'Sober second thought'

A Christian Science perspective: Decisionmaking made simple through divine help.

The way decisions are made can be pretty interesting.

Here in Canada where I live, all proposed legislation needs to pass through two houses in Parliament: the elected House of Commons (lower house) and the appointed Senate (upper house). Then it’s signed by the Governor General and becomes law. The upper house has been dubbed a place of “sober second thought,” where proposed legislation is given a careful second look to see how it would affect all sectors of society before it can be passed into law.

I love the idea of allowing room for “sober second thought” before making decisions. It has kept me out of trouble more than a few times.

The word “sober” means sensible. It also means free from intoxication. I’ve often found that sober second thought leads me to sensible solutions and prevents me from rushing ahead all “intoxicated” with first impressions. As I wait patiently for new ideas to come, a broader picture of the situation takes shape, and I see how to move ahead in the most constructive way.

Sober second thought can be helpful in everyday situations, such as considering how a course of action would affect others before moving ahead. It can also be instrumental in the larger context of issues that affect us all.

Here’s a modest example of sober second thought. A while back, an associate and I were feeling frustrated about a long-standing unresolved issue with our bank. I decided to call our bank and get the issue settled once and for all. The first thought that came to me was to call our bank rep yet again. But that seemed futile. The second thought that came was to call a manager and explain the story so someone else could take action. But I realized that our bank rep could get in trouble.

I paused for a bit, then decided to take the situation to an “upper house” for some sober second thought. The upper house I retreat to is a form of prayer, or communion with the divine Mind, God. I’ve come to understand divine Mind as an infinite source of ideas that help me approach things from a spiritual perspective rather than a limited human viewpoint – the way that the Bible shows that Jesus approached life.

What came to me was an idea from the Bible, which for me is a source book full of “upper house” ideas. The spiritual account of creation in the book of Genesis (see Chapter 1:26, 27) explains that each of us is created in God’s likeness. So I started thinking about bank employees as reflecting divine qualities such as efficiency, responsibility, and intelligence. I also cherished the idea that our banking system is governed by divine laws, such as order, completeness, and accuracy.

A loving solution unfolded in my thought. I called the bank’s customer service line and gently explained my need to the agent. The problem was resolved immediately.

Since that incident, I try to start my thinking process in the “upper house” right from the outset. I find that when I spiritualize my motives beforehand, good ideas always come. I love this timeless reminder from the Bible: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8, 9).

It seems logical to me that since we are all made in God’s likeness, each of us reflects divine intelligence and wisdom. The same higher wisdom that has so often uplifted my thinking must also be at work in everyone’s thought, including all those in decisionmaking roles and leadership positions. This divine influence is more powerful than human thinking, more pervasive, more inspiring, more convincing, and will ultimately elevate all decisionmaking to a more altruistic and satisfying path of progress.

These lines from a hymn help me get a better grasp of the relationship between divine Mind and humanity:

God is Mind and holy thought is sending;
Man, His image, hears His voice.
Every heart may understand His message,
In His kindness may rejoice. 
(“Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 73).

As I increasingly understand God to be the all-knowing divine Mind, I realize that in reality there is only one infinite Mind imparting right ideas to everyone. As God’s spiritual sons and daughters, we’re all naturally attracted to a higher source to find all that is real and good.

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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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