Be Yourself


Colonel William Little, C.S.B., of Washington, D.C.

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts


The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

Most of us have had someone say to us at difficult times, "Oh, be yourself." Meaning, be yourself and you'll do all right. But sometimes "be yourself" is said jokingly or critically. For example, in my early Army experience it wasn't unusual to hear the Commanding Officer referred to as being himself − "Just plain mean as usual." I tried to keep this in mind when I became a Commanding Officer myself.

But generally "Be yourself" means, "Be your best self." At one time or another haven't we all said to a child something like, "Let's see the real four-year-old." Or, "You're a big boy now and that's not the way you know how to act." Or maybe a friend has said to you, "It's not like you" to be discouraged. Be yourself."

At times all of us have doubts, feel confused or ill, or lonely, discouraged or useless. But a friend sees other qualities. Oh, he sympathizes with us but better yet he recognizes whatever negative qualities we're expressing as being relatively insignificant in face of our good qualities.

We all have our problems of one kind or another and all of us need all the friends we can get. So even though our acquaintance is a brief one, let me in the next fifty minutes or so be a friend to you and discuss with you what it can mean to really be yourself.

Whatever the specific words are, "Be yourself" means "Be true to your fundamental qualities − to what you really are." And that's the definition that bases this discussion. So let me try and give some answers to two questions: "What would keep us from being ourselves?" and "How can we develop the ability to be ourselves?"


Ignorance of Your Nature Needs to Be Overcome

There are three main obstacles to our being ourselves.

The first is ignorance of what we really are. We think we know ourselves, but do we? Don't many of us tend to think of ourselves as basically or even wholly material − as so- many pounds of matter? And often we think of ourselves as too many pounds of matter. To the physical senses that's what we are.

Yet when you want to get in touch with your best friend − who very well may be your husband or wife − you don't say to yourself, "I'll give that 110 or 200 pounds of matter a call." No, you think of the friend by name and you are aware of his or her qualities. The physical senses don't enter into it. They're pretty useful for weighing and measuring and counting; so that's what they do − and little else.

Look at matter from the standpoint of the physicist. It's generally recognized that matter is made up of atoms which in turn are made up of space and still more minute particles. And it's generally recognized that the matter which is our body is made up of atoms.

Now what's of interest to us in this discussion is the amount of space the atom contains. There's so much of it that, if all the space could be squeezed out of the atoms which make us up, as it were, we'd only be a minute speck amounting to a pencil point or a dot on a piece of paper. That statement is an obvious simplification of the situation, but the concept is basically sound. So, even according to physics, we're not what the material senses spell us out to be.

And what about the chemist? How does he view the physical body? As composed of a number of chemical elements and compounds. And according to him 70 to 90 percent of you and me is water and was in the reservoir not too long ago. Again, even according to the physical senses, you aren't what you appear to be and neither am I.

Of course, none of us, including physical scientists, usually think of ourselves or others as so many gallons of water or mere dots. The successful chemist or physicist, for example, knows that his success depends not upon his matter content or his atoms, but upon his intelligence, his persistence, his honesty and his ability to analyze and reason − upon his mental qualities.

So in a certain sense the physical body isn't you or I at all, is it? Isn't it rather that we're really made up of ideas and mental qualities such as honesty, kindness, loyalty, persistence, intelligence, etc.? And if we can think of a friend whom we call on the telephone, in terms of his qualities, we can do the same for ourselves. Our physicist and chemist may not completely agree with the proposition that man is ideas and qualities rather than physique. But, using the best tools they can devise, they have learned that you and I are not what we look like.

So the first thing to learn in order to be ourselves is that we're not material. Our need is never to be taller or heavier, shorter or thinner. In other words, our need is never material. Whether our problem is one of loneliness, illness, discouragement, apathy, grief − whatever it may be − the solution is with the ideas and mental qualities we express.

When we've progressed to this point, we've begun to surmount one of the obstacles to being ourselves. We've begun to remove some of the ignorance of what we are; we've begun to glimpse the truth that what really counts is our mental, not our physical, qualities and our ideas.

Here a radical departure is necessary from the generally held belief, as to the source of these mental qualities and ideas. As far as Christian Science is concerned this is one of the most important ignorances − if I might put it that way − to be rid of. The belief that the source of the mental qualities and ideas we express is a physical brain or a human personal mind. If this were true, they'd be hardly less limited than the physical body. The qualities and ideas which really enable us to cope with all human problems derive from the infinite divine Mind, which we understand to be God, the one intelligence of all that truly exists. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures puts it like this: "There is but one creator and one creation. This creation consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are embraced in the infinite Mind and forever reflected" (pp. 502, 503). This statement will have more meaning for us as we consider what is the second obstacle that keeps us from recognizing our true being. Actually, as we shall see, it's another phase of ignorance − fear.


