Probably we can all think of reasons why it's sometimes hard to be ourselves. So much of modern society is group-oriented -- mass media, giant political conventions, assembly line production. Even "designer jeans" are mass produced! How can we be sure to keep some of the special style that makes us distinct.?
Christ Jesus showed us the answer: love.It was his unlimited capacity for loving -- loving God and loving man -- that enabled him to fulfill his mission on earth. And it is the same love that leads us toward the fulfillment of our own life-purpose. Jesus commanded, reiterating the Old Testament, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." n1
n1 Mark 12:31
Yesterday's column showed how the primary step in discovering our individuality is to put God, the source of all identity, first. This inevitably leads to the next step of cherishing our neighbors, because they, as we, are actually God's ideas. Rejecting whatever denies the goodness and purity of God's spiritual man, we turn away from materiality with all its limitations -- and its imitativeness. By working at discovering the Christlike qualities in ourselves, we soon become more adept at seeing how they are uniquely expressed in everyone.
As this skill develops, we become less concerned with appearances -- our own or others' -- and more interested in finding ways to bring out the spiritual qualities that really individualize each of us. But this is not a dreamworld of abstraction! As Mary Baker Edd n2 write, "This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man's absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace." n3
n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science;
n3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 265m
"A more expansive love" helped Paul and Silas when they were in prison. n4 Their prayers and songs to God had been effective -- an earthquake had rocked the prison, opening the cell doors. The prison keeper, seeing what had happened , tried to kill himself. "But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." In his gesture of compassion, Paul not only saved the prison keeper's life but also converted him and his family to Christianity. And he and Silas lost nothing by staying and helping the man, because the next day they were set free by the authorities.
n4 See Acts 16:2540
The apostles' perception of the Christlike course of action had freed the keeper from his ignorance about Christianity and taught him the power of Truth. The freedom they finally obtained must have been a stirring proof of the validity of their teachings. By setting the jailer free from his false beliefs, they had, in effect, reversed the whole function of the prison.
Similarly, we can use encounters with those whose individuality seems obscured by hatred or fear as opportunities to behold the real man, governed by Mind, God. We can help free those "jailed" in suffering an sin as well as the "jailers" who are themselves imprisoned by suspicion and hatred.
Perhaps we fell some people aren't worth the effort. But the way to our true identity is through obedience to bothm Jesus' commands. We have an obligation to strive not only to love God but to express the real man ourselves and behold him in all we meet. Jesus said, "If the blind lead the blind, both shall all into the ditch." n5 So if we allow our view of the Christ to be blinded -- that is, to be clouded by our thinking evil of others -- we can save neither ourselves nor them. But if we vigorously accentuate the Christlike qualities in ourselves , and if we look for them in others, none of us needs to tumble into darkness and fear.
n5 Matthew 15:14.
At first we may see only glimpses -- but we have to start somewhere! As our vision of the real man grows, we will find in those formerly faceless crowds more and more evidence of man's uniqueness. By truly loving God and our neighbor, we will discover our own special indentity and find ample opportunities for making a distinct contribution to the world. DAILY BIBLE VERSE There are . . . so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. I Corinthians 14:10