Good, bad, or somewhere in between?
Watch just a few of my friend’s Instagram stories and you’ll quickly pick up on the theme of her content: “horrible people being horrible.” From politicians to fellow patrons in the grocery store, she regularly features people behaving badly—sometimes for laughs, but often for criticism.
There’s an assumption with her posts that some people are just awful. But what do you believe? Is the unkindness, rudeness, or cruelty we see in the world just the way some people are, and the kindness, mercy, and compassion we see in others the result of a better upbringing, or better DNA?
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned from my study of Christian Science is that each one of us is fundamentally and genuinely good. And yet, when you look at the people around you, it sure seems like there’s a whole range: that some are good, some are bad, and others are somewhere between. So how can Christian Science say something like that—that each individual is created good and must always be good?
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned from my study of Christian Science is that each one of us is fundamentally good.
This is where the wonderful spiritual logic of Christian Science comes in. What Mary Baker Eddy discovered through her own Bible study and prayers, and through putting the spiritual insights she gained into practice in her life, is that God is good itself, with no evil mixed in. And what that means for us is that in reality, each individual must also be the pure manifestation of good, because, as Mrs. Eddy explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Man is the expression of God’s being” (p. 470).
Think of that. We are the actual outcome of what God is! Each of us is proof of His intelligence, grace, mercy, and love.
That’s a pretty awesome view of our identity as God’s spiritual creation. But what about the stories on my friend’s Instagram account, or the negative stuff we see in the hallways of our school or in our government? What are we supposed to make of these very contradictory views of what we all are?
I want to be really clear here that having this foundational view of God as totally good, and of each individual as really and truly good, doesn’t mean making excuses for awful behavior or giving anyone a free pass. Knowing everyone’s identity as genuinely good means we have to expect to see people’s thoughts, words, and actions conforming to this goodness. We aren’t covering our eyes and pretending everything’s OK, while people continue to act in ways that aren’t in line with the way God created them.
So our job as healers is to help others wake up to their innate goodness. To see that this goodness is the only thing that could possibly be true about them. We do this by being very clear about this beautiful spiritual logic given in Science and Health: “God is the creator of man, and, the divine Principle of man remaining perfect, the divine idea or reflection, man, remains perfect” (p. 470). We can hold fast to this view of each individual, no matter what we see on the surface. We can stick with God’s truth about His creation, because that truth is like a light—destroying the darkness of bad character traits, or anything else that doesn’t match up with those fundamental spiritual facts about God and His expression.
I’ll admit that it’s not always easy. Recently, I had a run-in with someone who was acting like a bully and making my life very difficult. It felt like it would have been a lot easier to look at her behavior and just buy into the suggestion that she wasn’t a very good person. But instead, those spiritual facts about the way God created each of us came to my rescue. As I thought about her one day, it was like God said to me, “That just couldn’t be the way I made her.”
If each of us could take this understanding of the way God made us into our day-to-day interactions, think of all the goodness we could uncover.
It sounds so simple, but you know the feeling you get when you hear something that’s true? That’s the feeling I had. Almost like an “Oh, yeah!” My view of this person immediately changed, and I accepted that she was good. And all that other stuff I’d been seeing? I understood that it was nothing more than a mistaken view—which no longer had any power, now that I’d taken to heart what God was telling me about her.
And guess what? Our relationship changed. I wasn’t intimidated by her anymore, and her behavior was very different. We even became friendly with each other, which hadn’t seemed possible before.
It’s a small example, sure, but it’s one that gives me hope for the world. If each of us could take this understanding of the way God made us into our day-to-day interactions, think of all the goodness we could uncover among our fellow students, teammates, and the people in our communities and churches. And these small proofs of each individual’s real identity would also be building blocks for us going forward—helping us become the kind of healers who can bring out that goodness where it’s needed the most.