Fear Is Ignorance of God

Unfortunately none of us needs to have fear defined for us. Most of us know it as the gnawing, restrictive feeling that paralyzes thought and action. It would make every enemy ten feet tall − every barricade a high wall, every illness or injury a devastating blow. We're afraid of fear and ashamed of it. But the individual who understands who he really is knows how to deal with fear. And he does this by thinking straight − that is, from the basis of qualities derived from the one infinite Mind, instead of materially. You see, we can look at that ten-foot-tall enemy as no more than a dot or that high wall as no more than a series of dots. How's that for cutting the enemy down to size? Seriously, I've learned to equate fear with a temporary ignorance of God, divine Mind, a temporary lapse of memory of who I am and who others really are − the ideas of divine Mind. It's just a failure to be aware of God's presence, of the presence of all His spiritual qualities.

There's always been an inherent sense in men that reminds them there's a power beyond themselves. I've been associated with many capable physical scientists who have told me that they have been aware of a great power that is beyond human reasoning − at which human reasoning, useful as it is, can only hint. Through my various Army assignments I've been aware of this basic recognition in the worshipers in the Shinto, Buddhist, and Hindu temples of the Far East, in the Moslem mosques, in the Hebrew synagogues, and the Christian churches. These are feelings that men have in common whether they are brown, yellow, black, or white and whether they are young or old.

I've had both a Hindu and a Moslem tell me "No man need fear if he is with God." Then they added in each case, "But how can you be sure that you are with God?" That's the important question if we're to be rid of fear and find ourselves. And we've already touched upon the answer. It certainly isn't in matter or in any materially mental concept.

We've already recognized that, according to physics, matter and energy are convertible into one another − are different states of one another. So the one cause or creator must be more than either a super size material entity or what is commonly called energy. Mere undirected force couldn't hold even our material concept of earth and universe together. As we contemplate the beauty that exists and the love that men can express, aren't we compelled to seek a more complete concept of God than the physical senses can grasp − a concept like the one we considered a few minutes ago from Science and Health? "There is but one creator and one creation. This creation consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are embraced in the infinite Mind and forever reflected." Mrs. Eddy prefaces this statement with this illuminating thought, "The creative Principle − Life, Truth, and Love − is God. The universe reflects God" (p. 502).

If we're willing to admit that what many call God is man's source and protector and if we seek to understand our relationship to this source of our very being we learn that divine Love's presence is all around us. Then we find that Love is all-power and all-presence, the source of all right acting and knowing. This is to learn who we are and lose the fear that is inevitable if we don't comprehend man's relationship to God as Love.


Effects of Fear Destroyed

Let me tell you of a friend's experience with overcoming a deep sense of fear. She had skin cancer on her face. Medical treatment removed the cancer for a time but now it had returned in a worse form. She had some acquaintance with Christian Science and this time in her extremity she called a Christian Science practitioner to help her through prayer.

She frankly admitted to the practitioner that she was paralyzed with fear by the external appearance. The practitioner reminded her of God's love for her. Then he encouraged her to consider the nature of God and the true nature of man, of herself, and to identify herself with that true nature. In other words, she was being told, "Be yourself."

My friend studied two definitions from Science and Health in particular − one of God, and one of man. The explanation of God she considered reads: "God. The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence" (p. 587).

And the definition of man she studied is: "Man. The compound idea of infinite Spirit; the spiritual image and likeness of God; the full representation of Mind" (p. 591).

But it wasn't easy for the woman to keep with these thoughts. Every time she looked in the mirror she was still overcome with fear. In an almost hypnotic way it was keeping her from seeing herself as she really was − it was stopping her from being herself.

After several weeks, she asked the practitioner, "How can I lose my fear? It seems more real to me than God does."

The practitioner replied, "God isn't afraid. Remember that you can see yourself as God sees you. God doesn't need convincing. And your desire to understand God is stronger than the fear. It's right now defeating the fear."

The next day, when my friend looked in the mirror, her skin was clear. The disease vanished and has not returned. A sense of God's love for her replaced the fear and she glimpsed the fact of what she really was − healthy.

If I should ask you right now "Are you healthy?" where would you look for the answer? In your physical body? Or would you examine the state of your thought? It seems normal in this matter-oriented world to look at our bodies for evidence of health or disease and to judge our state of health by what we see or feel. But to be ourselves in the highest sense is the way to cope with our bodies and our environment. We have to do what my friend I've just told you about did. We need a mental and spiritual sense of strength and well-being, health and happiness, based on an understanding of God as divine Love. And as the Bible says, "Perfect love casteth out fear" (I John 4:18). This casting out of fear is absolutely necessary, if we're to know ourselves and be ourselves.


