Letting Love guide our conversations
By: Elaina Simpson, C.S.
I've found that the study of Christian Science (our prayerful study of Love, God) can help guide our conversations. How we converse with others is certainly something we can think on, in "unceasing prayer." (See SH 4:12) In the Christian Science practice, while praying with others to find healing, I've seen that people are often praying about conversations and interactions with others. People are also thinking about how to handle social anxieties. Knowing our connection with Love helps us both express love, and feel loved by God. Our conversations themselves don't fulfill us as divine Love can, but our conversations are important and can be fruitful and healing, blossoming friendships and meaningful connections.
So, what does Christian Science have to do with our conversations anyways? Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer and founder of Christian Science, actually writes a lot about our conversations. I will share one of her ideas on the matter, and it will be the theme for this evening's post. She writes: "If Truth is overcoming error in your daily walk and conversation, you can finally say, 'I have fought a good fight . . . I have kept the faith,' because you are a better man. This is having our part in the at-one-ment with Truth and Love." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 21:1–5) We can let Truth overcome error, in our daily conversation-- in big and small ways!
-Love dissolves selfishness
We can "let Truth overcome error" by replacing selfishness with selfless love. One thing I've learned from my study of Christian Science, is that when we make an effort to think unselfishly, naturally, our conversations are unselfish. Conversing unselfishly makes for great conversation and connections. For example, asking thoughtful questions is a natural outcome of selflessness, that helps us feel our natural connection with one another. It also keeps the conversation flowing in a productive and helpful way.
The desire to have more meaningful conversations might cause one to ask themselves, Is 90% of this conversation about me, or is it about the other person, or at least a mutual balance? This makes sense, as it is a more selfless approach, to balance our conversation. When our motives are pure, and when we are focused on how we can give, rather than what we can 'get' out of the conversation, it really blesses our friendships.
Mrs. Eddy writes about the importance of "Tender words and unselfish care..." (SH 59:17) This sentence is found in the chapter on marriage, but the principle of unselfishness is transferable to our entire experience. Mrs. Eddy also writes, "The best man or woman is the most unselfed."
(The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 165:28)
-Connecting through Love, not through complaints
Have you ever felt tempted to connect with someone by complaining about something? Discussing an annoying co-worker, or talking about the terrible day outside? Sometimes when we do this we are just trying to connect with someone by making conversation, but it's most helpful to remember what the Bible says, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Eph 4:29) Colossians says to "Let your speech always be gracious..." Gracious meaning pleasant. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us to "Do everything without complaining or arguing." (2:14) I've found these words to be tremendously helpful!
Sure, there will be times when one might talk out a challenging situation with a friend, mentor, or practitioner. But the question to consider is - What is my motive? Is this conversation meant to uplift thought and heal, or to complain? Although not directly related, I've found these words helpful: "Never breathe an immoral atmosphere, unless in the attempt to purify it." (SH 452:14–15)
-Love removes a temptation to gossip
This idea expands more on the last bullet point. When talking about the Christian Science Publishing Society in the Christian Science Manual, Mrs. Eddy lays out a helpful framework for our conversations, that is also applicable and helpful anywhere. She writes, "No idle gossip, no slander, no mischief-making, no evil speaking shall be allowed." (Manual of The Mother Church, 81:23) Proverbs also touches on these points, exemplifying these points, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." (31:26) I love how it mentions here that kindness is an actual "law."
In Christian Science there is an emphasis on one Mind, rather than may different conflicting minds. However, the essence of this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt (late, former First Lady of the United States) has an important message behind it about gossip: "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
-Speak with Love: Talk up, not down
Growing up, my dad would always remind my siblings and I not to talk "down" to each other, meaning to not put each other down, or belittle the other with negative comments, in a false-attempt to raise yourself up. It’s still a helpful idea. I Thess. 5:11 mentions, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up...” In addition to that idea, we can also speak to others in a way that conveys the fact that they are an intelligent idea of God. In the chapter on Christian Science Practice, Mrs. Eddy tells healers to have "pitiful patience" and "Christian encouragement." She writes, "The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love." (SH 367:3)
So how do we apply this? Here's an example that taught me a helpful lesson about leaning on Love in conversations. A neighbor of whom I've never spoken to, once called me extremely upset about something. In efforts to help the community, I had rounded up some neighbors to help with a need. This neighbor told me she had been in charge of organizing things like this, and she was not happy that I did this without her knowledge. I was not aware of her involvement in community service, nor did I know her or she know me. She felt her best efforts were wasted and was extremely angry with me on the phone. The conversation was filled with false assumptions, harsh criticisms, and belittling comments. At one point her raised voice made me want to hang up the phone and not allow this to continue. But in this instance, I decided I'd pray to find something to do to "purify" the atmosphere.
It was tempting to feel completely offended by the complaints, but instead, I could pray. The woman suddenly mentioned her sister used to do a similar type of community work with her, and she was saying they did this for years. (Although I can't say for sure, it seemed like this was a belittling comment, saying they knew what they were doing with the community work, and I didn't. I prayed. I found myself saying, "That was nice of you all to do this for the community. You had fun with your sister...Sounds like you both were close?" Then she said, "She was my best friend. I don't know why I'm telling you this, but I cared for my sister for many years and she passed on a few years ago. I've never been able to get over it." Just then, the entire tone of the once heated conversation, completely turned into another conversation. Prayer had turned my seeming selfish, “Does this person treat everyone this way? I'm offended!” thoughts, to a genuine and selfless desire to learn more about her. This redirected the entire conversation.
Well my view of this neighbor was shifting, and I asked her to tell me a little bit more about her sister and what she loved about her. We got into an uplifting conversation, and I was able to share some ideas with her. By the end of the call, she said, "Thank you and I hope you can take on this community role when I rotate off, and I’ll have to invite you over sometime." This situation was a blessing to me, as I learned so much about the importance of turning to God’s Love and allowing that to guide our conversations.
Have a great evening!
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