Chapter 9 — Self-Expression
We hear often enough that education is the bringing out of the pupil’s ideas—inducing him to express himself or, better, leading him to let the Spirit of truth within him express itself through him. I hear that my work in life is to express God; to let God express Himself through me. I believe that, and I try to act upon it because I accept the idea that this power, in which I live and move and have my being is God. Certainly this is the power I call God. So God’s attitude toward me is that of trying to induce me to express Him. As I try to express His attributes, love, truth, life, wisdom, power, I invite God Himself to express Himself through me.
Perhaps this idea will be clearer if we state it in another way. It occurs to me that the greatest happiness, yes, the keenest pleasure—if pleasure is what I want—is this expression of my self. God gives me that pleasure by inducing me to express myself. I learn tremendously as I endeavor to express myself; I become astonishingly happy; I find myself irresistibly attracted to God, because He lets me express myself. And these things being perfectly obvious to me, it becomes suddenly obvious, too, that God’s method is a singularly good one; that if He gives me education, delight, pleasure, by leading me to express myself, I shall be expressing Him still further and still better if I adopt His method with any one whom I want to help. Instead of laying down laws, preaching, arguing, why do I not try to induce my friend, my pupil, my wife, my child, to express himself? Why not try to help him bring out his own ideas and make them appear to him to be his own discovery, his very own? As a matter of fact, they will be, must be of his own thinking if they are ever to be his at all. I can only induce him to work the mine that is in his own heart and to find the treasure that already belongs to him.
How intensely practical is this method in everyday affairs! It is said that the way to become popular is to become a good listener. What is a good listener? A good listener is one who induces another to express himself, is he not? The road to popularity! Not a high goal, you say, popularity? Why not? To be truly popular is to be loved. If you love, you cannot avoid a return in kind. If you would have influence, you must in a sense be popular. So this method of God’s is a road to popularity with my friend, with my wife, and with my child, with my pupil, with my boss, with my customer, with myself! A chance for self-expression is the chief delight of man’s existence, and every one of us recognizes that fact in one way or another. We yearn to express ourselves, and we insist on expressing ourselves in various ways, from the low forms of garrulity, strutting, and posing, to the high forms of uttering great truths in science, in art, and in other ways. Perhaps the highest form of self-expression may be the inducing of another to express his true self. After all, maybe I accomplish that when I express the highest Truth that I find within myself.
Suppose I am a sculptor and make a wonderful statue that expresses the everlasting truth that is in beauty. I thereby induce every one who sees my work with appreciation to express, in his very appreciation, something of that same truth, do I not? I am a sculptor, carving a statue of character to express all that I can of the truth of God’s infinite beauty. My very purpose in carving the statue must be to express God so that others will express Him in their appreciation. That sounds like a bold statement, but look at it in the light of Jesus’ command “Let your light shine.” Of course my purpose is to win appreciation not for my little “lower-case” self, but for the true beauty that I express.
The successful teacher is he or she who leads the pupil to express the self within. A teacher becomes great in proportion as he leads his pupil to the greatest self-expression. Education is the bringing out of the pupil’s powers.
Sometimes we hear people say, “I’m going to teach that fellow a lesson,” implying that the intention is to make the lesson a bitter one. If such an idea occurs to me, I should do well to stop and consider whether the lesson is really one that I wish to teach. If it is, the only way to teach it is to bring out in that person the power to grasp the idea that I want him to grasp. I cannot bring the idea home to his mind by any other process.
And when I wish to teach another a lesson it might be well for me to stop and make sure that I know the lesson myself. A lesson in justice cannot be taught by injustice; a lesson in mercy cannot be taught by cruelty; a lesson in humility cannot be taught by arrogance! A good lesson cannot be taught by a method that is not good; it cannot be taught if the teaching is accompanied with any emotion or feeling that is not good. Good can be conveyed only lovingly, and love teaches no one a lesson with intent to make it bitter.
By the same token, God, who is love, will teach me no lesson with intent to make it bitter. God tries to induce me to express Him and to look for His expression in everybody and in everything. Where I look for God, I find Him.
Expressing God,that is my whole work in life. What is expressing God? It is letting His attributes, life, love, wisdom, power, Truth, flow through me into the visible. I am eager that God should express Himself through me as health and prosperity. Then all I have to do is to let Him express Himself as love and Truth. For God is not a group of separate attributes: He is one, all His attributes a perfect whole, inseparable, and I cannot let one attribute flow through me to expression without allowing the others to be manifested also. If I let love and Truth seep through me, health and prosperity will seep with them; if I let love and Truth gush through an unblocked channel, health and prosperity will gush with them. God Himself cannot send part of His attributes through me; He must send all or none. I cannot express Truth without expressing wisdom. If I would be well, I have but to serve and to be kind and true. If I express any attribute of God perfectly, the other attributes will be expressed proportionately.
So, if it is the way of God to induce me, to encourage me to express Him, how better can I express Him than by adopting His way and encouraging expression in everybody with whom I come in contact? And if I help others to express God, the instant result is that God expresses Himself again through them to me.
If I want God to speak through my mouth, I must first let Him think through my intelligence. If I will let Him, God will speak for me, think for me, decide for me, act for me, pray for me. The only real speaking, thinking, deciding, living, praying, is God’s, because the only life, love, wisdom, power in me to do any of these things is God in me. Let Him? Why, all I have to do is to look inside instead of outside for everything.