Spiritual Law Is for Our Benefit

We now have seen how we can overcome two of the obstacles to being ourself − ignorance of what we are, our real being; and fear, which results from ignorance of man's source, divine Love.

The third obstacle to being ourselves is really yet one more phase of ignorance − ignorance of spiritual law.

I've used divine Principle as a name for God; and divine Principle naturally works through law, spiritual law. Then because God is also divine Love, the laws of Principle are loving, kindly, good laws. Some individuals feel that spiritual laws restrict them; actually the reverse is true. This is because spiritual laws aren't something imposed on us from outside. They're the very essence of our being. They make us what we truly are. They are seen humanly as those rules such as the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes of Christ Jesus which help us understand God and our relationship to Him. If we work to understand God by aligning ourselves with His laws, we're more apt to express the love and the wisdom that will enable us best to cope with every situation. Many have found that the Bible contains a broad sweep of moral and spiritual laws. The ancient Hebrew prophets, the apostles, and especially Christ Jesus found these laws to be the rules which help men to be themselves.

Several years ago a woman I know came to grips with the demand to be herself. Everything she did worked out poorly. She felt that her friends and fellow workers were unreasonable, and she was having difficulty financially. In addition she had had an unsuccessful operation for varicose veins. Now although weak and in constant pain she had been advised to have another operation.

She decided instead to try Christian Science, and called a Christian Science practitioner. The practitioner encouraged her to see herself in the light of spiritual law. She found that, as she sought to understand the law of God, she obtained a better understanding of herself and others. She glimpsed something of the love and harmony and well-bring that comes from aligning ourselves with God. This naturally resulted in a better sense of her friends and fellow workers and of their relationship to God. The healing of varicose veins, and a satisfactory sense of prosperity were other practical results. But more important, to her great joy she found life was beautiful. Her human relationships became ever so much better. For example, her grown children who had either been critical or demanding or neglectful became friendly and helpful.

She told me recently, "I like this self that I'm finding now. I'm no longer worried or resentful about things. Now, when I come face to face with new difficulties, I approach them with a sense of adventure instead of saying, 'Isn't it awful?' I now think, 'Dear God, show me how to solve this problem.' "

This is an approach I can recommend for any of us as we go about our daily experience of living: "Dear God, show me how to solve this problem." And He shows us how to solve our problems. The solutions come through our recognition and observance of His laws, based on our correct understanding of Him and of what we ourselves really are.


Our Need to Think Correctly

We've considered how best to overcome three obstacles to being ourself, ignorance, fear, and disregard for God's law. Actually it all boils down to ignorance of what we really are. Now what about the steps which can help us be ourselves in a progressive, constructive sense?

It seems to me that first we must reason correctly. In other words, start from sound premises and let these determine our conclusions.

In the healing experiences we've mentioned − of skin cancer and of varicose veins − when the individual in each case reasoned from material premises or evidence of the physical senses, there was fear and suffering. But when thought was directed to the spiritual facts and the individual reasoned from these, the results were health and progress. And this is our need − to start right with spiritual facts and spiritual data, with the nature of God and of our own relationship to Him.

Once our thought is redirected into spiritual channels, we find this way of thinking to be natural and comforting. The desire to know God, as I brought out earlier is innate in all of us. But we may have to cultivate this desire before the natural basic pattern of our thinking becomes evident.

From early childhood, the Discoverer of Christian Science had a yearning to know God. Then in youth and young womanhood Mrs. Eddy had many, many heartbreaking experiences and years of ill-health. These kindled in her a longing to know how Jesus healed. She intuitively felt that Christ Jesus' example was for all time and not just for the few centuries of consistent spiritual healing recorded in the early Christian Church. And she reasoned carefully and persistently from this conviction.

In 1866 she was healed of a serious physical condition through spiritual insight that came to her while studying the Bible. From the basis of this insight she persisted in reasoning and researching along spiritual lines. Her love for mankind would not allow her to stop until others could share the blessings she experienced.

She became convinced that Jesus' mission was to show men a power that is always present to help them. This power, or the Christ, is the very presence of God meeting the human need. The purpose of this spiritual animus is seen in the definition of the Christ in Science and Health: "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (p. 583). The Christ, then, is the light which destroys the darkness of apparent separation from God and allows our relationship to God to appear instead. Christ Jesus showed by his words and deeds how this light can be brought into our human lives.

