I was taught to treat people with love and respect, and I thought that would result in others responding in kind. But I have discovered that sometimes they don’t. This sometimes feels unfair. Then comes the temptation to try to “fix” the way they think of me. I want to correct any misconceptions, bad vibes, or feelings of being wronged.
The other day I walked into the local coffeehouse for a hot chocolate and was delighted to see a young man that I've known since he was a boy. I greeted him with "oh my gosh it is so good to see you". Yet my greeting was met with unmistakable disdain and dismissal. I was so baffled that I forgot to order my drink. I mentally went over every possible thing that I could have said or done to deserve that kind of treatment. Soon I realized that I was viewing him with the same lack of charity that I felt I had received from him earlier.
This realization was a critical moment for me. I knew I had to find a different starting point when facing unkindness. There’s a book I turn to along with the Bible that gives me practical guidance in my life. Its author, and founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in her text Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "The starting point of divine Science is that God, Spirit is All-in-all, and that there is no other might or Mind." - 275:6
What I had to understand was that my peace doesn't come from assurances that everyone likes me or approves of my decisions. My peace must come from somewhere much deeper. It has to come from somewhere God-based and unmoveable, grounded and unshakeable.
So I adjusted my perspective on trying to figure out the possible reasons that others might treat me in ways that I felt were undeserved. I realized that I didn't need to wonder “why” or "what if", because I knew "what is!" And what is, is that God, good is omnipresent, omnipotent, supreme good, operating unspent and without fail in each of us. I don't always have to know what another is thinking, has thought, or may have been inclined to think about me. What I do always need to know is that God is the only Mind taking thought for either of us. That’s my secure starting point. If more needs to be known about another’s view of me, then God will care for that in His own way, in His own time.
We all exist within the embrace of divine Love. Such an embrace shifts our focus away from winning each other's hearts or affections. Instead we aim to win the war against those suggestions that would have us doubt one another's motives, question each other's responses, assume judgment or disdain, or think that there could ever be anyone outside of that circle needing to be drawn in. We are all "under the control of the one Mind, even God", as Eddy says. It's time to learn to let go of those uncomfortable, questionable moments at the start...with the right starting point.
Noted civil rights activist and speaker Melba Beals is attributed as having once said, during a youth conference: "What you think of me is none of my business. How I think of you is all that counts." I'm with Melba on this one. All that really counts in my practice of Christianity is how I am thinking about, and treating, others.
I think I'm ready for that hot chocolate now, please....