Youth counselors, religious ministers, first responders, and ordinary citizens – such as the Canadians who helped refugees from a forest fire last month (see “A tale of how to open one’s arms to refugees,” CSMonitor.com) – are often in daily contact with people in need. Unselfish love is a vital part of their work, which sometimes goes on day and night.
“I could never help people so unselfishly,” we might say. But life’s circumstances often push us in the direction of unselfishness. Maybe a family member or friend requires help for longer than we expect. Or if we are the ones needing help, we learn firsthand how important loving attention can be.
The Apostle Paul taught the Philippians about self-forgetfulness, a quality that helps us approach unselfishly everything from pitching in during a community emergency to praying for someone in need. He said: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4, 5).
The model of unselfishness that Paul is holding up for us to follow is Christ Jesus. Spiritual love filled the Savior’s thoughts and made him keenly aware of “the things of others.” He healed all who came to him for help. His quick rebuke of any unloving thought or deed was matched by his pure affection, tenderness, and patience.
Jesus’ profound unselfishness had its source in the Christ, his divine nature. He expressed the Mind, or Love, that is God – the Mind that is our creator, too (see Psalms 100:3). Jesus showed us that our true identity is forever the loving reflection of God, divine Love, and that this spiritual fact is the only reality that governs man as God’s child – a teaching that Christian Science brings to light. Because God has created all of us to reflect solely His nature, which has no selfishness or disinterest, there isn’t a man or woman in the whole world who doesn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate this truth by being an unselfish helper.
The humble desire to do good is a place to begin. When we turn to divine Love to guide us, and know it’s Love expressing itself in us that impels our good deeds, doing something unselfishly for someone can bring deep joy. Love-based unselfishness strengthens, rather than depletes, us when we are called to help others.
During a time when selfishness seemed like such a part of me, I prayed to see myself as God knows me – loving, unselfish, beloved. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, urges us to do that kind of praying in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” She writes: “We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives. Let unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love – the kingdom of heaven – reign within us, and sin, disease, and death will diminish until they finally disappear” (p. 248).
Prayer did take away the impulse to be selfish. When I saw how much people need love, I wanted everyone to have it, and my thoughts became less me-centered. I found ways to help my family and beyond. When we make room in our daily thoughts for unselfishness and compassion, we gain a stronger understanding of God purifying and governing us. We each can feel and act with the unselfish love that is ours because God gives it to us. Living this love will enable us to become inspired and caring helpers.