ONE DAY MY husband and I were looking at some new commemorative postage stamps with four different Indian masks. One had a grayish green face that resembled a skull more than a human countenance. Scraggly pieces of wire served for hair, and there were funny holes where the eyes should be.
Looking at the picture on the postage stamp, I commented, “He’s not very pretty, is he?”
My husband replied, “He’s smiling!”
Sure enough, when I looked at the mask again, I realized that it was smiling. After that, whenever I came across one of those stamps, I had to smile, because I saw the funny green mask as a smiley face, with shiny little shells or beads for teeth. As I thought about it, I wondered what happy celebration had inspired one of the Tlingit Indians to come up with this pleasant little fellow.
How easy it is to change our opinion when we see the smile instead of the ugliness! And how much stress could be avoided in our lives if we would simply look for the good in others, instead of concentrating on the unpleasant memories or even cultural and racial differences. The simple discovery, “He’s smiling!”, makes all the difference. And even when the other person isn’t smiling in a literal sense, there is a Spirit within him that always smiles — the living Christ, the image and likeness of God implanted within every person. The secret of happy, harmonious stressless human relationships lies in going behind the outer evidence to the reality of the God self even in the person who is doing something terribly wrong.
This doesn’t mean that we are to allow others to take advantage of us in order to live in harmony. But it does mean that, regardless of appearance, the good in others will always shine through when we have geared ourselves to see it.
It may seem easy to look at the funny mask and say, “He’s smiling!” Certainly it will be much more difficult to meet a person who seemingly hurt us and say, silently and with an inward smile, “You are a good person. Deep down I know that you have within you the living image of God. I behold the Christ is you!” But this is what we must learn to do if we would employ spiritual methods for dealing with stressful situations in our relationships with others. Maybe we don’t like the contentious, arrogant person that we see, but, looking past outer appearances, we have to love the child of God deep down inside.
Certainly this was a technique perfected by Jesus of Nazareth, one of the greatest human relations experts of all time.
He was the master of every situation involving other people. (Even the crucifixion could not have taken place without His consent.) Sometimes He took a bold stand. And on other occasions we can imagine Him smiling as He healed someone in need of His blessing.
On one occasion Jesus was teaching on the portico of the temple, as He sometimes did when He was in Jerusalem. He was surrounded by people who had come to hear His message, and the scribes and Pharisees chose this time to test Him. They brought a woman who had been taken in the act of adultery and asked Jesus’ opinion.
“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” (John 8:4,5 RSV Margin)
Jesus, with His great understanding of human nature, saw how they were seeking to trap Him. If He agreed that she should be stoned, He would be usurping the Roman authority, because only the Roman leaders could condemn a person to death at that time. On the other hand, if He said that she should not be stoned, He would not be upholding the Mosaic law. The law of Moses was important to the Jewish people, even though it was no longer enforced. Jesus knew that the scribes and Pharisees cared nothing about the woman. They were simply using her to test Him. However, he didn’t respond with counter accusations.
Instead, he bent down and started to write with his finger on the ground. As He made no reply, the stress fell on the accusers, those who were seeking to discredit him, and they began to push what they felt was their advantage. But when Jesus arose, He made the situation even more stressful for them by advising, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7 RSV Margin) Then, not at all interested in causing them embarrassment, He simply stooped down and again wrote with his finger on the ground until they had all left.
When all were gone, Jesus looked up at the woman and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 RSV Margin)
She replied, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 RSV Margin) Jesus then spoke those well-known words of release and forgiveness, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:11 RSV Margin)
Jesus did not condemn the woman for her error. Neither did He condemn the scribes and Pharisees for their action. He didn’t gloat over His victory as the human part of us might. Rather, He handled all the human relationships in a peaceful, harmonious state of mind and worked out what was best for all concerned in the situation. Then He went back to the business of teaching.
As we read this story today, it is easy for us to think of the scribes and Pharisees as the villians, Jesus as the hero and the woman as a pawn in some game they were playing. But we can’t imagine that Jesus saw the incident in this way at all.
Actually, there were many people in authority in those days who felt that Jesus was leading the people astray. Perhaps they were seeking to trap Him for the purpose of discrediting this teaching which they felt was harmful to the masses.
