Suppose God asked you to anoint the person He had chosen to be the next leader of your country, but told you only that the leader came from a particular family. You think, "He must be an only child, no problem!"
After you've looked at the seventh son, and none of them has received the divine nod, you might be puzzled.
Then God gives you a clue: "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; ... for the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (I Sam. 16:7).
You discover an eighth son named David, and he is the one you are inspired to select. And David, the shepherd-warrior, writer of psalms, begins his journey toward the kingship of Israel.
But his future as king wasn't obvious to the prophet Samuel, who was assigned to anoint him.
From this encounter, Samuel may have realized that to look on the outward appearance is to focus on facets of a person that aren't indicative of his or her honesty, intelligence, and courage.
Even Jesus, who most readers of this newspaper would feel deserves deep respect and homage, was rejected by people who looked on the outward signs and dismissed him, saying, "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matt. 13:55).
Clearly, it's important to know everything we can about a candidate, but outward issues often don't tell us about the candidate's heart. And it's the heart that guides people toward good or bad decisions. Mary Baker Eddy's book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" defines heart in spiritual terms as "mortal feelings, motives, affections, joys, and sorrows" (p. 587).
The heart is where cherished aspirations are born and nourished – where a candidate finds the inspiration and strength to carry on, even under difficulties.
Intellect may inform, but the heart motivates and strengthens. And the heart is also where we can find answers as to which candidate would be best.
Sometimes political campaigns can become rather heartless, focusing on what divides rather than what unites. Candidates are trashed for their race or gender – something they can't do anything about. Other personal characteristics such as their religion or ethnicity may come under fire.
One way to eliminate this kind of thinking is to recall the prayer Jesus – "the carpenter's son" – gave. It begins, "Our Father...." This acknowledgment of God as everyone's Father – and that means the Father of all the candidates, all the voters, everybody – helps to clarify the value and true origin of every individual, no matter what his or her background may be.
Looking at candidates from that higher standpoint honors them and ourselves as the children of God, made in His likeness – the image of divine Love.
It eases the burden of campaigning to affirm the candidates' spiritual nature, nourished and strengthened by God. And it supports voters' discernment of the spiritual qualities they need to look for in candidates.
Similarly, as the candidates for any primary or election begin their campaigns, we can do our best to look for their hearts instead of being led – or misled – by handlers, flashy presentations, or carefully crafted answers that tend to hide what a candidate thinks.
Color, gender, and religious beliefs shape aspects of a person's life, but the spiritual qualities each one has – intelligence, energy, strength, foresight, patience, understanding, love, truthfulness, to mention a few – ultimately are what "make the man" (or the woman). When these qualities and the individual's commitment to putting them into practice are evident, then we've found not just the right person for the job, but also the one with the right heart.