It is men’s feeling that supply is uncertain that makes them grasping. A sense of God’s abundant provision of everything needed for each one of His creatures, and a realization that all His creatures’ interests are common interests makes grasping not only unnecessary, but clearly absurd.
The path to all my good is through recognition of the omnipresence of God, the good.
If I fail to see good everywhere, in everything, all the time, I shall certainly not realize good in all my affairs. Good—God—only is for me where I recognize it—or Him.
We have talked about expression; it has often been said that we know God only by expressing Him. How true this is no one can realize till he begins trying to express God consciously. Of course, I express God unconsciously continually, because “in him we live, and move, and have our being.” But consciously expressing Him in one way leads me to a consciousness of His expression through me in other ways. If I consciously express love, I become aware that love is wisdom, and that I am expressing wisdom when I express love. Presently I come to see that by expressing love and wisdom I find power. And suddenly I become conscious that the expression of love, wisdom, and power is the expression of life. I see that these so-called attributes of God are inseparable, even if I do not see that they are synonymous. As I go on in my conscious experience, I shall find constantly growing a consciousness that they are synonymous.
Now, as I express the attributes of God, I begin to be aware of the same attributes “expressing back” to me. I cannot be kind to a dog that he does not give me his friendship. I cannot care for a flower that it does not bloom more richly for me. I cannot deal truthfully with men that they do not begin to reciprocate by dealing honestly with me. I cannot turn a friendly face to the world that the world does not begin to be friendly to me. And suddenly again I realize that these attributes of God are elsewhere besides in me. As I deal with natural laws, I find that when I obey them they always work for my good. As I deal with mathematics, I find that if I abide by the principles, the result is always perfect. Presently I begin to see that good—God—is everywhere, in everything to which I turn in the right spirit.
What is the right spirit? Why, this spirit of giving out what I want to receive. Expressing! Expressing the divine attributes to the glory of God.
Every experience in life sooner or later is resolved into terms through which this principle becomes visible as its basis. So, when I reach this point, I find that if I want to realize the omnipresence of God—the realization that is my salvation and my heaven—I have only to make God omnipresent in everything I give out, everything I do, say, think. That will prove God’s omnipresence to me immediately.
Stated in another way, it sounds startling. I have something to do with making God omnipresent! God cannot be omnipresent without me! I have everything to do with making God omnipresent for me.
“What?” you exclaim. “Do you control God?”
Why yes, in degree. I am God in expression-I am that spark of God which is expressing itself in me, which is individualized in me. I find God coming back to me in every return expression that my giving brings to me! Do you doubt that, O timid one, who cringes and whimpers before the idea of a God of terror who stands apart from you, outside of you, awaiting an opportunity to smite you for daring to take Him at His word? Then let us go back and read the Bible in which the truth is unmistakably told us; and realize again that it is truths like this about you and me that make the Bible true, and that it is not the fact that they are in the Bible that makes them true!
Startling thoughts, indeed! But they have brought us to the great fundamental truth of being. I am one with God, I am a spark of the divine, the same as God—His son, His heir. I am not separate from God. All that God is, I am; all that God has, I have! In limited degree? you insist. Yes; but I see no limit. I shall never see a limit.
But see what a marvelous law this is, this simple little law of giving and receiving! I am perfectly sure that all I have to do is to begin living by it, and it will lift me to the heights, bodily, mentally, spiritually! It will give me wings! It will transfigure and translate me! See how marvelously wise was that simple man of Nazareth when He said so simply that what we want to have done to us we have only to do to others! That was no moral epigram; it was a statement of law! How our realization of the wondrous beauties of the law of life, of the universe, expands as we come into this understanding.
This is heaven. Heaven is where God is. Who is God? God is intelligence, Truth, life, love. Wherever we find God—good—is heaven. When I find God everywhere, heaven is every-where for me. But one of the little understood phases of Truth is that if I persist in finding God—good—in things nearest me, I shall begin to see Him in widening circles. It’s like starting a fire in the grass, here at my feet. It will spread and grow with ever-increasing speed and power—and light!
Sometimes people who do not see this vision call people who do see it fanatics. I have done so. But a fanatic is one who grows enthusiastic over something he sees—that is, as he is observed from the standpoint of one who does not see. Looking through a telescope I become enraptured with the beauty of the stars. Or looking through the microscope I become enthralled by the wonders of cells. To one who does not look through or understand my instrument, I am a fanatic. Observing merely my reactions, he easily calls me an insane fool, which is what he means when he calls me a fanatic. And looking through the lens of spiritual vision, and seeing God omnipresent—oh, yes, in the stars and in the cells alike! In my self and in you!—I grow fanatical in the eyes of my neighbor who is ignorant of the lens, or ignores it! God help him! But is there anything surprising or unnatural about it? You don’t blame a miner for shouting in mad delight when he discovers gold. Well, why shouldn’t I be fanatically joyous when I look into heaven?
What is heaven? The sum total of perfection—whatever you like! Wouldn’t you be a fanatic?
Would you like to find it, too? Well, begin looking for the omnipresence of God; looking first to see His presence in all that you say, do, or think—in what you give out. Just do unto others as you want them to do to you. It is just as simple as that!
Of course God is omnipresent; I merely become aware of it!