In a commencement address at Dartmouth College nearly 20 years ago, Fred Rogers compared our world to a magnificent jewel, adding that we are facets of that jewel. He said, “In the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal. We are intimately related. May we never even pretend that we are not.”
It struck me recently how relevant that thought is. I was feeling increasingly upset by the adamant, self-serving tone that marks so much of public debate on important issues – where both sides line up behind an all-or-nothing approach, the main focus being which side wins the argument, not what might actually be accomplished.
But then I began thinking of what my own experience has taught me: that the most significant progress is made when I pray to embrace and respect what God’s will is, and what will serve the greater good. Whenever I seek His way, my way becomes far less entrenched, far less self-important, opening the door to solutions that benefit all involved.
A prayerful, spiritual approach to conflict resolution rises above brainpower and negotiating skills: It starts and stays within the power of God’s all-inclusive, endless love. This divine Love changes hearts and moves hands to constructive action.
In 1905, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy issued a series of notices relating to praying about the war then going on between Russia and Japan. The last of these, which first appeared in the Boston Herald, emphasized the need for “faith in God’s disposal of events” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 281). Mrs. Eddy added, “On this basis the brotherhood of all peoples is established; namely, one God, one Mind, and ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’....” The one divine Mind communicates peaceful, intelligent ideas to all of us, God’s spiritual offspring.
How can we apply this idea of “one God, one Mind” to face down barriers that seem impossible to remove? We can let this loving Mind, rather than willfulness or stubbornness, inspire our interactions. I like to draw on the biblical narrative of the Israelites fleeing Egypt after their leader, Moses, freed them from slavery. At one point they were at a total impasse, with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. Fear gripped them as complaints, blame, and heated debate arose.
But Moses confidently said, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to-day” (Exodus 14:13). Then he stretched out his hand, the waters parted, and the Israelites moved forward safely.
The qualities that stand out to me here are the readiness to listen to someone else’s ideas and direction, and above all the humility to trust in God’s “disposal of events.” They’re qualities I needed a month or two ago when I found myself at a modest but frustrating impasse with a high-tech firm that had advised me to send them a broken computer audio control for repair. I did so, but after several weeks a cryptic email arrived stating that they did not repair small controls, and that I needed to send them the entire computer system.
“I’m not doing that!” I replied. It seemed a totally unreasonable request, and it seemed very clear (to me) that it was up to them to solve the problem they had caused.
But as I waited for an answer, I realized that my willfulness was not going to resolve a thing. Instead, I needed to “stand still” – to take a mental pause and let the intelligence and direction of the one divine Mind, God, open the way. In my prayers I affirmed that God’s powerful love knows no anger, confusion, or dead end – and therefore God’s children, the spiritual expressions of His love and intelligence, could not. Neither I nor anyone else could ever truly be stuck at odds.
As I prayed, my desire shifted from trying to bend other people to my will to yielding to the divine will – to witnessing God’s goodness at hand, whatever the solution might be.
Soon I learned that the company was planning to replace my audio control with a new one. It’s now installed and working perfectly.
Obviously, not every impasse is resolved quickly, especially when there’s more at stake than broken electronics. But no deadlock is so complex or entrenched that it can't be dissolved by the impartial warmth and penetrating light of God, divine Love. As we welcome in that light, we’ll find that what really heals isn’t just winning for ourselves, but actively assuring that everyone wins, furthering true progress for all.