THE hearings regarding the confirmation of United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas have focused attention on the continuing debate over what constitutes sexual harassment and what should be done about it.
As a young woman, I was often teased or told embarrassing jokes by my male employers, but at the time this just seemed like a woman's lot in a mostly male profession. Still, as sexual harassment began to be thought about in more depth, I realized that I should not have tolerated treatment that was demeaning.
Some time later I received an assignment that involved supervising several men, including one who was good-looking and charming. Without even thinking about it, I began to tease him in ways that I later realized were slightly suggestive. For a while the kidding was fun, but then I could see that it was making him very uncomfortable, at least partly, perhaps, because it was coming from his supervisor.
As a Christian Scientist, I am accustomed to turning to prayer whenever I experience any type of inharmony. And part of prayer includes self- examination--a willingness to review, in the light of Christ Jesus' teachings, one's motives and the kind of thinking one is doing.
As I did this, I found--with a shock--that I had actually been playing the same kind of game with this young man that older men had played with me when I was young. It might not have been sexual harassment, but it was too close for comfort. When I found it difficult to give up the behavior, even though it was no longer acceptable to me, I knew that I had to pray more deeply about the subject.
I began to see that any treatment that is based purely on material characteristics--sex, color, ethnic background, for example--is potentially harmful because it denies the true, spiritual nature of each one of us. The material appearance is just that--an illusion. It doesn't do anything to express the intelligence, goodness, vitality, joy, and other spiritual qualities that make up our real being as God's offspring.
God, divine Love, creates man perfect and good. So there aren't any characteristics that would make God love one of His children over another. In fact, material appearances play no role at all in God's love for us. Paul brings this out in a letter he wrote to the people of Galatia. He explains that we are all children of God through our faith in Christ Jesus. And a bit later he writes, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in
These and other statements in the Bible that show God's impartiality and universal love help us to recognize the unity that we all have with God, Spirit. And this unity means that we can all relate to each other rightly because we are on an equal footing in the eyes of a totally loving God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this point in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Speaking of God, she writes, "Love is impartial and universal in its adapta tion and bestowals.
Man as God's offspring naturally expresses this divine, impartial love. And you and I are truly the children of God. Thinking within this context doesn't include belittling of an employee or colleague. We don't have to cling to harmful behavior in an effort to affirm our importance or bolster our power when we know and feel the love of God not just for ourselves but for all His offspring.
Such growing understanding of divine Love and its impartiality helps us also to recognize the individuality of those around us. We begin to see that each one has a specific purpose, talent, and value to our society and to God. And as we recognize that all are precious to God, the desire to control them personally--to make them do our will--diminishes.
I began to see this more clearly, and in a short time the young man and I had a different, and happier, relationship, one that was based on mutual respect and included more genuine affection.
In our prayers we each can claim our right to know and feel the love that God is giving us. And as we do this faithfully, we will see evidence of this love in our own experience. It may not come in the form we expect--but as we look for it, we will find it.
With this assurance of divine Love will come the security and respect that we may have been seeking through teasing, pressuring, or even harassing another. Instead of asserting our personal control over others, we will gradually find intelligent ways to communicate with and to respond to them. The result will be a stronger and more productive association with our colleagues--and perhaps even more important, a clearer understanding of God's love for us.
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As he which hath called you is holy,
so be ye holy
in all manner of conversation;
because it is written,
Be ye holy;
for I am holy. . . .
Seeing ye have purified your souls
in obeying the truth through the Spirit
unto unfeigned love of the brethren,
see that ye love one another
with a pure heart fervently.
I Peter 1:15, 16, 22