I never dreamed I would be the kind of parent to have favorites. My mom played favorites in our family, and having grown up where intense personality conflicts were just accepted, I made a conscious effort to ensure that my own children didn't feel this kind of sting.
So it was a shock when I found myself feeling a distinct dislike for my third child's emerging personality. My other two children have many traits similar to mine, and I felt comfortable and happy being with them. But my youngest was so different. He wasn't active and bubbly like the others, but tended to be quiet and placid. And he developed what I saw as an iron will that was diametrically opposed to mine. Each day was a battle to remain calm and unaffected. I also felt tremendous guilt about my negative feelings toward him.
Finally, after a particularly bad day, I knew that something had to be done or my son and I were headed for a long-term troubled relationship. I was able to reason that this personality conflict wasn't my son's fault - we were just temperamental opposites. I knew I couldn't expect him to change and conform to my ideal. It was up to me to change my view of him.
Having gotten that far in my reasoning, I was able to humbly pray to God. I asked for guidance - the steps needed to stop the flow of bad feelings. The answer I got was to value my child's differences. I felt a spiritual authority behind this message and tried very hard to obey it.
What I had criticized as stubbornness I began to appreciate as perseverance. What I was sure was placidity I could now respect as inward strength and self-completeness. I feel sure that my deep desire to spare my son (and me) the sorrow of ongoing relationship problems helped open the way to my healing. My gloom and guilt lifted quickly, and I enjoyed being with him. Years later we delight in each other's company, and I do value his individuality.
Looking back, I can see how natural it is for love to destroy conflict. I like to think of any act of love as an expression of divine Love - a spiritual law in operation, restoring peace. I didn't have to change my personality or my son's, I didn't have to accept the situation and hope for the best, and I didn't have to continue down the path of escalating conflicts. I just needed a higher view - a Christly view - of him.
Describing this view as both Chris-tian and scientific - that is, provable as a law - Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, wrote, "When we learn the way in Christian Science and recognize man's spiritual being, we shall behold and understand God's creation, - all the glories of earth and heaven and man" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 264).
The word behold has the Latin root "to keep." To keep holding the spiritual view of my son was key to the restoration of our relationship. I'm beginning to understand that this must be central to healing of all kinds. Jesus held to the spiritual view of creation as God's perfect likeness and healed people of serious diseases and of sins. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," he said (Matt. 5:48).
I've always loved the description in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law of a fever: "And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them" (8:15). I like to think of the touch of the Christ as the true view of God's creation that heals naturally and without delay.
I find it's often hard work to hold to a view of myself and others as spiritual, made in God's likeness. What encourages me to keep at it is knowing that I'm not ignoring my own or my children's faults when I do this. I'm helping to correct them. And when my heart is willing to stand firmly and persistently for the truths that heal, I've really noticed the good results.
Each individual character really consists of spiritual qualities that are not in conflict with any other. Everyone will have to prove this many times over, but each victory brings more of God's kingdom to light and blesses the whole human family.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor