Unwanted thoughts – How to be rid of them?

unwanted thoughts‘I must wash my hands again’, ‘I bet she fancies him’. ‘I might as well have another piece of cake.’‘Aren’t I stupid’. These sorts of ideas or mental pictures may pop into your head unasked. They are unwanted thoughts if they are repetitive, unpleasant or difficult to resist. They exacerbate compulsive acts, jealousy, temptation, or unreasonable guilt.

Unwanted thoughts seem to be more common during times of stress or changing circumstances e.g. when you take on the extra responsibility of a new job, or when having children.

Swedenbrog’s unseen spiritual world

According to Emanuel Swedenborg, there is an unseen spirit environment around us inspiring all our thoughts and feelings – both good and bad — although we are unaware of this.  People sometimes speak about “when the spirit moves me” and about “getting into the spirit” of something. Sometimes you may have noticed a guiding light that inspires hope and confidence. Other times you may have been aware of a negative idea that gnaws away unsettling you.

Relevance of spirits to unwanted thoughts according to Swedenborg

Swedenborg claimed the following 6 things:-

  1. He could communicate with the spirits of people in the after-life.
  2. After their bodily death, the earthly memories of individuals are gradually shut off and become inactive. So that in the next life, being aware only of the spirit realm, one will gradually become more conscious of one’s inner life and become less bound to what is external and worldly such as the imagery of spatial objects.
  3. Yet, some spirits, particularly those newly raised from bodily death, still instinctively hunger for things on the material plane.
  4. Being fixated on certain worldly things that have special associations for them, these spirits may try to fasten your attention upon such things.
  5. Just as you are unconscious of their presence, so they are not aware of you, as being a separate person from themselves, but believe that your thoughts are their own.
  6. When you have an affinity with them, you are liable to unconsciously attract those spirits who are the source of your obsessions.

Swedenborg’s method of tackling his unwanted thoughts

Swedenborg records that in one of his struggles against certain spirits who were obsessing his mind, he finally found refuge by fixing his gaze on a piece of wood, and from this his thought was led to the wood of the cross, and then to the thought of God. By a shift of attention, he thus broke the hold of the evil spirits.

CBT technique for tackling unwanted thoughts

Another way of shifting attention, that is used widely these days in cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy, is the following straightforward technique. If you notice you are obsessing about something, you need to shout the word `Stop’. If shouting out aloud is inappropriate because you are not alone, you can instead imagine that you are shouting the word. Immediately the train of obsessive thought is disrupted. For the technique to work you have to be able to believe that thinking can both block or promote your ability to cope.

Arguably, what Swedenborg is saying adds power to this approach. If you are plagued with obsessive thoughts, you probably assume that such thoughts have a compulsive power over you. This is understandable given their intrusive persistent nature. Also such a belief is likely if you assume that you are responsible for the obsessions.

A helpful change of attitude about unwanted thoughts

However, you may be able to accept what Swedenborg reports — that you are unconscious of both creative and unhelpful thoughts flowing from spirits. If so, then you will no longer attribute either the creative inspiration or the obsession to yourself but instead to sources outside of yourself.

The consequence of this changed belief is that you can be confident that it is possible to start to free yourself from the hold of the infesting spirits as long as you do not identify yourself with their desires and ideas. With practice you can more easily neglect to pay attention to what comes from them and so they will gradually leave you alone.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Guilt – To act or not to act on it?

guilt
Ken & Treya Wilber

A couple had fallen in love and got married. They were sublimely happy. But tragically within weeks of the wedding, the woman was given a diagnosis of cancer and soon found herself needing a mastectomy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She became bald due to hair loss, developed mouth sores and painful bowel movements and had to face the devastating likelihood of an early death with no chance of having a child.

The Experience of the Husband

In order to be with his wife through her ordeal, her husband, who was a writer of world renown in his field — his name is Ken Wilber — chose to stop writing and generally turned his life over to her fight against cancer. This was an emotionally draining responsibility. He assumed he could not voice his own needs because of her suffering. Not surprisingly she came to take his support for granted.

In the middle of this, he himself went down with a medium-term debilitating illness of unknown origin. Due to exhaustion he even stopped his daily meditation – a spiritual practice that had previously given him huge benefit. For over a year he completely submerged his own interests, his own work, his own life. Up to that period, writing had been his life-blood. He defined himself by his writing and when that suddenly stopped he was suspended in mid-air, so to speak. In other words, his mistaken conscience was dictating altruistic but psychologically unhealthy behaviour that could not last indefinitely.

