'Don't take it personally'

A Christian Science perspective.

Sometimes that can be easier said than done. If we’re on the receiving end of a negative attitude, a challenging confrontation, or a disappointing response that focuses on petty details, it can be hard to rise above those circumstances in order to avoid “taking it personally.”

But I’ve found that through the study of Christian Science, this rising can be achieved. It’s not a matter of willpower, positive thinking, or stoicism, but about letting God, divine Mind, raise our thought to higher spiritual understanding. Specifically, rising to an appreciation of the spiritual concept of the “impersonal” in Christian Science has been a help to me in such instances.

So if you find yourself facing a discordant situation at work, in the home, or elsewhere regarding other people, it might be helpful to look further into this concept.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, proved the importance and healing power of a Christianly scientific approach to transcending the human tendency to focus on the “personal.” Throughout her writings, the concept of “personality” and its related concept, “personal sense,” is associated with a narrow, limited, material outlook.

In her book “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” she said, “When will the world cease to judge of causes from a personal sense of things, conjectural and misapprehensive!” (p. 290). And elsewhere in that book: “To impersonalize scientifically the material sense of existence – rather than cling to personality – is the lesson of to-day” (p. 310).

What does she mean? Does she mean that we should take a cold, unfeeling approach to life and people in order to be impersonal? Of course not.

But a tendency to focus on petty, unimportant physical details or flaws of another person would certainly be taking a material or personal approach. In contrast, endeavoring to see the true, spiritual qualities that an individual expresses as God’s child would be taking an impersonal, spiritual approach.

In fact, Mrs. Eddy’s use of the term “personality” often includes more than our contemporary usage of the word, encompassing all that belongs to the material, mortal concept of an individual.

She believed dwelling on this personal sense, or being motivated by it, was a great hindrance to harmony and progress. She wrote: “Remember, it is personality, and the sense of personality in God or in man, that limits man” (“Miscellaneous Writings,” p. 282).

How can this concept be made practical?

I’ve found it can be made practical when I’m willing to turn my thought to God, divine Mind, to allow Him to act as the source of thought, motivation, and action. This has helped me gain dominion in any situation in which there seem to be strong personalities who don’t get along or in which I find myself being regarded in a personal way that I might find limiting and uncomfortable.

In such circumstances, I’ve found it helpful to pray – to align my thought with the understanding that man was created by God as spiritual, perfect, and good (see Genesis 1:26) and not as a mortal personality who is motivated to think and act from a personal point of view.

Of course putting this concept into practice also demands that I endeavor to relinquish any tendency to focus on a personal concept myself. Instead, I try to behold and experience the spiritual, good, and loving qualities of those with whom I interact because those qualities are the true identity of each one of us. This helps me see myself and each individual I encounter more as God’s idea rather than as a fallible mortal who is capable of giving or receiving negativity and harmful emotions.

In Mrs. Eddy’s autobiographical work, “Retrospection and Introspection,” she explains the ultimate goal of this approach: “He who gains the God-crowned summit of Christian Science never abuses the corporeal personality, but uplifts it. He thinks of every one in his real quality, and sees each mortal in an impersonal depict” (p. 76).

I’m grateful that through this understanding of the concept of the impersonal in Christian Science, I’ve gained a considerable degree of freedom from the consequences that tend to follow from taking a personal approach, and I’ve experienced protection from a sense that others would try to regard me in that way.

So if a challenging situation arises and someone tells me, “Don’t take it personally,” I’m glad that I’m often able to reply sincerely, “Thank you, I don’t.”

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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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