In every case where there is pressure and conflict, there are differences of opinion. In many cases people do the wrong things for the right reasons or the right things for the wrong reasons. But who is to judge which is right and which is wrong? It is significant that Jesus judged neither the woman nor the scribes and Pharisees. They judged themselves.
It was during this period that Jesus gave the teaching, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with the right judgment.” (John 7:24 RSV)
And so we must learn, by studying and following Jesus’ example, how to judge rightly, according to the God standard, rather than by the human standards of personal opinion. “Right judgment” will always relate to the divine potential in each person, not to the human limitations that are expressed.
We can remove much of the stress from our relationships with other people by learning to follow Jesus’ techniques.
Refuse to let others determine your reaction.
Any time that we become angry because of something someone has done, or embarrassed because of something someone has said, or hurt because of something someone hasn’t done, we are giving to others the power to determine our reactions to life.
No one can make us angry. Neither can anyone cause us embarrassment or hurt our feelings. We may choose to let the other person’s action cause us to react, but that is our choice. And when we become aware that we are giving others the power to determine our thoughts and feelings, we can choose to refuse to allow the wrongs perpetrated by others to ruffle our feathers or cause a build-up of stress in our lives.
Jesus neither expressed anger toward the scribes and Pharisees nor condemned the woman. He quietly allowed the situation to settle down and then handled it in the way that was right for all concerned.
Many times our problems with other people are the result of hurriedly reacting to what they have said or done, instead of quietly letting the strong feeling subside, while we sift the sands of our own inner being, listening to the voice of Spirit within us until we come up with the right answer. How much stress could be avoided simply by remembering that we do not have to react quickly or strongly to others! In our own innate divinity, we have the power to choose, and we can choose peace, harmony and wisdom.
Jesus did not allow the Jewish leaders to take advantage of Him. He did not give in to their demands. Neither did He allow them to disturb His peace and poise. He simply handled each situation as it arose, from the center of spiritual guidance within Him. The Christ in Him was in charge. And we can let the Christ in us take charge in our dealings with others as well.
No one can draw us into an argument. If we refuse to argue, the other will have such hard going that, sooner or later, he will have to give it up.
Try it sometime. Smile and change the subject. Or assure the other person that he is entitled to his opinion. And then spend your time and energy on better things than argument.
A woman laughed when she received a bill from a credit company for $0.00. She stopped laughing, however, when she continued to receive unpleasant letters insisting that she pay the amount due. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t seem to get through to the computer that she didn’t owe any money.
Finally, in praying about it, she received her guidance. She sent a check for $0.00.. That settled the matter, and she never heard again.
There may be a simple solution to the situation, or it may be necessary to change our attitude about it.
Much stress may be caused by our determination to change other people, our reaction to the wrongs that we see in their lives. With the best of intentions, we may be determined to help another person whether he wants our help or not. It can be very frustrating to find that another doesn’t feel the need of our assistance in solving his problems or changing his habits.
At such times we can avoid the strain and conflict by remembering the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (II Cor. 3:17 RSV)
It is our desire to be free to follow our own inner guidance, and we must leave others free to do the same, even when we do not feel that they are listening to the Christ. We can pray for them, beholding the God self there, regardless of their actions, and sometimes this is the very best way that we can help them.
Jesus didn’t judge the scribes and Pharisees. He left them free to judge themselves, undoubtedly remembering that, in the long run, each one must find God in his own way.
We don’t have to allow others to determine our reactions — any rime, anywhere or for any reason.
See the Christ, not the error.
Especially when we are personally affected by the adverse words or actions of another, it is very difficult to see the good in the other person. It becomes easier when we first realize that no one has any power over our life — except the power that we give them. We give them that power by reacting to the wrong that is done. We withdraw the power by looking to the activity of God in and through us, in and through the other person and in and through the whole situation.
It is surprising how often we may find that another has done us a favor when at first it may seem that harm was intended. When we bring God into any situation, we will find the blessing in it!
Jesus seems to have had a very special talent for calling forth the good in others. He did it not by pointing out their errors, or by reacting to the wrongs, but by continuing to see the God potentiality in each one. And so can we.
In the case of the woman taken in adultery, Jesus didn’t see the error. Rather, He forgave it. But He did see the divine potentiality in her. He also loved and blessed others, even when He was aware of their shortcomings. Had He not been able to look past appearances, He could not have been the channel for so many healings and demonstrations of spiritual power.