He was to say that he would have done all this again unhesitatingly under the same circumstances but would have done it differently with more of a support system for himself in place. The grinding role of a full-time carer takes a devastating toll unless this is available.

Guilt of Looking of Looking After Oneself

Some of us need to remember that looking after oneself does not necessarily make us selfish. If we do not look after ourselves how can we expect to look after anyone else? We can start to feel a little less uptight about our behaviour when we see the unreasonableness of some of our guilt-laden habits of thought and learn how to face up to them.

The need for one to find a balance between one’s own needs and the needs of one’s family or one’s work is quite a challenge these days with so many pressures to withstand – let alone the extra pressure of being a full-time carer. It is a mistaken conscience that gets us to perform our useful caring roles without setting aside any time for ourselves – for our recreation and other personal needs.

Mistaken Conscience

Another example of a mistaken conscience is when people find themselves on a guilt trip. Even if we have a sound mind, we may sometimes feel guilty over the smallest thing – without rhyme or reason painstakingly worried about something we have done that really is unimportant. For example saying `sorry’ a lot of the time over trivia and being unfair on ourselves.

Many hopelessly sick people feel constantly guilty. This may result from the suspicion that their sickness and fate are self-inflicted and their own fault. Some are always apologizing for the trouble and fuss they are causing. Western culture fosters a sense of guilt when illness places people in the dependent role.

Does feeling frequently guilt-ridden come about from wanting to be well thought of and desiring popularity? Some of us since childhood even have a sense of badness and secretly assume we might deserve punishment..

Accepting oneself for what one is – warts and all – means being less concerned about how we are looked upon by those who know us. If we can learn to notice our strengths as well as our failings, we will feel less bad about our mistakes.

Is all guilt mistaken?

Counselling psychologists tend to see guilt as a personal problem whereas religious people say it is useful for it can lead to repentance. But this disagreement vanishes when we distinguish between mistaken guilt and realistic guilt. Sometimes we act against a heartfelt and deep awareness of what we feel to be right – against a true conscience. We rightly feel bad about it even if sometimes we act in error on impulse without thinking.

“Anger, intoxication, obstinacy, bigotry, deceit, envy, grandiloquence, pride and conceit, intimacy with the unjust, this is what defiles one.” (Sutta-Nipata, ii, 2,7. – Buddhist tradition)

Sooner or later we all do foolish things. The existential psychotherapists have pointed out that one cannot reason away those guilt feelings which come from an awareness of actual transgressions against true conscience and unfulfilled potentials.

How to reduce guilt

If we wish to rid ourselves of guilt then we should try to disentangle feelings of guilt arising because of a true and mistaken conscience. This means noticing the avoidable bad things that we have done and no longer relying on such comfortable alibis as `I didn’t mean it’, or `I followed an irresistible impulse.’ Guilt arising from a true conscience is helpful if it can lead to a change of behaviour. It is easier to feel a sense of being forgiven when we change our actions for the better.

At the same time we can distinguish between urges and actions. Some of us tend to feel guilty believing all the bad things we think come from ourselves. Yet, only extremely vain conceited individuals make a mistake in claiming credit for every good idea they happen to have.

Surely if it is mistaken to attribute all virtuous impulses to oneself it is also an error to believe that we are responsible for all bad things we think? Can we really be blamed for all the shameful desires that pop into our hearts if we neither entertain them for long nor fall for their tempting allure?           Longer version of this article

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Self-respect — How to find it if feeling guilt?

self-respectWhat you did wasn’t that bad. A hasty ill-judged remark, an over-indulgence, a minor act of selfishness. You want to forget about it but the memory lingers. What if somebody else noticed? You feel uneasy with yourself. Is this the tiny prick of conscience? A sense you have done something wrong? You want to feel self-respect after doing wrong. You want to feel better about yourself but you cannot change what happened.

Joan had become preoccupied with her sense of guilt. She had badly let down her life-time friend Sally. Not gone to her best pal’s wedding. There was a good reason or so she had tried to tell herself. The conference was one she had keenly wanted to attend.  But she could have put it off until the following year. She knew she should have put her life-long friend first. Sure, Sally was still speaking – after a fashion — but Joan couldn’t forgive herself. Couldn’t get her self-respect back.

