It's more than just what you say, or even what you do with a patient. Bedside manner, the good and the bad of it, extends to what you think, how you think, and what you do when you are NOT at the patient’s side. Christian healer and teacher Mary Baker Eddy understood that the morality and the spirituality of the practitioner affect outcomes on their cases, regardless of their method of practice.
How did she know? Experience. Before the discovery of the scientific method of divine healing, which she would name Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy practiced – and later abandoned – homeopathy. A woman came into her homeopathic practice with a case of what was then called dropsy and today would likely be called edema due to congestive heart failure. The woman had been unsuccessfully treated by another homeopath, whose dosage of medicine caused an apparent bad reaction.
Mrs. Eddy took the case and treated according to her understanding of proper dosage, and the woman steadily improved. But Mrs. Eddy soon discovered that, in fact, her prescription was identical to that of the prior physician – the same type and dosage that under his care produced horrible side-effects and under her care resulted in improvement.
Why were the outcomes different? She later would explain in her textbook on Christian Science, “The doctor’s mind reaches that of his patient …His thoughts and his patient’s commingle, and the stronger thoughts rule the weaker. Hence the importance that doctors be Christian Scientists.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 197)
She also wrote, “The moral and spiritual facts of health, whispered into thought, produce very direct and marked effects on the body.” (ibid 370)
About that homeopathy case and other cases like it, Mrs. Eddy later noted that she was always praying to God to keep her from sin, and to guide her in her care for others. The Greek word for “sin” is Hamartia (Ham ar TEE ya) which can be translated ‘to miss the mark”. To be kept from sin includes to be kept from making mistakes and to hit the mark rightly in all things.
"The doctor’s mind reaches that of his patient… “ Mrs. Eddy encouraged healers of all methods, medical doctors included, to clean up their thoughts and life of anything that might affect their patients adversely. She wrote, " If hypocrisy, stolidity, inhumanity, or vice finds its way into the chambers of disease through the would-be healer, it would, if it were possible, convert into a den of thieves the temple of the Holy Ghost, — the patient’s spiritual power to resuscitate himself." (ibid 365)
I read that one day and thought, "Hypocrisy? Stolidity? Inhumanity? Vice? Who me?"
Then I remembered a case where I asked something of a patient – to consider a spiritual concept more deeply – that I had not and was not doing myself. His healing did not come. When I realized my error, - the hypocrisy even - of demanding something of someone else that I was not practicing myself, I got to work and did the assignment. Then the man was quickly healed.
What about stolidity? It's the state of being unmoved mentally, impassive, unemotional. Had I ever been stolid in my treatment work, perhaps going through the technical motions but stopping the prayer before I felt the mental movement of the Holy Ghost in my consciousness? Hmmm.
How about in my life? Had I ever passed by someone in need without praying? Or put on a hard face when confronted with poverty or crime in the street or on the news? I could see I could do better for my practice by eliminating all traces of stolidity from my life.
Inhumanity? Now here I was really sure I was innocent. But then I asked myself if I had ever delayed to pray for someone until I was finished working on something else. Had I ever put my personal needs before someone in pain or suffering from fear? I remember the time I forgot to treat a patient that I had agreed to pray for. I got busy with another commitment and hours passed before she got the help that she had requested and that I had agreed to give. That's neglectful. Putting selfish interest before the needs of others, too, is cruel. Neglectful, cruel and inhumane are synonymous.
What about vice? Well, we all know my Oreo cookie story. (Listen here if you don’t.)
Look. This post isn’t about true confessions. I am talking about cleaning up one’s bedside manner to be a better transparency for the healing Christ. We can all likely do better. I know I can. In fact, until we consistently heal instantaneously, we must DEFINITELY do better.
In Christian Science practice, the healer has to be sharp and aware. His treatment must witness to the Holy Ghost and its healing action on the patient. But if the healer is distracted or preoccupied by unhealed hypocrisy, stolidity, inhumanity, or vice, he may not be as sharp and as aware as he needs to be of what the Christ, through the Holy Ghost, is doing for the patient.
Here are two tips for improving your bedside manner.
We want to be good, really GOOD at helping and healing, right? Good bedside manner involves more than a friendly face and a kind word. Regular prayer to be kept from sin and asking God or guidance on cases should unmask and destroy any lurking sin that would prevent one from being a genuine aide.
Don't let yourself be stuck in self-condemnation or guilt. Science and Health is quite clear on this point. Mrs. Eddy explained that they, along with a faltering or doubting trust in Truth, God, "are unsuitable conditions for healing the sick. Such mental states indicate weakness instead of strength… You must utilize the moral might of Mind in order to walk over the waves of error and support your claims by demonstration.” (Science and Health, 455)
Christ Jesus gave wise counsel to all healer’s: “First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) And the Daily Prayer reminds us to "let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin." (Manual of The Mother Church, Article 8, Section)
Patients, too, have a role to play in healing. No free passes here! My next post will speak to this recently unpopular and sometimes touchy point.
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I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no