The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that aggressive debt collection tactics are under review. The demand is for a kindlier, as well as more honest, approach. At the same time, some debts have been forgiven ("Debt collection tactics under scrutiny," csmonitor.com, June 7, 2009). When a bill collection company pursues you about a financial debt that is not yours, the false accusation is hard to take. That happened to someone I know, who decided just to pay up rather than endure the aggressive tactics and take time to straighten it out.
I never thought it could happen to me, but a collection agency did wrongfully accuse me. Ultimately—through much prayer—I found the wisdom, courage, and stamina to stand for the truth. The idea that "progress is the law of God," from Mary Baker Eddy's book Science and Health, helped anchor my prayers. Here's the quotation in its entirety: "Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power. These proofs consist solely in the destruction of sin, sickness, and death by the power of Spirit, as Jesus destroyed them. This is an element of progress, and progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil" (p. 233).
In March 2009 I received a letter from a financial collection company saying that I owed a large sum of money for a telephone land-line account opened a number of years ago in my name. When I called the company to follow up, the person I spoke with couldn't tell me exactly where this phone line had been installed.
The fact that I had never lived within the area code of the delinquent phone account made the accusation seem even more bizarre. I knew that this was not legitimately my debt. And I was convinced that truth overcomes and outlives anything that is untrue.
The company insisted, however, that the delinquent account was valid and that I needed to prove it wasn't mine. I was told that that could be done by filing specific information. So I took the steps necessary and filed a dispute.
But I also prayed. I knew that my identity could never be stolen, abused, or sullied, because it was created, and therefore protected, by God.
I was sure that the information I'd provided would clear me. But when I checked on the status over a month later, I was told that my dispute had been rejected, though they had not informed me of that fact. They said that what I'd sent them was no help to my case at all. I'd sent exactly what had been requested. Further, the proof I'd given of my residence had been used to update their records on the false account. I became angry. It all felt so unjust.
Because of the aggressive manner in which I was treated, I was really tempted to feel afraid. As I prayed, however, this promise in Isaiah was comforting: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (41:10). I reasoned that with God giving me strength and upholding His righteousness, there was no need to be afraid—and that there was a solution. My fear subsided and I expected progress. I tried to get a better understanding of God as Truth—unchanging, immutable, reliable. However my circumstances appeared, the truth could never be affected or harmed by any lie.
Still they continued to insist that I owed this sum of money. It felt at times like a very personal attack. But I kept endeavoring to realize that each person involved was God's expression, just as I was.
Then I read this encouraging message to the Ephesians: "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (6:14–16). Suddenly I truly felt that everyone involved was surrounded by God's truth, protected by righteousness, and supported by peace. Because of this, no one could believe an untruth.
I stood my ground and felt fearless in insisting that I didn't owe the sum in question. It felt vital for me to trust this truth and not give in simply to be done with the matter, even when I was threatened with a bad credit rating and a mark on my integrity if I did not pay up.
I prayed more diligently each day. At one point, two Bible verses reassured me that God's help was right at hand: "He performeth the thing that is appointed for me" and "Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Job 23:14; Ps. 16:8). I saw that I didn't need to be afraid, because I could be affected only by goodness, not by a lie. As if to confirm that God's messages were all around me, I read this in that week's Christian Science Bible Lesson, "Ah Lord God! ... there is nothing too hard for thee" (Jer. 32:17). I felt more and more convinced that God's law of good alone could influence both my thinking and my experience—that progress was being made.
At that point, I really began to feel God protecting me, and to expect that His directing would show me how to be victorious. My prayers kept affirming that my identity could not be stolen or misused. I reasoned that God, our Father-Mother, provides and sustains everyone individually. God naturally meets everyone's needs; there could be no allure about, or temptation to steal, another's identity.
During that time I gathered greater spiritual strength and let go of frustration, anger, and fear. One day before calling the collection company yet again, I wrote this note to myself: "Honesty, integrity, wisdom, and compassion comprise my worth; that includes my worthiness of credit. I stand on this truth."
I knew that my identity could never be stolen, abused, or sullied, because it was created, and therefore protected, by God.
Over five different phone calls that day, I often referred to my note. As a result, I felt only patience and love, and was able to speak firmly but kindly—even when the company's representatives seemed confrontational and inflexible.
As the calls continued that day, I was treated with more and more respect. Ultimately I was told—that very day—that I was not responsible for the charge and that nothing associated with the phone number in question reflected back to me.
Two days later, in June 2009, I received a letter from the collection company confirming that the account had been closed and that I was not responsible for it; further, that the information previously reported to the credit companies would be deleted. I've since confirmed that it was.
I found it heartening to read that article in the Monitor just days after this matter was settled. The power of Truth is indisputable and must result in a blessing to one and all.
Sue Holzberlein lives in Ashby Massachusetts. She is a Christian Science practitioner.