I sat across from two of my favorite teachers, and I was certain they had chosen the wrong side – against me! Unless I changed my viewpoint, they would not allow me to go on an upcoming school-sponsored camping trip.
This happened years ago, following an incident when a group of girls – apparently motivated by race-based hatred – had pushed and grabbed me and three other girls at the school I attended as a preteen. I was able to break free and put myself in front of two of the other intended victims in an attempt to protect them. The attackers then grabbed my legs and lifted me as if to throw me over a nearby railing, but they were stopped by teachers who came to intervene.
Surely I was on the right side! I asked the teachers, “Why am I being singled out for doing the right thing?” They explained that while it was good that I had protected the girls, they had heard me reply to the perpetrators’ threat of future attacks that I’d fight back for our protection.
The teachers maintained that the way I could help prevent fights was to refuse to fight. To me, that sounded convoluted. However, I finally agreed I would go about my school days and the camping trip without expecting there’d be a fight.
Most important, I set about doing that by trying to follow what I was learning in the Christian Science Sunday School I attended. For instance, Christ Jesus indicated we are to put God first and not only love our neighbor as ourselves but also love our enemies, be merciful, and do good even in unfair situations (see Luke 6:27-36). Our desire to do that (and doing it) are our means of availing ourselves of God’s power to help and heal, as Jesus did.
I did go camping that year and wound up having so much fun! Initially a few of the girls started taunting calls outside my cabin. Instead of responding in kind, I treated the girls as if they had come by for a friendly visit and invited them in. The tone turned positive, even friendly, and there weren’t any more taunts. In one activity, I was paired with one of the group’s leaders, and we both enjoyed it! We didn’t become close friends, but we were congenial and laughed together. There were no attacks at camp, and I was not involved in any more race-related incidents for the remaining two years I attended that school.
While the stakes of conflicts between tribes or nations are much larger, this experience provided foundational lessons for me about peacekeeping and ending strife – specifically, the value of letting God, good, guide our thoughts, which silences fear. Christian Science explains that divine Love, another name for God, is supreme, with no opposing sides. So if we would be peacemakers, we can’t approach conflict resolution from the basis that someone has to be right and someone else has to be wrong. Hostility – whether political, religious, or economic – is the result of the belief that there are many minds with selfish, conflicting opinions.
The remedy to prevent or stop conflict, then, is in holding to and demonstrating the reality that there is one all-acting Mind, God, who is divine Love itself, and who is the actual creator of each of us. The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explained: “God is the divine Mind. Hence the sequence: Had all peoples one Mind, peace would reign” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 279). Putting thought on the side of God, the supremacy of Spirit, reveals that power is not in aggression.
Of course, peacemaking does not ignore or excuse wrong. For true peace it’s imperative for those who commit or perpetuate wrong to stop, change their ways, and make reparations for wrongdoing.
Peacemaking is not pacifism. The change that took place in my experience started with actively letting go of my personal attempts to settle disputes as I defined justice. Instead, I had to see that peace was the natural result of genuinely desiring to honor God as universally good, and letting my actions reflect divine Love, which silences the animosity, pride, or vengeance that leads to fighting.
All who take God’s side in thought against self-will, injustice, division, and oppression by yielding to the supremacy of Spirit become part of a standing army for peacemaking and the ending of conflict.
Adapted from an article published in the Jan. 8, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.