We hear a lot about anger management and verbal abuse. And we are all familiar with bullies and the sometimes long-term negative effects they have on people. When we hear of someone standing up to a bully, we applaud them – even tell them how proud we are that they didn’t let someone take advantage of them. But rather than react out of fear or anger, we can stand up to their abuse through prayer.
On a recent trip to another city, I walked up to a man in an elevator whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. As I stepped in, happy to see him, I naturally reached out to give him a hug, but he forcefully grabbed my wrists. His words were extremely unkind. I became very afraid of what he would do next and felt the need to defend myself against his intimidating remarks. When the two men I was traveling with slid in after me, the men all passed a quick greeting as though nothing had happened.
When the doors closed, I realized I needed to take charge of my own thinking. I could have used the opportunity to put the bully in his place in front of these other men, but instead I turned away from his anger to quiet my thought and respond with prayer as I had been taught in Christian Science. Instead of trying to come up with something to say, or wishing I could have taken another elevator, my prayers led me to a wonderful example of how Jesus refused to enter into an argument with his accusers. When Jesus was interrogated by Pilate, the Bible says, “[H]e answered him to never a word” (see Matthew 27:11-14). Not only did I not need to come up with a rebuttal to the man’s words, but I also needed to see this wasn’t personal; it wasn’t about me or this man. While the picture in front of me suggested that man can be a slave to emotion, I looked back on the teachings of the Bible and Christian Science and prayed to know that man is actually made in God’s image, the image of Love itself. Therefore, everyone in the elevator had to be God’s expression: loving, meek, and humble. I think most of all it was important to see that everyone was welcome in God’s love. This love wasn’t mine to give or take away. It wasn’t this man’s to give or take away. Because God was and is everywhere, it was impossible to be outside the safety and security of Love. We were not only sharing this space, but we were also sharing this love!
When we left the elevator, I knew if I wanted to stop being afraid, I had to mentally stay out of that elevator scene – stop allowing this picture of anger to hold my thoughts hostage. After my prayer, I no longer felt the need to defend myself. I felt at peace and was able to let go of the anger I faced. The overwhelming presence of divine Love strongly influenced the rest of my day, as I was able to gain dominion over this senseless act by responding with love instead of fear.
There is a poem Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science Mary Baker Eddy wrote, which was later set to music. This poem stayed with me throughout the day. It reads in part:
Aye, darkling sense, arise, go hence! Our God is good. False fears are foes – truth tatters those, When understood.
Love looseth thee, and lifteth me, Ayont hate’s thrall: There Life is light, and wisdom might, And God is All.” [“Christian Science Hymnal,” Hymn 160]
As I cherished these thoughts, the peace and love I gained far outshone this imposition. Mrs. Eddy, in her book “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” wrote an article titled, “Love Your Enemies.” She writes, “In Christian Science, the law of Love rejoices the heart; and Love is Life and Truth. Whatever manifests aught else in its effects upon mankind, demonstrably is not Love. We should measure our love for God by our love for man; and our sense of Science will be measured by our obedience to God, – fulfilling the law of Love, doing good to all; imparting, so far as we reflect them, Truth, Life, and Love to all within the radius of our atmosphere of thought” (p. 12).
God is Love, and is all; there is nowhere, and nothing, that can separate us from the peace to which we are all entitled. The face of anger holds no power and cannot undermine the good we express, nor diminish the qualities of Love we all share – and can feel – as children of God.