‘Keeping our head’ in the face of animosity

With European Parliament elections just around the corner, today’s contributor explores how seeing others the way God made them can help us keep our cool and foster harmony – even in contentious situations.

“If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs and blaming it on you. ...”

To me these first lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” epitomize both the vision and the precariousness of the political atmosphere in the run-up to the European Parliament elections, which will be held May 23-26. For instance, today, when I glanced at my Twitter feed, I saw a cacophony of hatred voiced and learned of a party leader in my country who’d been showered with a milkshake by an angry protester.

Yet this sort of thing is not new, as Kipling’s poem – written more than 100 years ago – indicates. How do we keep our head when chaos and animosity seem to reign?

I’ve found inspiration in the biblical story of Job, who faced terrible hardship, loss, and grief. But quietly, perhaps almost desperately, he says, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

This may sound more apocalyptic than rational. But I’ve found this redemptive quality of the universal God really can lift us out of unrest and bring resolution and peace.

Once when I was working in my local Christian Science Reading Room, a bookstore and quiet venue for prayer and study that is open to all, a man came in and started talking very aggressively to me. I was shocked by his behavior. But then I felt encouraged by what I’d been learning from my study of Christian Science about everyone’s true nature. As God’s children we are made in His image and likeness – not angry mortals, but pure and spiritual reflections of God’s nature. Because God is pure Love (see I John 4:8) and the one true Mind, then I could accept and know that this man who was confronting me had the God-given ability to express kindness and rationality. While what he was saying was certainly uncalled for, I realized that it was not an expression of his true self.

This helped me remain calm, and the man soon quieted down. We had a normal conversation before he left.

My refusing to accept the man’s verbal aggression as an inescapable part of him, but seeing him as a child of God, was not a psychological tactic but a recognition of the profound spiritual truth of what we are as the spiritual expressions of God’s goodness. This had the effect of bringing my own thoughts and words into line with God’s harmony – or as Jesus called it, the kingdom of heaven, which is always at hand – in support of a peaceful outcome.

Mary Baker Eddy, whose understanding of Christ Jesus’ mission brought the world Christian Science, once wrote to church members of the value of understanding that “God is divine Love, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite; hence it is enough for you and me to know that our ‘Redeemer liveth’ and intercedeth for us” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” pp. 135-136). God is not far off but active here and now, there for everyone to turn to, right where strife and turmoil threaten.

Each of us, in Europe and beyond, can hold on to this and let God’s view of His children guide how we interact with others. Then, like Kipling wrote at the end of his poem, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,/ And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” (Or daughter!) So, we can feel and express more of the peace so needed in the world.

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