Motives are so fundamental to both what we say and what we do, and yet – if we are not alert – words can pop out before we have really considered our reason for saying them. Reactions are frequently unpremeditated, not based in thoughtful consideration.
What causes these different situations? I have found that when our underlying motive is based in human emotion, then we may well feel either falsely justified in – or quickly regretful of – our words or actions.
But when our motives are unselfish and pure, and we are true to them, then both our words and deeds can bring blessings. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: “Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 454).
The first chapter of Genesis in the Bible teaches that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our true, spiritual identity is the reflection of God, who is Love (see I John 4:8). So each of us is naturally capable of letting divine Love guide our motives, and of expressing pure, loving qualities. Animosity, hatred, selfishness, and human will are unnatural qualities of thought. They do not stem from the light of spiritual Truth, or Christ, which reveals our true, spiritually pure nature and dissolves dark motives as we turn our thought toward God.
What about when others seem to be demonstrating false, impure motives? Christ Jesus gives us the answer in his Sermon on the Mount: “First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). We must first look at our own motives and perspective. Are we seeing man as God’s spiritual idea, or accepting the false, material picture of others as mistaken mortals? Spiritualization of thought and motives is possible to all of us when we begin to open our hearts to the Christ.
The Apostle Paul, 2,000 years ago, experienced this transformation of thought and character. Initially motivated by great animosity, he was en route from Jerusalem to Damascus to capture and condemn to death Christians. But then Saul, as he was then called, had a blinding vision, which he later understood as the Christ light, and his nature was transformed. Indeed, as a new Christian, Paul faced in cities and countries of the Middle East great wrongdoings and violent opposition to differing views of religion. And yet he was able to demonstrate the Christ presence that protects and guides, thus countering the atmosphere of hate-based motives.
Paul’s experience shows that we are not helpless in the face of impure motives, whether ours or others’, and that Love is always present to guide us. In the book of Acts we read Paul’s words to the Athenians, which indicate the spiritual view of man that he had gained and that impelled his work after his transformation. He says that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined ... the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:26-28). Each of us can strive to “seek the Lord” and be guided by Love in what we say and do.
Our prayers for right motives for ourselves, and to help promote them among humanity, can take on board the conviction that right here and now, the spirit of God is present to impart integrity and love, even where hatred or impure motives may appear to be. Mary Baker Eddy writes these compelling words: “God is universal; confined to no spot, defined by no dogma, appropriated by no sect. Not more to one than to all, is God demonstrable as divine Life, Truth, and Love; and His people are they that reflect Him – that reflect Love” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 150). Recognizing the infinite, loving nature of God, who embraces all of us, transforms our thinking and prepares us to act with motives based in Love. This is possible for each of us today.