Identity – what am I seeing?

Starting from the standpoint of everyone’s nature as God’s child elevates the way we see ourselves and others of all races.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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When I was in high school, I was surrounded by a culture that was very invested in placing people into categories, and the most important category was race. It was considered a moral duty for everyone to be conscious of their own race and to try and reckon with what that meant. I was taught that for some people it meant they were doomed to a life of struggle and oppression; for others it meant that they were inherently prejudiced people.

Coming from a racially mixed background, I found these cultural rules confusing. I didn’t seem to fit in perfectly anywhere. Furthermore, I recognized that everyone has complex and varied experiences, and I wanted to understand and respect those experiences. As a student of Christian Science, I was also unsatisfied with a view of myself and others that reduced identity to physical characteristics – and seemed to make them more important than everything else.

I had learned in Christian Science Sunday School that we are all created in the image and likeness of God; that God is infinite good and is spiritual, not material; therefore, our true identity is not in bodily characteristics, but in the reflection of infinitely good spiritual qualities, such as intelligence, kindness, and generosity.

Despite this, my experience remained a challenging one. I was occasionally the focus of hurtful, racist attention – from being on the receiving end of a racial slur to being kept out of an activity. On the other hand, I discovered that by occupying the position of “minority,” I acquired a certain “specialness.” That didn’t sit well with me, even when it resulted in what felt like positive attention.

I was fortunate to have a Sunday School teacher who was not only willing to address every issue I brought to class but also able to discern my spiritual need, which came down to considering the question “What am I seeing?”

I contemplated how I was seeing myself and others. Was I seeing myself as a collection of physical characteristics – and maybe a few character traits such as diligence and determination? Or was I seeing myself as wholly spiritual – naturally reflecting God’s strength and goodness? Was I seeing others as limited mortals, hampered by and unable to see past their own narrow experiences? Or was I seeing them as God’s immortal reflection, expressing openness, compassion, and understanding?

In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” Mary Baker Eddy explores the question “What is man?” (The word “man” here represents the true identity of everyone.) Her response begins: “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science” (p. 475).

I realized that in order to find peace and see progress in this aspect of my life, I had to affirm that understanding of myself and others as wholly spiritual and good. In seeing myself as the expression of God, divine Love, I was giving others the opportunity to see me that way, too. And I found that I was able to see and honor each individual’s unique identity while recognizing, above all, our brotherhood and sisterhood as children of God.

Although I can’t say that I was never again on the receiving end of a racist comment or action, the frequency of such occurrences was dramatically reduced. And while I’ve been in many environments where, from the point of view of race, I was the odd one out, I’ve almost universally been welcomed as an individual and valued for the unique qualities I was bringing to the table. I’ve relinquished a limited, matter-based view of myself and others for one that expects impartiality and unity. And this spiritual perspective has brought greatly increased harmony to my experience.

While there are lots of definitions available by which to categorize ourselves and others, there is only one definition that truly governs our being. Because we are created spiritually in God’s image and likeness, we are truly defined by God alone – as whole, good, and pure.

Embracing the spiritual definition of man means seeing ourselves and others as we truly are, unlimited by matter and free to enjoy the abundant blessings of God. Materially unshackled, we express, individually and collectively, the unity and completeness of God’s creation.

Adapted from an article published on

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