It took Mrs. Eddy nine years of consecrated study and application before she could complete the Christian Science textbook now universally known as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. It's interesting that she found inspiration when she used the Bible as her only reference for spiritual instruction. She obviously didn't find the spiritual laws set forth in the Bible restrictive but enlightening and inspiring. As she writes in her brief autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection: "Limitations are put off in proportion as the fleshly nature disappears and man is found in the reflection of Spirit. This great fact leads into profound depths" (p. 73:6-9).

Let me tell you how careful reasoning from the spiritual facts and laws can be beneficial in just this way.

A family I know was distressed to find that one of their sons was mentally and physically defective. The child had little sense of coordination. His limbs were painfully twisted and he couldn't learn or respond properly. The mother, a Christian Scientist, told me how she often in tears turned to study the Bible and Science and Health in order to rearrange her thinking concerning this child. Often her human pity brought fear and depression, but she persisted in this study in order to keep her thinking open to the inspiration and enlightenment that came from the spiritual facts.

When she caught herself thinking materially she would stop the material trend of thought and start again with God and with the child's relationship to God. And the healing came. It took years of both mother and father checking their reasoning against the spiritual facts. But that persistence paid off. That son is now a college athlete and a fine scholar. He's really being himself.


Inspired Persistence in Right Thinking

Persistence, as you may by now have noticed, is an important facet of the right reasoning that helps us to be ourselves. This is the second step I spoke of. Quitability wasn't a quality that Jesus encouraged in his disciples. A reading of the Gospels shows that he expected his disciples to stick to the task of understanding God and that he expected them to align their thinking with the pattern that he set. To persist in right reasoning is essential if we're to develop the ability to be ourselves.

Most of us are familiar with the great persistence exercised by those devoted men who train to be astronauts. They practice until they can go through their procedures and activities without any difficulty whatsoever. Just so a good athlete goes through his fundamentals so many times he finds it awkward to do anything awkwardly. We may think the practice is merely physical, but anyone who has trained to be an athlete knows it's more mental than physical. The athlete moves his thought and his thought moves his body, rather than the other way round. It isn't the material poundage that makes a champion.

Now our thinking practice is just as important to us as the astronauts' or athletes' work is to them. To be ourselves we need to practice correct reasoning to the point where we're at home with our thinking only when we're reasoning from spiritual premises and along wholly spiritual lines. That's the really crucial point when it comes to developing our ability to be ourselves − to practice correct reasoning to the point where we're at home with our thinking only when we're reasoning from spiritual premises and along wholly spiritual lines.

We can also use more commonplace examples. Many of you are ladies. Visualize what any woman goes through when she selects a new hat. In case some of you think ladies don't have hats anymore, a careful check has revealed that nearly every woman has at least one hat even if it's just a rain hat, a fur hat, or one to wear to weddings. I haven't, seen one yet who doesn't consider the hat carefully, who doesn't try it on at various angles and with different facial expressions. Or consider how a woman puts on a scarf. She often selects one, and ties it and reties it. She'll often select another one to see if that doesn't fit her mood or costume better. It's perfectly natural to her to work persistently at this task until she's satisfied with the effect.

Isn't persistence in correct thinking more important than a hat or a scarf? Don't hesitate to reject the inappropriate or unbecoming thought and try again. Your right thinking, as we've seen, helps you be your true self. If the thought that first comes to you won't help you, reject it as decisively as you would an unbecoming hat or scarf. Select and adjust your thinking to obtain the desired effect. Your thinking is what's vital to your beauty and well-being.


No Men Are Untrainable

The prophet Isaiah said of the coming Messiah, "Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good" (Isa. 7:15). I had an experience during the Korean War which illustrates how one can persistently "refuse the evil, and choose the good." I was put in charge of a Unit Training Center which had the task of training men to work together in technical teams. Many of the skills the men needed would help them in the Army and in civil life too. When I took command of the Center, my operations officer told me our biggest problem was to decide what to do about a large number of men who were considered untrainable. They were uneducated, clumsy misfits and there were also some language problems. A number spoke only Spanish, some spoke only French, one spoke only German, and one spoke only Greek.

I knew that the officers of the Center were capable, so I saw that this was a task that God would have to help solve. At least, as a Christian Scientist, I knew I was going to turn to God for ideas to prove that these men were not untrainable, were not uneducated, clumsy misfits. I was going to start reasoning from the spiritual facts and stay with these whatever the material evidence.

