By Russ Gerber — It’s a question that keeps crossing my mind as I scan the news. Do I believe the politicians I’m reading about, or the news anchor, or the sports figures, or the celebrity, or the health claims? Am I getting an honest view? How long until someone sifts through the allegations and evidence and comes to a conclusion? When will we get to the bottom of this?
When such questions came up in the past I thought my options were minimal. Basically, wait. Wait for some authority in the outside world — an investigator, an insider, a judge — to take the sum of current knowledge and make a final determination. In the meantime, internally I would speculate, criticize, pity, feel resentment. Even when the reports I was reading were top caliber (my days working with The Christian Science Monitor kept the bar of credibility high), I often felt I was just marking time until all facts were out in the open.
What we think shapes who we are, and what we do. Whatever has an impact on us has an impact on our everyday lives, and ultimately on society. That’s important to remember. There’s actually an enormous potential for doing good, and it doesn’t have to wait.
Where to begin? With ourselves. When moral lapses permeate the news it’s helpful to ground my trust and base my expectations on the good qualities themselves—truthfulness, wisdom, goodness, and love—as having a rock-steady, divine Principle as their source. Truthfulness itself doesn’t come and go. It doesn’t lapse or become weak. It’s complete and is central to a moral and spiritual foundation on which anyone can anchor his or her life, and that’s more innate to us than we may have realized.
Does that mean that if there’s been a moral lapse the foundation is corrupted? Not at all. There’s no point at which real repentance and reform become ineffective in turning lives around to a new and better direction, built on an incorrupt foundation and proceeding from it.
In the meantime cultivating integrity and sincerity and the like, letting them continually find expression in family, work and social life, helps us stay morally grounded no matter what messages are thrust at us.
That’s not all. What goes on internally can have a much larger impact on the world scene. Commenting on the full potential, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy answered a reader’s question in The Christian Science Journal this way: “Holding the right idea of man in my mind, I can improve my own, and other people’s individuality, health, and morals; whereas the opposite image of man, a sinner, kept constantly in mind, can no more improve health or morals, than holding in thought the form of a boa-constrictor can aid an artist in painting a landscape.”
With eyes open to opportunities to improve the larger moral atmosphere—to look and stand for honesty rather than fixate on deception, for trustworthiness rather than distrust — we keep ourselves from becoming cynical observers (or victims) of a deceit-prone culture. We also show by example that people can and do understand the value of honesty and other good qualities, and that it’s within our nature to express them—and healthier for us when we do.
There comes a time, too, when we go deeper. We ask ourselves about the whole range of qualities we express—the contrasting good and bad traits that appear to constitute who we are. Is it unrealistic to think the bad ones can be reversed? Is the propensity to stretch the truth, for example, as real and permanent a fixture within us as the impulsion to tell the truth?
From the narrow realm of the human mind, it seems that way. But from a higher perspective—from that foundational, divine Principle—come utterly good qualities that can be decisively embraced, and that naturally dissolve those unprincipled, unloving traits. Selfishness yields to unselfishness; an overly critical outlook yields to patience and compassion.
No one is disconnected from the source of good qualities. Honesty, compassion, commitment, remain intact and innate, to be embraced and expressed by us—and as us.
When we awaken to this truth it has a favorable impact on our outlook. The conviction grows that it’s as true for others as it is for us. That conviction, in turn, can help awaken society. It puts greater collective weight into right thinking and doing.
Today’s headlines suggest we could use a lot more of this awakening.
— Russ Gerber is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on PsychologyToday.com. Follow him on twitter @russgerber