In order to measure our potential, we may take stock of our talents, background, upbringing, people we know, and so on. But in doing so, many of us may be overlooking what is really the only meaningful factor: the status of man (man and woman) as the child of God.
God’s child isn’t a title we earn; it’s the eternal truth of our being. Even a glimpse of our true identity begins to reveal our inherent ability and goodness.
Why is it important to understand man’s spiritual selfhood? Because we can’t live up to our true potential unless we understand what it is and where it comes from. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes, “Deducing one’s conclusions as to man from imperfection instead of perfection, one can no more arrive at the true conception or understanding of man, and make himself like it, than the sculptor can perfect his outlines from an imperfect model, or the painter can depict the form and face of Jesus, while holding in thought the character of Judas” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 259-260).
To be God’s child is to be the expression of His being. The Bible, in Genesis, tells of man being created in God’s likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27). Much later, Christ Jesus’ superlative example of true manhood, or divine sonship, again pointed to this fact that man is God’s likeness. So fully did Jesus understand and live God’s goodness and power – so clearly did he reflect the divine nature – that one New Testament writer referred to Jesus as “the brightness of [God’s] glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3).
Jesus’ life is proof of the grand, unlimited potential of man. And he charged his followers to fulfill that potential in their own lives: “Be ye ... perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Certainly, this compassionate and wise man would not have assigned his followers such a task unless he knew that the fulfillment of it was possible and that it would bless us immensely.
Since man is in reality God’s expression – the evidence of divine Spirit and Life – our true potential is spiritual, not material. It lies in spiritual goodness. If we look for our potential in matter, instead of finding it we lose sight of it. Matter isn’t man, because matter isn’t the expression of Spirit. That which dies cannot be the expression of everlasting Life. Imperfection cannot be the likeness of perfection.
The source of man’s being is also the source of his potential. Spirit, God, causes man to express perfect intelligence, beauty, perceptiveness, substance, joy, love, and more. These never dry up, because Spirit never ceases to manifest itself. They are ours to express now.
As we understand man’s potential for good, and work at expressing good, wonderful opportunities can open up – perhaps a promotion at work, an entirely new career opportunity, or expanded outside interests, activities, or abilities.
But we shouldn’t overlook the fundamental, Square 1 ways in which we can improve ourselves. For example, we can begin to prove man’s perfect ability to love by being kinder to others – employees, business associates, even fellow shoppers; by doing chores with care; or by taking an interest in the welfare of those outside our immediate surroundings. If we are sincere enough to make the most of these smaller opportunities to demonstrate man’s spiritual potential, larger opportunities will open up naturally, without our looking for them.
Human efforts to be better, of themselves, may falter. But when such efforts flow from a desire to understand Truth, God, they have the support of Truth and lift us higher. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action” (Science and Health, p. 454).
Each of us has unlimited potential, and each of us can begin now to prove it. As we live God’s goodness, opportunities to use that goodness will crop up in abundance.
Reprinted from the Nov. 24, 1978, issue of The Christian Science Monitor.