Overcoming our emotion-driven reactions
When it comes to civil discourse, contempt too often emerges front and center. But the humility to yield to God’s view lifts us out of self-righteous modes of thinking and acting.
It often seems that public figures are considered fair game for comment, contemplation, and contempt. Strong personalities sometimes bring out the worst in public opinion and engender emotion-driven reactions. But is this the most productive path?
In thinking about this, I’ve loved the story of a humble man in the Bible who strove to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus. His name was Ananias. One day his faith was tested when he received a message from God that he needed to visit a man named Saul, who had been struck down blind and needed healing. Saul had wreaked terror on Jesus’ followers. Not surprisingly, Ananias was reluctant to go, but he was obedient to the divine impetus to go and see Saul.
The outcome? Ananias was able to bear witness to Saul’s complete transformation and healing, which was so complete it opened his eyes not only to restored sight but to a whole new nature. Saul became Paul, a devoted and consecrated follower of Jesus who went on to do many wonderful healing works.
I’ve wondered what Ananias’ thought process must have been like at this time. We can’t know for sure, but we do read that ultimately his willingness to follow Christ above all else won out.
Needless to say, this is an extreme example. But it has encouraged me to consider how I’m seeing other people, including controversial public figures. I once heard a proverb that says, “Speak to the king in a man, and the king will come forth.” I’ve come to realize the same is true when we speak to the Christ in others: We can expect their Christliness will shine forth. That is, when we acknowledge the true nature of man as God’s spiritual, holy, and upright offspring, as Christian Science explains, this rejuvenates and restores our sense of everyone’s God-given dignity.
This isn’t to say we ignore wrongdoing. Rather, we can realize that everyone is inherently capable of acts of kindness, mercy, and justice, regardless of their present deeds and past history. Knowing this lifts debilitating self-righteousness from our thoughts, which helps us as well as those around us.
The writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, include these thought-provoking statements: “If you believe in and practise wrong knowingly, you can at once change your course and do right” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 253) and “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love” (“Pulpit and Press,” p. 3). Patterns of thinking and acting that aren’t in keeping with one’s genuine selfhood as the child of God, divine Love, aren’t as unshakable as they may seem.
Each of us, regardless of religious background, can be an Ananias – humble, obedient, and willing to do good to all rather than condemning those whose views are different from our own. This enables us to respond with the power of divine Truth and Love, no matter how aggressive or distasteful something seems, and in turn see the Christ, the divine nature Jesus expressed, which heals.
I’ve learned this requires one to stop indulging in petty criticism and self-righteousness while taking potshots at another. It means becoming humble enough to yield to God’s view and let this divine perspective wash away our perception of another’s nature as evil, which is but a caricature of the real man, the Christlike man created by God.
Today is the day to be an Ananias and prayerfully embrace goodness and truthfulness as man’s native qualities, and in return to bless a waiting world with one more loving act of Christliness.