Yielding personality to our spiritual identity
A recent editorial focused on how seeing past the personality of others is key to the practice of Christian Science (see Tony Lobl, “The freedom to not ‘cling to personality,’ ” Sentinel, June 28, 2021). In many ways, this editorial is a part two, this time exploring the importance of rising above the argument of personality in ourselves.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, stressed the need to see beyond personality to our spiritual identity. The ability to do this is explained with a touch of humor in her short autobiographical work, Retrospection and
Introspection. In a chapter called “Personality,” she concludes, “My own corporeal personality afflicteth me not wittingly; for I desire never to think of it, and it cannot think of me” (p. 74 ).
Personality is a material sense of our individuality. It’s a nature that includes good and bad characteristics, and moods that can swing from ecstatic to heartbroken. It can include mentally lauding ourselves for things that are undeserving of praise and loathing ourselves despite being worthy. Or the two might even intertwine.
There’s no doubt that this way of perceiving ourselves seems normal for most of us. But such a variable sense of ourselves is a mistaken one. It is accepting that we’re something that falls well short of our true, spiritual nature as God’s daughters or sons—our true life in divine Life, God.
Personality is unreality, a counterfeit of our innate expression of divine Spirit, God.
Identifying with any lesser sense of ourselves than this Godlike nature is not
something we need to resign ourselves to. No matter how strong the pull of
personality may appear, the pull to know our life in God is infinitely stronger. That’s because the latter is spiritual reality urging itself upon us. Personality is unreality, a counterfeit of our innate expression of divine Spirit, God. So, not only can
personality not think of us, it can never truly be us. As we turn to Spirit to glean our God-reflecting spiritual identity, limited and limiting perceptions of who we are lose their hold.
The Bible illustrates this in an account of Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel 4:4–37 ). Evaluating his kingdom’s success, he lauded his own power and majesty. Such self-aggrandizement is founded on the shifting sands of material perception, and soon afterward the opposite self-perception of unworthiness took hold. Nebuchadnezzar went insane and was sidelined from his kingdom and society. Daniel, a pious Hebrew living in Babylon, had predicted this when interpreting a dream the king had related to him, and his assessment indicates the spiritual nature of the king’s problem. As God’s creation, we’re each wonderful, and that’s the true identity of those who wield temporal power, as it is for all of us. But Nebuchadnezzar had lost sight of why this is so. Instead of attributing his accomplishments to God and God’s eternal power, the king believed them to be self-generated.
Eventually, humility prevailed. The king had a transformational vision of the divine power enabling all that we achieve. You can feel his joy in gaining this God-centric view of the nature of good: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation” (verse 34, New King James Version). The king was restored to his throne, and “excellent majesty” was added to him.
Such a shift from a self-centered view of ourselves is equally essential if we’re fretting about perceived failings. This, too, leaves God out of the picture and defines us as personal instigators of good and evil. This inverted vanity is overturned in a similar way to Nebuchadnezzar prevailing over conceit. We laud God, accept that Deity gives us everlasting “dominion over . . . all things” (Psalms 8:6 ), and know that God governs everyone in every generation, including us, now and always. As we understandingly concede to being a purely spiritual expression of the one cause and creator, who is infinite goodness, we regain spiritual poise and perceive how to proceed.
Whichever way personality might tempt us, the true standard is seen in Christ Jesus, who was as free from personality in practice as we each are in truth. And Mrs. Eddy epitomized what it means to follow his timeless example—how to not think of ourselves as a corporeal personality. One of her students recalls her saying, “All I have ever accomplished has been done by getting Mary out of the way and letting God be reflected,” and then noting how powerful this is: “When I would reach this tone, the sick would be healed without a word” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1, p. 270).
This week’s lead article, “How can we have quicker healings?” by Deborah Huebsch, shows how we can each echo this. It illustrates instantaneous healings experienced through getting a personal sense of self out of the way in order to let Spirit, God, be expressed. As the false sense of having a pro or con personality yields to the reality of our glorious spiritual identity, the radiancy of Christ is revealed, reflecting God’s healing power.
Tony Lobl, Associate Editor