Breaking the mocking habit

By Louise White - San Diego, California

From the July 9, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

My children and I used to spend a short time each morning reading together a section from the Christian Science Bible Lesson.

One week the children were deeply touched by the courage Jesus showed through his trial before Pilate. The Bible tells of the soldiers mocking Jesus: “When they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:29).

“Why did they mock him?” the children asked with sadness. After some discussion we decided that mocking can happen when others are afraid of you, or when they don’t understand you—or even when they want to hide their pride behind sarcasm, using their words to wound you.

It was a shock, then, to realize that our family frequently used mocking to make fun of each other. Sometimes what seemed like a joke or a clever way of correcting would stab and hurt a family member. With quiet sincerity, we each promised that we would not mock anymore.

It wasn’t easy to stop our old ways of laughing at each other’s mistakes and apparent weaknesses. The Bible gave us strength: “Charity . . . rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (I Corinthians 13:4, 6, American King James Version). This assured us that God’s love corrects firmly and patiently, without humiliation. God shines His law through our hearts and minds, and there is a balance between His moral law and His unconditional mercy.

We were able to soften our words. We never lost the wonderful ability to laugh at problems (and occasionally poke gentle, harmless fun at each other), but a new poise and compassion replaced the mocking habit.

Political campaigns, news reports, and talk-show hosts are often harshly critical, publicly jumping on someone’s mistakes. Verbal abuse and bullying are extreme examples of mocking, and this kind of dark thought can become a habit, which ends in a cynical attitude toward our world. Yet Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “You may condemn evil in the abstract without harming any one or your own moral sense, but condemn persons seldom, if ever. Improve every opportunity to correct sin through your own perfectness” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 249).

Our purpose is clearly to be more Godlike—to express His wisdom and strength through every trial. Our words are not meant to tear down; they should instead be valuable messages to support and heal.

Sometimes what seemed like a joke would hurt a family member.