acts records how Jesus’ disciple Peter fastened his eyes upon a lame man begging at the gate of the temple called Beautiful, and he spoke to him, not words about his physical limitations, but words of Truth and Life, which healed him.

In response to the man’s plea for money, Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (3:6). And the man did.

Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, described the Christ as “the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness.” And then she explained the activity of the Christ as “healing the sick and casting out evils, destroying sin, disease, and death” (Science and Health, p. 332). It is the Christ’s office to speak the tender, healing words of divine Love to each of us in every time and in every place. How much better it is to listen to this voice – to be fastened with these eyes – than to care one jot about what the material world has to say about who we are.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.