Slamming doors, throwing dishes, getting into fights—I've known it all. An explosive outburst might seem to be freeing at first, but I came to realize early on that violence and fury cannot achieve anything good, nor can they convince someone else to change his or her behavior. Rather, it leaves behind a bad taste in your mouth, and often an intense feeling of shame.
As a child, I was prone to get angry when I felt that I or someone else had not been treated fairly. Anger would give me the courage to stand up for my convictions in front of others, no matter if they were bigger and stronger kids, or adults. And I would react to situations vehemently, with strong words, and often by getting physical.
When I was little, adults would sometimes see my temper fits as "funny" or "cute," and I was sometimes called a "hothead" and "tomboy." Even then, however, I didn't think it was funny when people laughed at my behavior—it just made me angrier. I wanted to be taken seriously. Already I was quite aware that being angry wasn't how I wanted to be. I had learned in Sunday School that God is Love and that He had created me in His image and likeness. I longed for His love, and wanted to be good.
A turnaround came in my early teens. In school one day, I got into a fight with a boy who was teasing smaller children and being very mean to them. When I asked him to stop it and leave them alone, he refused and turned on me, too. At that point, I lost it. Although he was bigger and stronger than I, I just grabbed him and beat on him furiously until I suddenly had a big bunch of his hair in my hand. Shocked and frightened by what my fury had caused me to inflict, I let go of him. By now, we were both crying, and I was terribly sorry for what I had done.
That moment was a wake-up call for me. It was as if I were coming out of a dream. And I made up my mind never to get violent again.
What helped me calm down and lessen angry outbursts was my study of Christian Science. From then on, before going to school every morning, I read the weekly Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly. This way I started every day by being in harmony with God and His all-powerful, ever-present love. I realized that since Love is omnipotent and omnipresent, there couldn't be another power, outside of this Love, controlling me. My parents helped pray for me. I learned that I didn't have to be the one to make sure that justice prevailed, but that I could trust that God is always just and establishes everything in good order. The more I turned to God with any difficulty that came up, the more I was able to find solutions without getting angry. I became a happier person and felt more appreciated by friends and schoolmates.
Fast-forward about 15 years, when I once again had to deal with angry outbursts. By now, I had my own family and two small children. My father had passed away very suddenly, leaving a big hole in my life. He had been a strong support for me all those years—my anchor of stability—and now he was gone. At the time, we had also just moved into a bigger apartment with a garden, which was beautiful but brought much extra work for me. I was feeling burdened and tired out. The children seemed to need my constant attention, and I noticed that I was becoming more and more impatient with them. I yelled at them if they left their room in a mess, or wouldn't eat what I had prepared for them, or got into any kind of childish mischief.
More and more often I was working myself into a rage, at the same time realizing how ugly these outbursts were. I was ashamed of them and hated myself for these occurrences. The more I hated myself, however, the worse my anger grew. Although I would pray about this, I seemed to be in a vicious cycle that I couldn't escape from. This went on for many months.
One day, in great desperation, I fell on my knees and began to pray with all my heart. I wanted to be free for all time from this devastating force that seemed to overpower and control me. "Please, God, my Father-Mother," I cried, "if You are the only power, the power of good, help me see it!"
"You and the Christ are one!" was the startling answer received to this desperate prayer.
No way, I thought. Wasn't Jesus the Christ? He had sacrificed his life for us. He had healed and loved people. He was calm, loving, and compassionate. He could walk on water, raise the dead, and quiet storms. Jesus had always followed God. But me? One with the Christ? This seemed to be pure blasphemy in the face of all my anger. I started trembling and crying, unable to think. But very gently, the words formed in my mouth, "I and the Christ are one." And then again, and again. This message became my light in the darkness, and the light that rescued me. I held on to it like a drowning person, at first still feeling weak and miserable. But soon I knew I had solid ground under my feet. And a great peace and calm came over me.
In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy explained, "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (p. 332). I had experienced firsthand that this Christ, this "divine message," was at work in my consciousness, and that we can tangibly feel it, whatever precarious situation we might find ourselves in.
To identify myself, at this moment of self-hatred, with the Christ—God's pure and perfect idea of who I was—was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do. But the healing that followed was to prove permanent and irreversible. I felt virtually newborn!
I found complete freedom through understanding that I had never really been that person who was prone to rage, because my identity always had been the idea of God, perfect and pure, without a single flaw. By acknowledging the Christ in myself, I learned to love myself, and all self-hatred and anger melted away. I gained an inner peace and great staying power and patience.
TO IDENTIFY MYSELF, AT THIS MOMENT OF SELF-HATRED, WITH THE CHRIST—GOD'S PURE AND PERFECT IDEA OF WHO I WAS—WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING I'VE EVER HAD TO DO.
These Christlike qualities of peace and patience have stayed with me over the years since then, whether I've had to deal with school challenges with my children, other problems in the family, or with financial strain. My kids are in their teens now, and I can gratefully say that I don't get worked up over things anymore, because divine Love has become a tangible presence in my life. It's my rock in the surf, my ever-present strength and power, my new anchor of peace and stability. |