Faced with anger and hostility – your own or another’s – how you respond may very well determine the outcome of the situation.
For instance, I had a long list of grievances after helping a favorite organization one summer. The items on the list got shuffled around as I mentally composed an angry letter to the director. I had been working for them each summer out of sincere gratitude for what they had done for my children. The work was hard, involved very long hours and very little pay – not even enough to cover my children’s fees – and required time off without pay from my real job.
But that summer, on top of the normal challenges, I was treated rudely and with great disrespect by staff members who, despite my clear instructions, took actions that I thought could be greatly detrimental to the organization. In the end, the board stepped in and righted the situation in a way that validated my concerns.
Over the year that followed, each time I thought about the way I had been treated, I would smart with indignation. But when I thought about writing the letter, something told me not to. That something I understood to be the innate power of love. For me, the term that best expresses that love is Christ – the love Jesus lived so powerfully but which is also present today to guide our thoughts and impel our actions. Christ reveals to each of us that we are children of God, and that we each inherently possess the ability and desire to express God, who is perfect universal Love. This Christ power was clearly impelling me to forgive, rather than to react with hate and anger.
A healing idea came to me from the line in the Lord’s Prayer that reads, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). It made me realize that I had to begin thinking about what I may have done, not what had been done to me. It humbled me, and even humbles me today, to know that harmful actions I may have taken or words that I may have thought or spoken – knowingly or not – are forgiven by God to the degree that I am willing to forgive others.
As I gave this thought, I also considered how the founder of this publication, Mary Baker Eddy, interpreted that line of the prayer: “Love is reflected in love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 17). These five powerful words show me that Love is reflected, proved, and returned, in kind, by the Christly mercy and love that we express in our prayers and actions.
With that in mind, I reasoned that I could be grateful for everything that this organization had done for our family, compassionately forgive the events and people of the last summer, and mercifully trust the future to be harmonious. I found the humility to tear up the list of grievances I had drafted, throw it in the trash, and move on with peace. I gained a glimpse of the spiritual reality, where – as expressions of one Father-Mother, God – we all work harmoniously together as one.
After this, an unforeseen event dramatically changed our family’s financial situation. Fees that were normally within our reach suddenly seemed impossible. As it turned out, I needed to apply for financial assistance from the very person to whom I would have sent that letter. This dear one treated our situation with utmost tenderness and respect, granting a generous amount of aid. My expression of mercy was met in kind.
With humility and gratitude, I was reminded of lines from a traditional hymn adapted for the "Christian Science Hymnal":
Healed is [my] hardness, His love hath dissolved it,
Full is the promise, the blessing how kind;
So shall His tenderness teach [me] compassion,
So all the merciful, mercy shall find.
(Hymn No. 279, adapt. © Christian Science Board of Directors)
How grateful we can be for the softening effect of divine Love expressed as forgiveness. Right where hardness, anger, and indignation seem to be entrenched, the Christ can tenderly plant compassion and mercy. This change of heart leads to thoughts, words, and actions that heal, leaving blessings in their wake.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Aug. 30, 2012, issue of The Foxboro Reporter.