Doing good is not a cinch, nor is being good as straightforward or as easy to understand as one might first think. It is actually a complex subject and demands our serious contemplation and brainpower.
I will try to share with you the main issues that thwart our being genuinely “good” in this short post.
The first issue concerns procedure. We know that we each carry selfish motives. So it is generally felt that we can offset this by merely starting to be good to others. Then hopefully, we next consider being on guard so as to not be hurtful or causing any harm.
This order is actually backwards and is not the gate to the Christian doctrine of charity.
We must concentrate on evil FIRST because it is seated in our heart. When our negative traits are not addressed first, they remain hidden in the heart and continue stain or taint our good deeds. As a result, we often miss the subtlety of our own hypocrisy and hidden agendas that lie beneath acts of kindness. It is much easier to detect these tainted actions in others – like when coworkers kiss up to the boss or politicians kiss babies.
Doing good deeds first does not remove our negative side. It covers it up!
To the extent that negative traits are not identified and consciously removed, they do not let the principle of mutual love enter deeply into the fabric of our character. This sets up the dynamic by which goodness becomes simulated in outward gestures.
Our physical actions can appear to the world as practicing the good works of charity. And while such actions do indeed accomplish some good, they are simply the rudiments of charity and are merely ways by which we are first initiated into goodness.
It is also not wise to provide assistance without discernment. You do not want to make your donations payable to the devil or to anyone who will turn such charity into harm.
Some people may indeed point to Scripture where it states that we are to help those in need, but from God’s eternal viewpoint we are poor judges of what people need most. Spiritually speaking, the poor in God’s eyes are those who have little knowledge of divine love and truth (spiritual currency). Therefore, if our acts of generosity do not go beyond giving money to the poor, helping the needy and less fortunate, these deeds will do us little good in the afterlife, where the true quality of our inner nature will come to the surface. The Lord wants us to love others from a deeper spiritual principle.
We are created by God and are therefore “organs” receptive of life from God. The important point to be made here is that although God loves each individual equally, God is not equally received by each individual.
We cannot increase our receptivity to God’s love merely by acts of goodness. We increase our receptivity to God in proportion to our efforts to resist negative impulses and ask for the Lord’s help to root them out.
It is by the removal of our bad tendencies that we can return to innocence. There is no other way to be “really good” and obtain the kingdom of heaven.
My source for these “elevated” views on doing good comes from Emanuel Swedenborg’s great theological work, “True Christianity.”