She’s a bad person. That’s what I found myself thinking about one girl in my grade partway into my sophomore year of high school.
This girl was someone I’d sort of been friends with in the past, but we never really got close. At first, I just disliked her because of her condescending attitude and the way she made me feel bad about myself whenever we talked. Then one of my friends mentioned disliking her because she was patronizing toward others, and that’s where things really went wrong. As I started to think of her as a bad person—instead of as someone whose behavior I didn’t like—I began finding more and more about her to criticize. I even became critical of little things she did.
As the year progressed, the hatred I felt toward this girl began to affect other things, like my overall attitude and my self-confidence. I became more negative all round, found myself thinking bad thoughts about other people, too, and even started to feel terrible about myself. But not once did I recognize the hatred as the source of all my unhappiness.
I had all the love I needed to be able to love this girl and everyone else.
One day I was talking to my mom about my frustrations with this girl, and my mom startled me by asking if being critical was a loving thing to do. In all those months of feeling hateful, it had never even occurred to me to try to love this girl instead. And yet, throughout elementary and middle school, love had always been my focus because it’s so central to what Christ Jesus taught and to Christian Science. Why did that have to change now that I was in high school? It didn’t!
My mom’s question made me think of a passage in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. It’s a spiritual sense of the twenty-third Psalm, and it goes like this:
“[Divine love] is my shepherd; I shall not want.
“[Love] maketh me to lie down in green pastures: [love] leadeth me beside the still waters.
“[Love] restoreth my soul [spiritual sense]: [love] leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [love] is with me; [love’s] rod and [love’s] staff they comfort me.
“[Love] prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: [Love] anointeth my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [Love] for ever” (p. 578).
As I read this, I realized I wasn’t letting Love guide my thoughts or actions. The first line—“[Divine love] is my shepherd; I shall not want”—helped me understand how to pray for myself and approach things differently. I could see that because Love is guiding us and giving us everything we need, I had all the love I needed to be able to love this girl and everyone else. Not to love bad behavior, but to love each individual as they really are: created by Love to be good and loving.
My prayers also uncovered the fact that the root of some of my negative feelings toward others was envy. But I realized that looking for the worst in others to make myself feel better actually wasn’t making me better at all. The only real way to feel better about ourselves is to discover our true nature as the sons and daughters of Love and to recognize that good, pure, beautiful nature as also true of everyone else. I began to see that because I’m cared for by divine Love, I didn’t have to be envious of what others had in their lives or feel like I was missing anything—Love gives me everything I need to be satisfied.
Learning to live my life from a place of love rather than hatred and criticism turned out to be the best thing ever. Not only did I rediscover the joy within me, but I also resolved my shaky relationship with this girl into a newfound friendship.
Loving everyone no matter how they act or appear on the surface isn’t always easy. But committing yourself to love is worth it because not only does it help your relationships, it makes you feel better, too—closer to divine Love.
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