Anger-free engagement

Sometimes conversations – political or otherwise – can quickly become heated. But when we feel pulled to engage in a reactive, negative way, we can pause to let God, good, inspire a constructive response rather than giving in to anger.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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“You can choose,” the driving instructor told us. “You can choose whether to engage – to get caught up in escalating anger – or to disengage your emotions, continue on your way, and be safe.”

The instructor was referring to road rage – anger that erupts over perceived rude behavior by another driver, sometimes with deadly results. But for me it’s a lesson that has extended beyond the road to my reactions to political controversies. I’ve often found myself pulled into the fray of heated emotions, tempted to react with anger and indignation over some of what’s being said.

I don’t like how this feels, though. So I’ve turned to prayer for help, because I’ve always found prayer to be the most effective way to deal with moments like these.

I often start with a particular Bible verse that says that man – all of us – has “dominion ... over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

Dominion over “every creeping thing”? As I began to think about what that might mean, it came to me that this dominion includes a divinely bestowed ability to take control of our thinking and not let insidious, negative emotions creep in.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explored this God-given capacity in her writings. Using “Love” as another name for God, she wrote, “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).

It’s an encouraging idea. Nevertheless, though, in the moment of encountering something I feel is an extreme political statement, I sometimes feel a pull to engage in a reactive, negative way. That’s when something else I’ve learned from my study of Christian Science has been enormously helpful. I consider that God has created the universe to express His nature, and that nature is all good.

It follows that we all, as God’s offspring, have the same characteristics as our divine Parent. These include qualities of goodness, such as intelligence and love. And, yes, this gives us dominion – not necessarily control over what happens outwardly, but dominion over our response to it. We can count on God’s power, on our inherent ability to express the divine Mind, to help us take charge of our thinking.

This means we’re divinely equipped not to give in to rage over what other people say or do. That’s not to say we ignore problems or avoid discussing tough topics. Rather, it means we can engage in a way that’s impelled by love rather than anger.

As for heated political comments that seem to be strong and strident, I’m learning to pray about my response instead of to react. My prayers affirm that God’s creation is good, which means that all people, regardless of their politics, have a natural pull toward good. And when we choose to allow this God-based view – instead of rage or hatred – to permeate our perspective, then we find ourselves more open and receptive to ideas that are constructive and productive.

I’m thankful that prayer is helping me choose not to engage in negative emotional reactions. And I’m learning that because of God’s allness, whatever would cause any of us to resist goodness and harmony has no legitimate power. This is bringing me increased peace – which is the promise for all of us, as we engage in expressing our “sovereign power to think and act rightly.”

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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.