"How can I be sure,
in a world that's constantly changing?
How can I be sure,
where I stand with you..."
The first verse of "How Can I Be Sure," perfectly describes the way I felt in high school, when situational ethics, and circumstantial "morality," seemed to scream hypocrisy from every direction.
And today I believe...in retrospect...that it was this perceived hypocrisy that gave rise to the judgmental protestor, and rebel, in me. As I struggled to make sense of questions like: "If pro-life sentiments are based on the Biblical command, "Thou shalt not kill." then why were we waging a war in Vietnam?" I was also nurturing something unattractive in myself.
And as long as I continued to look at things from the basis of what I saw on the surface, I was often left confused and opinionated.
But, I am discovering that there is a perspective on integrity, a definition of morality, and a window on ethics that is changeless for me. A place where I can "be sure."
I say, "for me," because, if I have learned anything in the past 40 years, it is that I can only speak for myself. No matter how much I think I am on the right side of right, as long as I'm on a "side"...any side...I don't have the whole picture. My view of things is divided...not whole and integrated...without true integrity. A one-sided structure of any kind will eventually fall.
Today there seems to be a moral relativity movement afoot, and everyone thinks they are not part of it. Cultures, tribes, nations, communities, parties each defining right, and wrong, according to their own interpretation of things...as viewed through the lens of their own particular needs, sensibilities, and desires.
Unfortunately that often boils down to: "But then, of course, my version of right is what's really right...right?
And since I am an intelligent, God-loving, prayer-guided global citizen, if it wasn't right, I wouldn't be doing it. Otherwise, it might mean that I wasn't praying correctly, or living in accordance with spiritual reality....right?" This kind of reasoning leaves us with a feeling of having succeeded, or failed, spiritually. As well as to comparisons about how right we are "compared to" someone else's right. And this is where the question, "how can I be sure..." comes in for me.
And don't get all excited, I don't have any answers here...perhaps only more questions to raise for consideration. But I can share a few things that have helped to guide my own journey...without editorializing.
Mary Baker Eddy's definition of the word "Moral" has played a huge role in helping me find clarity:
"Moral. humanity, honesty, affection, compassion, hope, faith, meekness, temperance."
This definition has set me free from looking across the aisle, across the table, across the proverbial railroad tracks. I wish I could say that "I no longer..." But I can say that I am less inclined (when I am alert), to question my neighbor's motives, measure the wisdom of his actions, and judge him/her accordingly.
I am discovering... for myself...that the only place I can look...is within. The only person whose motives I have any real information about...are my own. And the only actions I have any control over...are the ones that flow from me.
The moral demand -- which I believe is always from within -- is on me...to be humane, honest, affectionate, compassionate, hopeful, faithful, meek, and temperate. Other people's motives and actions are a private conversation between them, and their God.
Eddy, answering the question:
"How can I progress most rapidly in the understanding of Christian Science?
Replies, in part:
"Ask yourself: Am I living the life that approaches the supreme good?
How do we even begin to restrict our moral cross-questioning to ourselves. This kind of self-restraint isn't always easy to practice in families, or in community. But something my mom used to say to me has been very helpful. Whenever my sister and I would get into an argument, in high school...and of course, I was always right...my mom would say, "leave her to heaven..."
This was her way of reminding me...when the disagreement had reached an impasse...that the only way it could be resolved was by trusting that God had the final say.
I think Mary Baker Eddy says it so beautifully in her Daily Prayer:
"Thy kingdom come, let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love, be established in me, and rule out of me all sin. And may Thy word, enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them."
For me, this daily prayer covers all the bases.
When I am sure...when I really know, and trust...that God's kingdom is within me, then my first responsibility is to trust that the establishment of His supreme reign in my heart is unassailable.
And since, in the presence of Truth, Life, and Love, there can be no "sin." I have no option of believing that I, or anyone else, can be separated from divine rule.
Once I have truly accepted this Truth...for myself...I need only to trust that this same divine Governor is guiding the motives and actions of everyone else. And He does this by enriching their affections for good, humility, meekness, compassion...etc.
This is the only way I know of, to be absolutely, positively sure...of anything...
offered with Love,
Kate Robertson, CS