Looking past the error does not mean that we condone the wrong, but it does imply that, regardless of appearances, we know that God lives in each and every person as the higher self, the divine activity that is always present, waiting to be called into expression. Sometimes our faith in the good in another person is all that is needed to call it into expression. A person who is suspicious and difficult in dealing with most people may become gentle and giving in dealing with one who loves him and believes in his innate goodness. In transacting business with other people we will find that it is to our advantage to concentrate on the good, or God, in them. If there is competition and confrontation, we will experience frequent stress and strained relations, but when we learn to bless others with the realization that God is within them, and carry on our work with the desire to bless all, we will find that we don’t have to compete on the human level.
If we do not make a particular sale, it doesn’t really matter — if we have kept our peace and looked to God for our supply.
A friend who is in the investment business told of spending a great deal of time with a couple who never actually transacted any business with him. He was working with Truth principles and simply gave service without thought of return. And nothing was lost.
The same couple later referred customers to him who became some of his biggest investors. In the long run, working for God and beholding the good in others as we serve in love pays greater dividends than any of the high-powered methods that prevail so much in the business world today.
Looking to the God self regardless of outer appearances pays dividends in family relationships as well as in any area of life and living.
Release others to their own good.
How much tension, strain and anxiety we cause ourselves by holding on to other people!
A mother refuses to release her son, even though he is grown, married and raising his own children. A woman involved in a divorce is determined to “get even” with the former mate. An executive is so determined to control the lives of his employees that he dictates even the type of car they must drive. A lover refuses to marry his sweetheart, but jealously tries to keep her from dating other men. The list goes on and on. And with it the stress rises higher and higher.
There is a saying that beautifully analyzes the freedom that is so important in developing happy, fulfilling, stress-free relationships. “If you want to find out whether something is truly yours, let it go. If it comes back, it is yours to keep. If it doesn’t, it never was yours to begin with.”
How true this is in human relationships! Many times, the harder we try to hold on to someone, the more they struggle to be free. By freeing them, we let them make the decision. And if they belong in our lives, they will be there by choice, not by force.
The time comes when we must hold our children with “open hands”, or we will cause ourselves and them much stress and unhappiness. Just freeing them to live their own lives may bring them closer.
Divorce is always a difficult time for the individuals involved, and it is made even more stressful when one partner refuses to let go. Again, it is not possible to hold someone against his will without creating antagonism and hard feelings. Is it worth it? This is a question that we must consider at any time that we are in the process of breaking up relationships. Holding on may prolong the unpleasant situation for a while, but in the long run it will take its toll in emotional and physical wear and tear.
Another way in which one involved in a divorce may refuse to let go is in determination to make the other partner suffer. It is possible to pay a high price for suffering, because the one who instigates the retaliation will suffer most of all.
Many times individuals refuse to release loved ones who have passed on. They continue to hold on to them with grief and strong feelings.
It is hard to adjust to the passing of those who have been close to us, but we must remember that it is for their good as well as our own that we let them go. They have their own work to do on the next plane, as we have our assignment here. Grief and strong feelings will hold them back, and they also tie us to the old, instead of freeing us for the new life that is always here for us, when we open our eyes to see it. The very best gift we can give to people we love who have passed to the other plane is our prayer, which enfolds them in God’s love wherever they are and blesses them on their way.
While it is necessary to guide young children or to establish order in the hierarchy of business and industry, we can learn how to encourage individual initiative and freedom while we also establish a constructive continuity that is based on order and harmony.
A young mother told about worrying over her young children when she was in the hospital, being so much concerned about them that it was interfering with her healing. When she returned home, she found that they had gotten along amazingly well without her. Then she felt hurt because they had done so well!
We can save ourselves much anguish simply by learning to hold others with open hands, guiding and directing where it is needed, peacefully taking a stand when it is necessary, but being willing to give to others the same freedom we want for ourselves.
We can have happy human relationships as we learn to relieve the stress by playing on the positives and freeing ourselves and others to become the whole and powerful children of spirit that we are designed to be.
When we remember, “He’s smiling!”, we can free ourselves and others to the highest and best for all concerned.
© 1985, Winifred Wilkinson Hausmann
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.