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The truth about opinions

From the May 13, 2019 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Do people’s opinions have power over us? It might seem as though what others think of us can determine our prospects—our ability to make a contribution, to move forward, even to succeed. If people think well of us, no problem. But if they don’t, what then?

I had to face these questions head-on years ago as a student when I transferred from a small community college to a large university. I was preparing to become a teacher for kindergarten through primary school, and the heads of the primary education department were also my new advisors, the overseers for my student teaching assignment, and the teachers of my education procedures class. It seemed that my future opportunities hinged on their opinion of me, so I worked very hard to make a good impression.

But in spite of my best efforts, these two professors told me they considered my academic background inadequate and my scholastic record and student teaching performance mediocre. I was concerned that their negative opinion might sabotage my prospects for graduating with my class.

As a student in the Christian Science Sunday School, I’d grown to understand that my identity isn’t defined by personal assessments of my strengths and weaknesses or even by a well-cultivated set of skills. Instead, my true identity is based in God—I am spiritual, reflecting all the wonderful, spiritual qualities of the infinite God, good. I began praying along these lines, affirming that I am the intelligent, loving, and beloved spiritual representative of God. 

I was hoping my professors would see the light and change their view of me. However, when I learned that other students in my department had dropped out because they, too, felt discriminated against, I began to wonder if I should change my major. 

After struggling with discouragement and doubt, I decided to call a Christian Science practitioner for prayerful help. I explained my situation, adding that when these professors changed their opinion of me, all would be well. 

Imagine my surprise when the practitioner asked, “How would that heal the situation, when it is you who need to change your opinion of them?” 

I suddenly saw my mistake. While I’d been feeling burdened by my professors’ negative opinions of me, I was clearly also holding a negative view of them—a view that might have seemed justified, but was still an opinion, because it wasn’t based in God. What I needed to do was rise above personal opinions and accept only divine Love’s view—of me, these professors, everyone. 

The practitioner reminded me that God is the only power and governs His entire creation in perfect harmony. She assured me that progress would come as I let go of my belief that my professors—or anything other than God—had control over my life. She agreed to pray with me, and I trusted that God would show me how my view of my professors could be redeemed.

I was hoping my professors would see the light and change their view of me. 

I took comfort in a statement Mary Baker Eddy makes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The one Mind, God, contains no mortal opinions. All that is real is included in this immortal Mind” (p. 399). Looking to divine Mind as the true source of all thoughts, I could see that I needed to eliminate my personal opinions about my professors and identify them the same way I identified myself—as intelligent, loving, and lovable spiritual representatives of God. I prayerfully affirmed that there was nothing that could convince me that they were less than children of God. 

I thought about Christ Jesus and how he responded to false opinions others held about him. Jesus was so clear on his God-given identity and purpose that he was able to rise above others’ negativity and hatred, love others as God loved them, and fulfill his healing mission for humanity. 

I saw the need to follow Jesus’ instruction to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). It is difficult to love someone when you feel they have the power to stand in the way of your progress, so I prayed diligently to understand that Love alone was expressing itself in both my professors and me and that nothing could thwart God’s, Love’s, purpose for me.

The day I completed my student teaching and was ready to turn in my paperwork for the semester, I was in an auto accident. Another driver attempted to squeeze between my car and the one ahead of me, forcing me onto the median strip. My small car rolled over several times, and both doors were torn off. 

No one was injured, but papers from my three notebooks were scattered across all lanes of the freeway. Traffic on both sides of the road stopped because of all the airborne papers, and many drivers got out of their cars and began picking the papers up for me. A few pages had tire impressions on them, but amazingly, every one was retrieved—an outcome definitely in line with the prayerful work I’d been doing.

Although I told no one on campus about the accident, the two professors found out and offered their assistance. I really appreciated their compassion, which I saw as evidence of God’s love—the same love I’d been endeavoring to see in them as expressions of God. I was gradually gaining a deeper conviction that the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting divine Mind was in control of us all—and that understanding this really was enough. As a result, I was able to go about my work with more peace, worrying less about what my professors were thinking of me. 

Once we let go of the belief that anything other than God governs our experience, the supposed power of mortal opinions drops away.

Soon I was offered an opportunity to assist a college professor on another campus. I did well in the teaching assignment, and she wrote a letter to my professors praising my teaching skills. For the first time, they seemed receptive to a positive assessment of me, and it wasn’t long before their old opinions faded away. At the beginning of the next semester, all three professors were instrumental in the approval of my membership in an honorary teaching organization.

I went on to have a successful career in education—first as a kindergarten through primary teacher, and later as a master teacher, training students from several colleges and universities to become teachers. I also had my own school for more than twenty years. The spiritual lessons I learned during my university experience have stayed with me as a vivid reminder that no matter what the circumstances, no negative opinion can have control over me when I trust God with all my heart. 

If another’s view of us seems to be having a negative impact on our life, it’s tempting to believe that this person has the power to harm our prospects. But the truth is, once we let go of the belief that anything other than God governs our experience, the supposed power of mortal opinions drops away.

God, divine Love, defines our individuality and provides unlimited opportunities for expressing our talents. Recognizing the supremacy of this law of Love unshackles us, allowing us to soar.

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