We all do some wrong things but there are actions that some people take that cause immense hurt and damage. But whatever it is we have done, we need to feel self-respect, to be liked and accepted without feeling bad about ourselves. So how does one get rid of guilt?

If you are not unfairly being hard on yourself, the first step is to stop making up excuses to justify, what deep down, you know you shouldn’t have done. Be honest and own up at least to yourself. And resolve to try not to do something like it again. If you want, you can be a different person from the time when you behaved badly. The self-respect can return.

Okay there are some things that can’t be remedied that we will regret for ever. Yet you can ask yourself, is there really nothing I can do to right the wrong? Sometimes you can and then a sense of pardon might be felt from the offended person after you apologise or attempt to make amends. This happened to Joan. Not only did she confess her selfish error to Sally, she did her best to make it up to her by later throwing a surprise wedding anniversary party. And that cost her a pretty penny and some valuable time but she was really glad she could do it. She and Sally were the best of friends again.

Reconciliation can be a wonderful thing, for example following marital breakdown, but how can this be achieved following serious crime. How on earth do people live with themselves after committing murder or abusing a child? I guess if they have little conscience then they suffer little guilt. But if they do have genuine remorse then sad indeed is their torment unless they can find a way to stop condemning themselves for that one mad moment when they completely lost self-control. Self-respect for this kind of person must feel like a mile away.

Some people have experimented with psychedelic drugs and report the experience of love and forgiveness, as well as benign and blissful moments of cosmic unity whilst under the chemical influence. But these effects don’t seem to last and the ‘trip’ can also include horrible visions of filth and torture.

So where can we get lasting help for a stricken conscience? Those with strong feelings of anxiety and guilt have been drawn to the promise of religion for their redemption. But traditional Christianity talks about the “forgiveness of God for the repentant sinner” thus using a language that has unfortunate connotations of punishment and judgement.

Instead, why not think of the image of genuinely loving parents? These have nothing to forgive when looking at their children who go off the rails. Just hope and encouragement for better days ahead.

Or think of non-judgmental counsellors who adopt an accepting attitude towards their clients. This stance allows confessions of guilty secrets and the encouragement of self-insight and attitude change. The aim of therapy is self-respect and self-esteem.

Counsellors don’t need to forgive, for it is not they who have been offended but they do foster self-acceptance. Likewise the divine Counsellor, as the origin of infinite mercy and compassion, does not need to forgive. For to forgive implies condemnation which Love itself is incapable of feeling. Such an idea of God as a Counsellor can be thought of as providing healing of guilt.

Emanuel Swedenborg taught that there is a huge mistake in an interpretation of the Christian doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’ that correct religious belief is sufficient for salvation. Instead he said that what is wanted in the heart and what is done by the hands, in addition to what the head thinks, is what really matters. He claimed that to feel divine acceptance, belief alone is insufficient: one also has to put into practice one’s belief  and that this means  changing the ways one deals with other people by following Christ’s way. Through gaining a sense of God’s respect for what we do we can find self-respect.

In other words whilst in humble supplication we can pray for God’s mercy but in so doing  we need to remember our own responsibility for accepting other people. As the Lord’s prayer says:

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

As HT Hamblin put it:

“If he will love, or hold in thoughts of good-will the one who has wronged him, then his life will become happy and peaceful, and in its highest sense, successful.”

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Guilt — Why won’t it go away?

guiltWho hasn’t done something that they believe they should not have done? Kicked the cat? Stolen stationary from the office? Disclosed what a friend confided? Or whatever? Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and do something wrong. And so from time to time you are likely to experience a feeling of guilt.

It may not have been such a terrible thing you did. But what if you feel bad and it keeps playing on your conscience? Why won’t the feeling of guilt go away?

As a child Catherine got ticked off a lot by strict parents. And as an adult she tended to dwell on the judgments about her of others. Sadly, she became one of those people who are quick to feel guilt over the smallest thing they do wrong if it goes against the expectations of other people. A sensitive conscience can easily become overburdened at times. What I call phoney guilt seems to come about from the assumption that what you feel must be true: so if you feel guilty, then you must be guilty!

