Question: “What have other churches used to help members learn how to use words that heal rather than words that hurt one another?”
Response 1: Lois Carlson
The cruelty that gets spoken among church members is so bizarre, it cannot be the reality of our relationship with each other! This beautiful religion that cultivates a hunger for the Word of God, a mental independence from the world and a devotion to prayer and study, cannot be used as an excuse for a disconnect from our fellow Christian Scientists—the very group that has been appointed to us to support our courageous stands for spiritual progress and healing.
None of us has been created in isolation. The Christianity demanded of us, obeying the Two Great Commandments of Jesus (Matthew 22), requires that the profound love we experience with God overflow to our love for others. How good to know that Christ is among us, helping us to move past the things that would keep us apart.
Our coming together in church is premised on the fact that the Christ is working in each of us, forwarding our salvation, tempering our characters and healing whatever needs healing. And because our relationships in church are the overflow of Christ working, we need to be especially alert when we come together before and after church services, during business meetings and other committee work to know that Christ is partnering with us.
My branch church had a two year prayer project of “Seeing Christ in One Another”, and I saw the fruits of it in terms of my own correction. At a business meeting, I spoke carelessly in response to a committee report. There was nothing wrong with the report; in fact it was quite inspiring, but I was eager to get home and the meeting already felt too long. I could tell that the committee members were very confused by my response, and before I left, I went over to speak to the committee chair and apologized. She did give me a just rebuke, but very quickly smiled affectionately and said, “It’s okay; it’s already forgiven.”
Afterwards I was tempted to ruminate over the rebuke, but I kept remembering her wordsof forgiveness. She is someone who has always expressed such an appreciation for everyone’s service at church, and I value what she gives as well. At the next business meeting, the love between us just drew me to sit next to her. I gave an apology for my mistake at the last meeting to those gathered and acknowledged her example of forgiveness.
What I saw in this experience was the power of forgiving quickly when someone speaks something that hurts. Sometimes the tendency of the human mind is to make forgiveness very hard to do. But really it is a simple acknowledgement that even though we may see things from different perspectives, we really want to preserve our relationship to each other. Mental malpractice cannot exaggerate the importance of any one issue in church to overshadow our friendships with fellow Christian Scientists.
The business of the church is not the real basis of relationship among the members. The real basis is the shared willingness to welcome Christ working in our hearts. Our Christly salvation means giving up the belief of having an ego, will, and mind of our own, to find our identity in Christ. The very selfhood that feels hurt, self-justifying, self-asserting and careless, is the selfhood that is yielding to our infinite perfection as children of God.
This does not justify speaking unkindly as I did, but it does assure us that any weapons of evil that try to disconnect us as a church family can be proved powerless in a ready spirit of forgiveness.
Response 2: Elizabeth Kellogg
Ideally, we are all turning to the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy to learn how to be better Christians. Let’s look at this question in two ways. First, with a desire to speak words that heal.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) is always helpful to study because it has a way of softening human opinion and revealing our innately generous Godlike nature. When we are willing to give more respect to others and take less offense at their mistakes, we will find ourselves speaking helpful, not hurtful words. The Sermon raises questions that help us to examine our thinking before we open our mouths.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6). Am I hungry to know God’s will or am I already full of personal opinions?
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee…” Am I willing to consider new perspectives? “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee…” (Matthew 5:29). Do I think that I am morally right about an issue and therefore have the so-called “upper hand”? If so, how willing am I to abandon the position?
“For if ye love them which love you,...if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?” (Matthew 5:46). Am I taking sides on an issue and ignoring all other sides?
“When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance…” (Matthew 6:16). Am I moping around or withholding affection, until someone else changes, or am I getting on with worshipping God?
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them…” (Matthew 7:12). Am I speaking to others the way I want them to speak to me?
Considering the other side of this question: how can we avoid feeling hurt by another’s words? Mary Baker Eddy wrote two articles that answer this question beautifully. The first is “Taking Offense” (Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 223-224). It teaches that to be upset about what we perceive to be the faults of others is “superlative folly.” Like the Sermon on the Mount, it also calls us to examine our thinking and let go of pride, self-will and egotism. “It is our pride that makes another’s criticism rankle, our self-will that makes another’s deed offensive, our egotism that feels hurt by another’s self-assertion” (224:2).
The other article is “Love Your Enemies” (Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 8-13). This article is so empowering because it affirms again and again that we are never victims of another’s opinion. No one can stop us from being Godlike, from being loving, joyful, unselfish and kind. As we are wholly dedicated to loving God, Good, we won’t feel hurt nor will we be able to hurt!