What is the basis for improving behavior?

The stir and debate in society continue as to the actual basis of people's behavior. Some theories suggest that when it comes to dealing with the root causes of behavior, the primary focus should be biogenetic. On the other hand, many people share the view of Dorothy Nelkin, a sociology professor at New York University. Commenting in particular on criminal behavior, she writes, "We must deal with the real source of crime: the social conditions that are so strongly associated with violence" (The New York Times, Sept. 28, 1995). Both arguments revolve around a universal belief regarding the nature of man—that it is material and subject to detrimental, material conditions. Are people's actions largely determined by conditions beyond their control? In other words, are you and I genetically or environmentally predisposed to particular pattern of behavior?

In answering this question, it's helpful to consider a point that Mary Baker Eddy brings out in Science and Health, the textbook of Christian Science. She writes: "We say, 'My hand hath done it.' What is this my but mortal mind, the cause of all materialistic action? All voluntary, as well as miscalled involuntary, action of the mortal body is governed by this so-called mind, not by matter. There is no involuntary action. The divine Mind includes all action and volition, and man in Science is governed by this Mind" (p. 187).

History provides inspiring examples of improved behavior—actually, of deep transformation of character—as a result of the influence of God, divine Mind. To disregard the effect of prayer and of an understanding of God on individuals would be to ignore what has proved over and over again to be a powerful force for good in human lives.

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February 12, 1996

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