It is the time of year for New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you want to lose weight, de-clutter your home, get more sleep, spend less money, exercise more, be more patient or less critical. This is good, and I hope this blog post furthers your goals with some practical ways to think about achieving them.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, talks about two different ways of arriving at the perfection we desire. As shorthand, I have dubbed these two approaches as “up to perfection,” and “out from perfection.” The first method is what most of us think of – the path full of the examination of shortcomings and the slogging effort of removing them. The other is an enlightened spiritual view that also can bring about radical change.
On the one hand, Mary Baker Eddy says in her bestselling book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that “self-immolation” is required on the sinner’s part. Immolation is a word we don’t often use today, but it means the act of sacrificing something for a better concept. This is what is needed in so many of our resolutions.
For example, to embrace being thinner we need to give up inactivity or gluttony. In order to take something new in our hands, we often need to let go of what we are clutching with them. An honest self-assessment is a necessary step toward change and a willingness to let go of familiar behavior is also required.
But after that, many people try gutting it through with human will. This often fails, because the new territory is unfamiliar and therefore difficult or scary, and it also feels like beating oneself up all the time is necessary to keep toeing the line. This is where Christian Science offers an alternate approach by discouraging the use of human will.
Christian Science takes very seriously the first chapter of Genesis, where God made us in “his image and likeness” and made us “very good.” Is God overweight, exhausted, in debt, or slothfully living in chaos? No! As His image and likeness, we reflect and express God, and since God is perfect, spiritually we must be as well.
We just usually don’t see our innate spiritual perfection since we’ve superimposed so many flaws over the way God made us. Mary Baker Eddy says, “The way to extract error… is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love.” You can work at scrubbing that moldy cup, or you can pour clean water in it until the junk flows out the top. The clean water she wants us to pour into ourselves is the idea of this original spiritual perfection that we reflect from God.
This feels very different from getting down on yourself enough to change, and it banishes the need for that often unsuccessful human will approach. What you are working to accomplish in your New Year’s resolution is actually natural and has been part of you all along. It is already there; it was just dormant or latent, needing to be awakened.
This resolution business then becomes an exciting process instead of a demoralizing one. “We must look where we would walk, and we must act as possessing all power from Him in whom we have our being,” Mary Baker Eddy writes. Note we are not “acting as if” we have that power, we already are truly endowed with it.
So to be successful with your resolution, start seeing how incredibly wonderful you are because God made you – and maintains you – that way. Be who you need to be (even if you haven’t been that yet) simply because God made you to be that way. How freeing!
Move out into this New Year from that refreshing standpoint. Act on your resolutions from the spiritual fact looking forward, instead of looking back on human shortcomings and trying to fix them. You’ll be much more successful this way.
Jesus commanded us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We can do this, not because we are anything of ourselves, but because God made us as His flawless reflection. So this year, don’t just try to struggle your way up to perfection, try working out from it instead!
(Reposted from a newspaper article by Polly Castor in 2010: see here.)