'You looked so much happier then.'

A Christian Science perspective.

That was a troubling comment from someone looking at a photo of me taken just a few years ago.

But how could or should I regard the implications of such a view – that the good in my life was less today than it had been in the recent past? I felt slightly hurt, but other than that, did it really matter how I responded?

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was well aware of the phenomenon of negative influence and regarded an individual’s response as important. In her textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she wrote: “Do you not hear from all mankind of the imperfect model? The world is holding it before your gaze continually. The result is that you are liable to follow those lower patterns, limit your life-work, and adopt into your experience the angular outline and deformity of matter models” (p. 248).

Evidently, I had some praying to do. Here’s an approximation of how I went about it.

Of course it’s not uncommon to encounter an opinion, a view, or even an indirect influence that implies that human life inevitably includes disappointments and declining good, as the wholly material view of life includes such beliefs. How we respond to those opinions may help ensure that we are not allowing negative influences to limit or define us.

In my study of Christian Science, I’ve learned that we all possess spiritual resources that can help us evaluate the opinions and influences that confront us every day and that can help heal their negative implications. The key is to be willing to stay alert in order to identify and discern the origin of those thoughts. “Are thoughts divine or human? That is the important question,” wrote Mrs. Eddy (Science and Health, p. 462).

Christian Science teaches that God, Mind, is the source of all real intelligence and thinking in the universe, the originator of all thoughts that are real and substantial. Therefore, if someone is voicing an opinion or being the conduit of an influence that is contrary to good, the alert thinker does well to know that the thought is not from God and so has no reality, no substance, and, therefore, no effect.

Thoughts, opinions, and influences that are in accord with the belief that human life includes the inevitable decline of joy are not in accord with the divine. So they can be recognized – and rejected as false.

But how? The ability to reject another’s wrong opinion is an innate spiritual capacity that is ours to exercise with dominion. “No person can accept another’s belief, except it be with the consent of his own belief. If the error which knocks at the door of your own thought originated in another’s mind, you are a free moral agent to reject or to accept this error; hence, you are the arbiter of your own fate ...” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 83).

In this instance, it was my right to continuing happiness that was being challenged, even in a mild or casual way. So it was important to counter this thought with spiritual truth by seeing that my happiness – or anyone’s happiness – has never been dependent on material circumstances.

The Bible says, “Your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). Through the ages, spiritual thinkers have proved that joy is a quality that can be experienced no matter what material circumstances confront an individual. Many conversations are motivated by kindness, sensitivity to others’ feelings, and goodwill. But if a negative thought, opinion, or influence intrudes, we possess the ability to recognize it as such and dismiss it from consciousness as powerless, affirming God’s truth and omnipotence.

I’m grateful that when I was confronted with the assertion that my happiness was on the wane, I was able to respond with a smile, thankful that this wasn’t true for myself or for anyone, and – for the reasons just discussed – to soon go on my way, rejoicing.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

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.

QR Code to 'You looked so much happier then.'
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today