Cast off those mental tatters!
I’ve always loved the object lesson in Aesop’s fable of the wind and the sun. Recently I became aware that it held a deep spiritual lesson for me as well.
In the fable, the north wind and the sun were arguing one day about which of them was stronger. They decided to have a contest. A man was walking below on a country road, and they agreed that each would in turn try to remove the traveler’s coat. The one that was successful would be the winner and acknowledged as the strongest.
The wind went first and blew with all its might. The man, chilled by the blasts of cold air, just hugged his coat more tightly about him. Then came the sun’s turn. It proceeded to shine, radiating light and heat. The man was so warmed by the sun’s rays that he soon took off his coat and laid it down.
The lesson of this fable is that persuasion is more powerful than force. The sunshine of a kind and gentle manner will open another heart more readily than all the bluster and push of aggression.
The antagonistic force of personal will only serves to strengthen entrenched beliefs.
I saw a correlation with the current highly volatile political climate. The traveler’s coat could represent entrenched personal opinions about politics and world events. When individuals argue their views forcefully, they often cause others with opposing views to hug their own opinions even more tightly. Like the wind raging and blowing in the fable, the antagonistic force of personal will only serves to strengthen entrenched beliefs.
This insight brought up a couple of questions: Was I tenaciously clinging to any deeply held political, cultural, and generational opinions? And would getting into emotional arguments about them help others—or me—find a clearer understanding of the issues?
Now of course there’s nothing wrong with having a respectful exchange about differing perspectives. Constructive dialogue and debate are, after all, important at every level in a democracy. But I had to admit that I could be rigid in my opinions and was at times more inclined to push my point than to engage in open-minded, thoughtful discussion.
Christian Science, discovered by Mary Baker Eddy, had shown me that looking at the world is like looking in a mirror. Whatever we’re entertaining mentally is what we tend to see around us. As I gave this further thought, I realized I was seeing my own inflexibility mirrored in the intractable positions of others. And it was clear to me that this hardened attitude is quite common and is producing an atmosphere of anger, self-righteous judgment, and divisiveness in people in many countries, including my own.
A statement by Mrs. Eddy offered a helpful insight: “Let us disrobe error. Then, when the winds of God blow, we shall not hug our tatters close about us” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 201).
The winds of God are not the harsh, destructive blasts of the human mind; rather, they are the fresh breezes of rectification that loosen stubborn personal preferences and ingrained attitudes. I saw that if I wanted to be an advocate for unity, goodness, and brotherhood in the community and the world, I needed a more spiritual approach.
Love causes a gentling of our human nature and makes it more pliable, more receptive to sharing ideas, and more willing to listen.
This meant that I needed to begin not with others but with myself. My motive was not to change another’s view but to let God, divine Love, shine within me, enabling me to relinquish my own firmly held opinions. As soon as I began to pray to let go of rigid views and callous judgments, I experienced a freshening of thought. It was like a cool, gentle breeze stirring a pond on a hot day. I was feeling moved to embrace a more conciliatory attitude. My assessment of others’ views and values softened, and I found myself kinder and less critical in my outlook.
This was divine Love at work, shining within my consciousness and causing me to disrobe the error in my thinking. Animosity and contempt toward rival political parties and those who support them began to dissolve as I yielded to the ever-presence and omnipotence of Love, God. I realized that divine Love, like the sun, shines on all without partiality. The warmth and tenderness of Love cause a gentling of our human nature and make it more pliable, more receptive to sharing ideas, and more willing to listen. Love supports and radiates a spirit of compatibility. And as we consistently reflect the consciousness of divine Mind, the one infinite intelligence that is God, we are supporting the emergence of solutions that are divinely inspired, whether or not their value is immediately recognized and acknowledged by all.
I realized that what had softened my heart was capable of doing the same for everyone. My prayerful responsibility was to spiritually discern this, acknowledge it, and rejoice in it. I began to affirm each day that the Christ, God’s divine message of love and truth, is speaking to human consciousness in a way each individual can hear and understand. Christ reports the goodness that is continually pouring forth from God. This meets the heart’s deep need for peace, security, purpose, and supply.
I understood that this was one simple thing I could know about my global family, and that in this way I could make a prayerful contribution each day (and sometimes several times a day) to my community, my country, and the world. This meant quietly taking a few moments to cherish the spiritual fact that the sunlight of Love is always shining, enabling each of us to cast off whatever would obstruct our ability to reflect the one infinite intelligence.
“No power can withstand divine Love,” Science and Health declares (p. 224). This truth assures us that God’s love is at work, enlightening all, regardless of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation. The warmth of Love causes each of us to lay off the heavy coat of self-righteousness and be more open to communicating respectfully with others, whether it be about governmental affairs, community conflicts, racial equality, law enforcement, or any other issue.
Change always starts with each of us individually. Now, when I realize I’m hugging some personal opinion tightly to myself, I open my heart, raise my arms to God, and proclaim, “Take away my tatters, Lord!” And He always does!