I prayed persistently to see these men as God saw them, as His ideas. Of course, I didn't use these terms in talking with my officers, but I did tell them that the phrase "untrainable men" wasn't to be used by anyone. Instead, I insisted that we accept the challenge of defeating the accusation of untrainability. It wasn't easy; but as time went on, every man began to improve. Then all became enthusiastic about the training program. The mission was accomplished with every man able to meet the standard. The standard was not changed. The men were.

Now I'm sure that other commanders have had just as successful results. But I know that the ability to turn my thought to God, to see man's relationship to God, and to persist in staying with these spiritual facts enabled me to help these men to prove more of what they really were.


Gratitude Elevates Your Thinking

Have you ever heard a mother say to a child, "What are the magic words?" We all know what they are. They're "Thank you." That's a third important step which will help you be yourself. Sometimes a child doesn't want to say it or forgets, but the wise parent encourages the recognition of good.

After reasoning from the correct spiritual premises to the correct spiritual conclusions and after persisting in this right reasoning, we need to acknowledge the spiritual facts with our whole heart − in short, to express gratitude. The recognition of good prepares us to receive more. And in this matter of being ourselves it's just as important for adults as it is for children to express recognition and appreciation of the good we already have or know.

There used to be a song entitled "I Want What I Want When I Want It and When I Get What I Want I Don't Want It"! Many of us have felt much the same on occasion. We've developed a miserable attitude and nothing can change it. Some years ago I had a particularly difficult time with my own outlook. I was faced with a professional problem and could see no solution to it. Then the thought came to me, "Suppose this problem was solved, what would bother you next?" There was no difficulty in finding the next most urgent problem. Then I went on to the next, and the next, and the next. Honest − I got up to some fifteen problems.

Then I started to laugh at myself. I thought, "Who are you kidding? You know very well that if all these problems were solved you'd have the ingenuity to find something else to be disturbed about." I had to admit to myself that I was right. I knew how to be miserable; in fact, I was really trained in misery.

Then I saw I had to look at the problem or problems in the right light. I had to start with what God is and my relationship to Him and stay with these spiritual facts. Also, it was time that I said "Thank You" for these spiritual facts. You may recall that Jesus thanked God before restoring his friend Lazarus to life and before feeding the multitudes in the desert.

So I felt it was good to start by mentally listing reasons for gratitude. I decided that I would find three reasons to be grateful for every problem. It wasn't difficult, for I'd been a Christian Scientist since I was seven and had seen many evidences of the effectiveness of right reasoning to bless and heal. In a sense I was used to being grateful, but sometimes I hadn't been alert to say: "Thank You, God," as often as I should.

As I began to appreciate my blessings, I began to feel better and was able to cope with the situation. It was as though the ever-increasing sense of gratitude acted as an elevator which lifted me right out of the problems. Gratitude can elevate every one of us. Instead of being depressed, we can with its help feel lifted and confident. Instead of being in a state of depression we can be the expression of good.

Such a recognition of good, based on persistent reasoning from spiritual facts, brings great joy. It expands thought and opportunities. You may have to search for something to be grateful for, but if you have to search, then search. Those who search for gratitude find it, and in expressing gratitude they find themselves more completely than ever before.

The nature of God is good and it's your nature to be the expression or reflection of good − no matter what you may have felt about yourself in the past. It's very important to understand your true identity − what you really are.


"Be true and list the voice within"

So now let me say to everyone here, as I said at the beginning, "Be yourself."

It shouldn't be difficult to be ourselves. To be ourselves − or to express Godlike qualities of intelligence, strength, health, and love − is our fundamental nature. But it takes alertness to know what to avoid and what to develop in our thinking − to recognize the STOP signs and the GO signs. We've looked at three of each of them. The three stop signs or obstacles we talked about were: Ignorance of what we are − ignorance that we're the expression of Godlike qualities; fear based upon an ignorance of man's source, divine Love; and ignorance of God's laws.

The three go signs which help us be ourselves are: We need to reason correctly − to reason from spiritual facts and spiritual data, the nature of God and of man's relationship to Him; we need to persist in right reasoning to the point where we're at home with our thinking only when we're reasoning from spiritual premises and along wholly spiritual lines; and lastly gratitude, the recognition and appreciation of the good that is at hand if we search for it.

Science and Health states: "For right reasoning, there should be but one fact before the thought, namely, spiritual existence" (p. 492).

A familiar hymn brings out this thought with simple clarity (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 416, verses 1 and 3):

Be true and list the voice within,

Be true unto thy high ideal,

Thy perfect self, that knows no sin,

That self that is the only real.

True to our God whose name is Love,

We shall fulfill our Father's plan;

For true means true to God above,

To self, and to our fellow man.


1969 Colonel William Little

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