In the wake of France’s celebration as two-time champion of the soccer World Cup (1998 and 2018), many are surfing on a wave of optimism that the momentum of hope and pride might help heal economic and social fractures, especially among French youth.
Recent TV coverage highlighted the intelligent, mature, and successful nature of the racially diverse team, despite its youth. One of the key players shared with the reporter what animated him: “I feel pride inside.”
This contrasts strikingly with the feeling that has been expressed by many disillusioned young people, that they don’t really “belong.” But I believe all of us are valuable, throughout all times and despite the distinct geography of our origins, and we can realize this by considering a more universal and spiritual sense of our identity.
Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy, who founded The Christian Science Monitor with the object “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind,” wrote in her revolutionary book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (p. 63).
To identify one’s true source as Spirit (another name for the one God) equips us to see and value within ourselves (and others) the “beautiful, good, and pure” qualities that are natural in each of us. At the same time this enables us to reject their opposites, such as hatred or anger, and to better contribute to our communities in ways that promote unity and harmony, even amid diversity. This instinctive ability comes to the seeking heart in all climes and of all the various races that might coexist in a country.
This approach to thinking about our identity has been expressed in this song in the Bible: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalms 139:14). As we discover infinite Spirit as the real source of our being, both the origin and purpose of our identity shine forth in their true light, and limitations, including those stemming from our environment or education, fall away.
One time, two major companies that had been direct competitors merged while I was working for one of them. The cultures, management styles, and geographical backgrounds of the two were worlds apart. Many employees felt that the merger was inevitably a bad thing, so why even bother trying to assimilate? Some key players just left.
After a very long day of meetings and traveling with colleagues old and new, two men in my department who had come from the other company asked me to help them understand the culture that was new to them. As we talked, I saw that they had valuable perspectives and experiences, too.
But at one point I wondered if I had made the right choice in talking with them. After all, the new organizational charts had not been determined yet, and there were some duplicate positions, only one of which would be kept. By sharing so openly, was I jeopardizing the prospects of keeping my job?
But I knew that as the creation of God, each of us, including those men and me, has immense worth. And a loving God could never leave any of His children without a way to feel and express that value. This helped me trust that our selfless, peaceful efforts to learn more about one another could not penalize anyone.
It turned out that a new team was created with a wide mix of individuals (including the men I’d spoken with and me) of different ages, sexes, races, and countries of origin. It didn’t go forward without challenges, but we ended up achieving success – together.
The integration challenges France and other countries are facing will obviously require more than a World Cup to solve. And wisdom, love, and responsibility always need to go hand in hand in how we all relate to each other. But even modest examples, such as my experience at work – of a feeling of “otherness” shifting to a sense of belonging and thriving for individuals of many different backgrounds – are moments for rejoicing and cheer.
May the liberating universal sense of spiritual worth that each man, woman, and child is entitled to feel guide our interactions with one another.