The mom in the SUV and the truck with the flag
We don’t need to let anger and self-righteousness get the better of us. Letting God, divine Love, inform what we think and do fosters wisdom, calm, and a spirit of respect instead of rashness.
“I’m going to call that school as soon as I get home,” I fumed. I was on my way to take my son to day care on a beautiful sunny day. For a moment, I glanced out the side window as we drove by the local high school.
That’s when I saw it. A vehicle with various flags on the back – one of which had a huge expletive on it, followed by the name of someone in public office. In the driver’s seat was a teenage boy.
Let me back up here. I’m not a big fan of telling people what they can and can’t say on their own lawns and vehicles. The variety of opinions in my own family is something I’m used to. And it’s helped me grow as a person.
But this felt like a bridge too far. The huge curse word, the sheer size of the flag, the fact that it was on school grounds. Maybe if I called the high school, the boy’s flag would get confiscated! I started to formulate my plan.
Then I realized the boy was probably looking for a reaction, so making an issue out of it might backfire. And while my thoughts did come from a place of concern, they were also fueled by self-righteousness, which wasn’t a good place to start.
It felt clear to me that in this particular case, getting involved wasn’t the right thing to do after all. But there was still something I could do beyond just letting it go in the “take a deep breath and move on” sense. During the political election season, my husband and I had placed a sign on our lawn that said “Love thy neighbor,” a core teaching of Christ Jesus. I could more actively put that into practice.
I wanted to feel that even if I saw this teenager from the truck in the grocery store or passed him on the street, I wouldn’t let a piece of cloth dictate how I was going to think about him. From my study of Christian Science, I knew that he was God’s child, and so just as deserving of love, respect, and mercy as I was. No one is innately better than another, because God doesn’t have favorites – God expresses pure goodness in all His children. While the tone of the flag the teen was displaying didn’t reflect that, it didn’t mean he didn’t have a lot of good to offer the world.
I thought of Christ Jesus, who didn’t go around loving others just so he could feel good about himself and move on. And he didn’t ignore societal strife, either. Instead, he cared enough to think about others in ways that healed, redeemed, and cured.
The textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, has helped me see that Jesus was actually correctly seeing each person for what they really were – exactly how God saw them. God created each of us full of spiritual qualities, complete, without anything that would limit, divide, or separate. And that perspective was freeing not only for Jesus, but for the people he was interacting with, too.
We might not always see the immediate impact of how thinking and acting from this basis changes lives. But we need to make an effort for the good of humanity.
With those simple, God-centered thoughts, my anger melted into what I can only describe as a softening in my heart. Sometimes prayer leads us to actively say something or raise an issue. In this case, prayer helped me realize that it wasn’t my job to teach this person how to act or think. My job was to eradicate from my own consciousness any thoughts that weren’t from God, Love itself, that would try to take root and grow – and replace them with pure, spiritual truth. I could do that!
By the time I dropped my son off at his day care and headed home past the local high school, I felt an expanded sense of purpose for my day and gratitude to God.
Can I claim that I’m never ever going to be offended again? Nope. But practicing walking the walk like Jesus is essential to healing division, pain, misunderstanding, and anger. Letting God, Love, guide our actions is how we exchange self-righteousness for self-knowledge, and, even better, gain spiritual understanding as we continue down the road.
For the Monitor’s focus on bridging the conflicts that divide us, see The Respect Project, which examines the graces and complexities of respect in a half-dozen stories being posted this month.