Reflective self-examination that frees

Taking an honest look at how we might improve ourselves can be unnerving. But starting from the basis of our nature as God’s children dissolves self-condemnation that can hinder progress and opens the door to hope and healing.

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Who likes to have their merits as an employee, a teacher, or even just a human being examined – with the expectation that you must then address your failings, with uncertain results? Even if it’s a self-examination, free from the criticisms of others, anticipating a multitude of inescapable human weaknesses can feel like a prison sentence.

But what if self-examination actually doesn’t need to be a downer at all, but an unlocking of hidden assets?

When I was introduced to Christian Science and began to read the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, its founder, I saw that self-examination was encouraged as a necessary thing to do to stay centered and make progress in our lives. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Are thoughts divine or human? That is the important question” (p. 462). Such awareness impels examining one’s thoughts to identify their source and progression.

The trouble is, it can be hard to see our present standpoint in a way that enables growth instead of embarrassment that more progress hasn’t been made. We may start defining ourselves and others as molded by human circumstances and limitations. This approach to self-examination can bring negatives that are counterproductive, at best.

So what is the lens that actually supports positive growth? The point of view that transforms must encourage instead of condemn. I have found that this is most effectively done not simply by focusing on what needs to change humanly, but by welcoming divine thoughts, which reveal that our Father-Mother God created each of us spiritual, whole, and upright.

This leads to an awareness of needed improvements in character and behavior. To live more compassionately, humbly, mercifully, as Jesus taught and lived, necessarily requires a willingness to examine ourselves and recognize what doesn’t fit with the Christly spiritual nature that is innately ours as God’s children. But at the same time, we can be encouraged that we have a God-given ability to drop old ways of thinking and acting that simply aren’t seen through the lens of Spirit, God.

I remember an early experience along these lines that drew me consciously closer to God. As a young mother fairly new to the study of Christian Science, I was experiencing healings, but I also had a lot of mental and emotional baggage that needed to go. I was self-examining often.

But at first, I wasn’t starting by identifying myself as the spiritual likeness of Love, a biblical name for God. I was identifying with problems – which seemed to be how others were defining me, as well. Hopelessness and self-condemnation were the outcomes – not the joyful progress that I was coming to learn is what our infinitely loving Father-Mother God has planned for His children.

Then I spoke with a Christian Science practitioner – a person who has dedicated her or his life to praying for others – and unloaded my problems. What I hoped for was a lifting of the heaviness and lack of joy. But I wasn’t grasping her comments and felt a sense of hopelessness settling in. As I was leaving, sensing the heaviness I longed to be lifted, the practitioner tenderly made this parting comment: “Don’t you realize that you are given a clean slate every day?”

Frankly, I was blown away. In that moment I saw that divine Love never keeps score of mistakes and failures. A personal sense of self-examination had not allowed me to look out and up, but only inward to perceived ineptness. That moment of being touched by Love’s always-present embrace enabled me to feel the truth of what I had read in Science and Health, that I was “free ‘to enter into the holiest,’ – the realm of God” (p. 481). I felt I was seeing through a new lens, a lens that showed a glimpse of the spiritual reality that we live because of God’s good will, not our own.

It tangibly changed my life at that time, and has stayed with me since. It has impacted ongoing self-examination that has led to humble, deep gratitude; multiple healings of physical problems; overcoming relationship challenges; resolving financial affairs; and finding guidance for what steps to take next in my life.

It is true: God doesn’t keep score of the mistakes and failures of human experience. In fact, the infinite Mind that loves each of us knows our strengths, talents, and divinely created promise. Ever-present divine Mind has given us the capacity to see through the spiritual lens that opens up uncompromised, inexhaustible progress. Self-examination then becomes a putting down of baggage that never belonged to God’s child in the first place – and living as the expansive expression of God, divine Mind, Love, we are created to be.

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