Getting beyond knee-jerk reactions

It’s a typical day. Nothing too unusual. Things are going OK until you hear something so outrageous or disconcerting—maybe a statement in the news, an assertion on social media, or a rumor at school or work—that you quickly respond with anger or discouragement. Sound familiar? 

As justified as a knee-jerk reaction may seem in the moment, letting indignation get the better of us doesn’t usually end well. Rather, it distracts us from digging deep to discover the facts, perpetuates inharmony, and clouds the spirit of thoughtfulness that leads to progress. 

So, what if we took a different approach in such situations? What if we paused for a moment to let God, divine Truth and Love, impel how we respond to what we see and hear on a daily basis?

In thinking about this, I’ve been inspired by an account in the Gospel of Matthew. It’s a short but significant conversation between Christ Jesus and his disciples. Jesus starts by asking whom people are saying he is. The disciples reply that some say Jesus is John the Baptist or one of the long-dead prophets—none of whom Jesus actually is.

Next, Jesus asks his disciples how they identify him. The one who answers, Simon Bar-jona, gets it right: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The answer is so spot on, so spiritually astute, that Jesus acknowledges Simon’s perceptive thought by giving him a new name: Peter. Then Jesus announces, “Upon this rock”—which Christian Science explains is Christ, Truth, the true idea of God—“I will build my church” (see 16:13–18).

Well, that’s certainly encouraged me to think twice about how I respond to things. Here’s what struck me as I was reading this recently. After hearing the list of ways in which people incorrectly identified him, Jesus didn’t get caught up in those misperceptions or let them become the focus of the conversation. He probed further, dug deeper, gently leading his disciples to the core of the divine ministry of Truth that heals both sin and disease. 

Much more than willing oneself to “just get over it,” turning to God’s always-active love and guidance lifts us out of unhealthy mental states.

This Truth, or Christ—which Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy defines as “the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error” (p. 583)—is always active. Christ is here right now and forever, urging each of us to look beyond what’s swirling at the surface in a particular situation to the deep and true reality: God’s unending peace and goodness, and everyone’s real nature as the spiritual expression of the “living God,” divine Truth, limitless Love.

Brushing a problem aside, denying that it needs to be addressed, or willing oneself to “just get over it” only keeps one from discovering a solution. But turning to God’s always-active love and guidance lifts us out of unhealthy mental states and nurtures the clarity of thought that’s conducive to lasting progress. When I nurture a desire to more consistently express my true identity as the reflection of divine Love, I’ve felt emotion-driven impulsiveness dissolve, replaced by a calmness that has helped me see a more productive path.

We each have an innate receptivity to the Christ that enables us to respond to things we see and hear with levelheadedness, intelligence, and compassion. When we’re humble enough to let the Christ animate us—when we’re willing to dig all the way to the rock of Christ, Truth, rather than clinging to self-justification or frustration—then we’re letting the healing, joy-bringing Christ light in.

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