Stay out of the swamp

A Christian Science perspective: What to do when the conversation in your ear drags you down.

When I agreed to compete in a national flower show, my category was “Underwater Design.”

I was to display the difference it makes to the appearance of a flower when it’s submerged in water. To show the difference, the same kind of flower shown under water must also be displayed outside the vase. It’s amazing how water and glass can distort the appearance of a flower.

Distortion hides reality, and it doesn’t always create a pretty picture, as it did with my flower. Distortion can also present a grotesque scene. Thinking can also get distorted and cause unnecessary trouble. When thinking gets distorted, it hides reality and often turns up as what I call trouble talk – a negative laundry list of problems that lack real expectation of lasting solutions.

Talk about trouble usually includes graphic and even gory details of illness, accident, or argument. Beyond the need to necessarily inform others about the well-being of a loved one, trouble talk is often fraught with emotion, full of fear, and even fascinated with disease and disaster.

Some TV commercials include a lot of trouble talk that warns of the inevitability of disease and the drugs prescribed to cure it, along with the drugs’ potential side effects. At home we can push the mute button on the TV. But one day while I was standing in a checkout line, two shoppers behind me were in a loud conversation – a verbal dissertation on disease that left nothing to the imagination. Too much information! It felt like an influx of contamination to an otherwise natural situation. To me, it was (even if unintentional) a mental assault on all that I hold dear about the reality of life as ever-present good.

I couldn’t just stand there like a sponge and take it in. I wanted to do something about it. Talking about these troubles excessively doesn’t help the one talking or the ones listening, and it doesn’t lead to solutions.

I resisted the temptation to abandon my shopping cart and leave. Instead, I prayed. I silently insisted that negative thinking and talking are powerless in the face of omnipotent Mind, the supreme intelligence of the universe, and that ever-present Mind could correct them. The effect of this Mind is to uplift and comfort, to set free. Taking this spiritual stand, I fully expected the environment around me to calm down and clear up, and it did. Hearing the conversation suddenly change to talk about better things was a welcome uplift.

Even if stories paint pictures of ungodliness, they are just that – stories. They may distort; but if we see that they cannot destroy Almighty God’s gift to each of us, we will see His unlimited goodness.

Before I learned better, I was a trouble talker. I know how easy it is to get into this seemingly innocent habit. But I’ve learned through spiritual study and experience how reliving ugliness gives it power to stick around in thought. If we don’t want something to grow, shouldn’t we stop feeding it? Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote of the need for less focus on diseases and accidents. She said, “Remove error from thought, and it will not appear in effect” (Science and Health, p. 40).

Whether you’re the talker or the listener, seeking clearer ideas about God and His creation is an important first step. One magazine, Vibrant Life, had a helpful article, “21 Ways to Build a Stronger Spiritual Life,” by Victor M. Parachin. The No. 1 way? “Be a river, not a swamp.” Mr. Parachin was inspired by what Jesus said: “Rivers of living water will flow from the heart of those who believe in me” (John 7:38, New Living Translation).

The article contrasted two ways of thinking: being mentally stagnant and exuding ungodliness as if in a swamp, or being spiritually active and allowing goodness to flow through as from a clear river of freshness, in the way of Jesus. Mrs. Eddy would concur. She wrote, “Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts” (“Science and Health, p. 261).

For those who frequently trouble talk or who find themselves in situations where trouble talk is rampant, it’s helpful to know that Life-giving purity pours forth from God to each one of us at all times. The Christ, our link with God, comes to each of us right where we are, and by choice this determines our environment. To build a stronger spiritual life, we can choose the Christ clarity. It is better to stay out of the swamp!

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