A new view of my neighbor

This post was written by a colleague freelance writer and student of Christian Science,  Violet Snow

I was interviewing a gentleman, but the interview was not going well. I was supposed to write an article about this man, and we seemed to be jousting. He kept mentioning the names of people in town and asking me, “Do you know so-and-so?” Mostly I didn’t. Finally he said, “How long have you lived here?” I was offended—as if he was saying I wasn’t cool because I didn’t know his friends.

We muddled around for an hour and a half, without anything surfacing that I felt I could hang an article on. Every time he said something mildly interesting, he’d add, “But don’t put that in.” I couldn’t think of anything else to ask him. I left in a terrible mood, annoyed with him and feeling inadequate that I hadn’t been able to turn the interview around.

At home, I kept going over things he had said, and I noticed I was getting attached to seeing him as a jerk. Not only was this impression probably incorrect, since he did have a lot of friends, but it didn’t seem like a healthy way to look at another human being. I started trying to shift my thinking.

From the viewpoint of Christian Science, I reasoned, discord is an illusion. God is all good, and God is the only reality. God would not create a discordant situation; therefore, this discord must be obscuring the truth. In Christian or divine Science, the underlying truth of the situation had to be harmonious.

Then I recalled that the man had said he was anxious because every article written about him in the past had been inaccurate and disappointing. That worry didn’t justify his behavior, I thought, but then I also remembered slightly aggressive comments I’d made, no doubt because I was taking his manner personally. So we had that tendency in common, the urge to belittle each other when feeling vulnerable.

That evening, he emailed me, complaining that one of my questions had showed a startling lack of understanding of his relationship with one of his friends and requesting that I show him the article before sending it to my editor. My hackles went up, but I decided we had another chance to discover the harmony that had to be the truth.

I replied to his email thoughtfully, deleting my initial sarcastic comments, apologizing for my lack of focus during the interview, and sympathizing with his nervousness about the article. After a few messages, he also admitted he had not been at his best that afternoon, and he proceeded to relate a long, heartfelt story that provided exactly what I needed to make the article compelling.

The next day, I wrote the piece, and we sent it back and forth, arguing in a friendly way about word choice and syntax. The collaboration was fun, and I felt an exhilarating intimacy with this man I had formerly disliked.

What a glorious lesson!

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