'Breaking up is hard to do'

A Christian Science perspective.

That 1962 hit by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield is only one of many pop anthems, classic and contemporary, devoted to the theme of the difficulties often involved in the ending of a relationship. The prevalence of this idea in the music we hear on our iPods or MP3 players or on the radio is one indication of the importance the experience holds, or has held, in many lives.

Anyone who has gone through the unexpected ending of a relationship knows that it can be challenging, and can sometimes feel overwhelming. Young people especially often have idealistic, if not unrealistic, expectations from romantic relationships and can be unprepared for the possible outcome.

Though romantic relationships are the ones most often sung about, the ending of other kinds of relationships can be equally upsetting. What about the adult who has to weather disrupted family ties, or an older person who encounters the unexpected end of a close friendship?

I am grateful that the study of Christian Science has helped me understand how to view close human relationships in a more spiritual light.

What I’ve learned has enabled me to make some progress toward dealing with a turbulent interruption to a relationship. It has also helped establish a starting point for conversations with friends or family members going through similar challenges.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, understood how difficult it can be to have the close tie of a human relationship disrupted or ended. In her textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she wrote: “Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth” (p. 266).

Here, Mrs. Eddy emphasizes that God, divine Love, is present, and is guiding us, so the emptiness some feel after the ending of a relationship is actually “filled with divine Love.” She refers to this trying time as “an hour of development” – in other words, an opportunity for progress.

How can this be? Perhaps the lesson that I’ve found most valuable, although perhaps the most difficult to learn, is that the most important and fundamental relationship for each of us is with God. This relationship can never be disrupted or ended. Eddy also wrote: “God is our Father and our Mother, our Minister and the great Physician: He is man’s only real relative on earth and in heaven” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 151).

When we put God first in our life and depend on our relationship with Him, we will have begun experiencing real security from the effect of breakups – that our wholeness and completeness is established through our relationship with God, not through dependence on another person. The Bible emphasizes in the First Commandment the importance of not idolizing a human relationship: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Eddy called the experience of individual wholeness “self-completeness.” In Science and Health she wrote, “When we realize that Life is Spirit, never in nor of matter, this understanding will expand into self-completeness, finding all in God, good, and needing no other consciousness” (p. 264). When we learn this, and are able to prove in our lives that we are complete and satisfied as an individual, I believe it makes us more able to participate in relationships in a free and confident way.

No matter who is responsible for the break-up, we don’t need to continue to suffer the effects; our only responsibility is to see through the repercussions to the reality of God’s love for us. This inspires forgiveness. And then we are on our way to a new beginning.

Science and Health says, “The wintry blasts of earth may uproot the flowers of affection, and scatter them to the winds; but this severance of fleshly ties serves to unite thought more closely to God, for Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven” (p. 57).

For many, breaking up can indeed seem “hard to do,” but with God’s help, we can be guided through the experience and learn more of our spiritual wholeness – our self-completeness – in the process, so that the relationships that consequently unfold will be more stable and enduring.

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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.”

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