Building harmonious relationships

Community is a vital aspect of life, as an article in today’s Monitor Daily indicates, speaking to the growing trend of group living. Here’s a spiritual take on nurturing harmony in one’s community, inspired by an individual’s experiences of living at the same place where she worked.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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It’s heartening to see how important community is to people in the midst of so much division and polarity around the world. One example that the May 20 Monitor Daily pointed out was the very effective community support of an immigrant Honduran student “as he moved from starting school unable to speak English to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a great job.” And an article in today’s Daily points to the growing trend of group living as a way to find community.

Several different times in my life, I lived at the place where I worked. This was my local community, so to speak. Frankly, relationships were really hard sometimes. But I also found that harmony – which is so necessary in a healthy community – is possible, and that the unifying power of divine Spirit, God, is a powerful basis for building and maintaining harmonious relationships.

For a period of time in one living/working community, I was working directly with someone that I found difficult to be around. I felt a little intimidated by this person and never felt as though I did things the “right way” around her. In this particular situation, our being from different countries and cultures seemed to aggravate the situation. I began to dread our time together.

I was not at home with this feeling of dread. My study and prayer in Christian Science had showed me over and over that I could feel unity with others. I’d learned that like rays of light that individually reflect all the properties of the sun, we all come from God, divine Spirit and Love, our true source. And we uniquely express the spiritual beauty, purity, and sweetness of the divine nature.

I knew that praying with these ideas would help me again in this situation. Yet my desire to establish a harmonious relationship in this situation was not just for me but for others. I wanted to contribute to peace and goodwill – and yes, even healing – in this community at large. I saw it as practicing the fundamental element of Christ Jesus’ teachings to love one’s neighbor as oneself (see Matthew 19:19).

The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being. The Scripture reads: ‘For in Him we live, and move, and have our being’ ” (p. 361).

My prayers were motivated by an effort to understand that this was the spiritual fact about me as well as this woman, and that because of our unity with God, we were united with one another. Behind our work, which involved serving others for a greater good, was the spiritual reality that we are the children of God, each made in His likeness, created to express harmony and selflessness.

As I considered these ideas, I began to notice and appreciate what a lovely sense of order and beauty this woman had. Although I felt I would have done some things differently than she did, the way I responded to that changed. Instead of making mental notes about and dwelling on those discrepancies, I saw her compassion and generosity toward others. We began to share experiences we’d had in different countries, appreciating the variety that our diverse backgrounds offered. As the months went on, I came to feel a genuine spirit of affection for this woman.

Isn’t that the way we want to feel toward those we are involved with in whatever community we are a part of? I was so grateful for this change that came about in my thinking and experience, but I especially cherished that deeper sense I was feeling of living in unity with a shared divine goodness that governs all of us.

I love the way the Good News Translation of the Bible puts these words from Psalms: “How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony!” (133:1). We can start going forward today with one uncritical thought and one open-hearted, God-inspired step at a time, and find that building cooperative and amicable relationships and communities is not only possible, but natural.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.