“True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be.” (R. D. Laing)

I would distinguish Catherine’s false guilt with a true guilt arising from a healthy conscience of someone whose guilt feelings arise from an awareness of having acted against their own principles. Much beneficial counselling has been conducted with the Catherine’s of this world, helping such clients to stop taking to heart unfair criticism. But what use is that approach with those of us who are facing reasonable censure and who can easily distinguish successfully between appropriate and inappropriate guilt? What if you have actually done something wrong and can’t forget it because you know in your heart you have gone against your own rules?

I would like to suggest a few reasons why you might not be able to rid yourself of realistic guilt.

Making a glib acknowledgment of guilt

You may come to realise that there are some people you do not respect and some close relationships you have not cherished. Perhaps you were rude or neglectful on one or two occasions. Apologising for mistakes like this can easily trip off the tongue.

You may have felt badly at the time, but if you haven’t accepted in your heart the need to change, it is only too easy to forget you had previously glibly acknowledged the error. But then something or someone later will likely remind you of your fault.

Using escapism from guilt

If you have done something seriously wrong, and do not deal with this then to escape from emotional pain you may have fallen into some kind of addiction, escapism or other risk taking behaviour. Unfortunately, such action can cause you more guilty feelings if as a result you do harm to others for example hurting your loved ones by excessive alcohol consumption or obliging them to rescue you from difficult circumstances you have created for yourself.

Using excuses for guilt

It is comfortable to rely on such excuses as `I didn’t mean it’, `It was an accident’, `I couldn’t help it’, and `I followed an irresistible impulse’.

For one kind of person a tempting way to respond to guilt is to blame the victim. “She caused my sexual aggression by making herself too attractive.” “Of course I’m going to nick his things if he can’t be bothered to lock them up properly.” Naturally, this doesn’t work either, as sooner or latter, the wrong-doer will be reminded of the misdeed when common sense prevails.

Confessing guilt to an unsympathetic person

Many alcoholics can only confess the mess they are in to fellow problem drinkers: such people will be in the same boat and can be expected to be sympathetic. People with emotional problems find it easier to confess weaknesses and failings to a counsellor they feel is showing unconditional warmth.

On the contrary, try talking about things you feel guilty about to someone who is unsympathetic and you won’t get very far. And even if you do persevere you are likely to take on board their judgmental attitude towards yourself.

Sometimes people yearn for God’s forgiveness but cannot experience this because they believe in a judgmental God. Unless your idea of God is one of love and compassion, I believe you are not going to feel any sense of forgiveness if you were to risk confessional prayer. In fact, if you pray to a harsh idea of God you may even end up beating yourself up even more as a “sinner who deserves punishment.”

Conclusion

“Hard though it may be to accept, remember that guilt is sometimes a friendly internal voice reminding you that you’re messing up.” (Marge Kennedy)

The way I see it is the emotional discomfort of guilt is like the physical pain of a flame. The pain will soon go away after you remove your hand from the flame.  Guilt likewise serves to teach us where we are going wrong. I don’t think guilt is meant to last. Once it has served its friendly purpose it is no longer needed.

Surely, those religious people are mistaken who happen to believe that you just need to ask for forgiveness and you are forgiven? No, something more is needed. Only, when you have a genuine remorse for your misdeed, a desire not to repeat it, and an interest in making amends, only then do I believe that it is possible for your guilt to set aside by a compassionate God.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

FIRST BE RECONCILED

FIRST BE RECONCILED
A Sermon by Rev. Brian W. Keith
Preached in Glenview, Illinois, September 28, 1986

“If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24).

Our life consists of routines – patterns which govern much of our conscious existence. While some are ruts from which we would love to break out, most of our routines were consciously chosen for good reasons. If our wake-up routines are disturbed, we are likely to emerge from the house unshaven, or with unusual clothing combinations. If we had no set pattern for going about our daily chores, either at work or at home, we would accomplish far less. And our interactions with others are governed by the dictates of politeness and common courtesy. These kinds of patterns enable us to expend the minimum amount of energy and focus upon what is important.

Unfortunately, such routines can also be used to avoid facing unpleasant situations. What happens when a friend makes a critical comment that we take personally, or the extra effort we put into a project is ignored? Our tendency may be to ignore the offense. We may be bothered, but we try to forget and get on with our lives.

If it is a minor problem, or something so out of the ordinary that it will not recur, we probably can just forget about it – write it off to someone’s having a bad day, or our being overly sensitive. We know that to raise the issue will only cause pain and not produce any good. This appears to be the reason why the Lord was silent when falsely accused (see Matt. 27:12-14). He knew that nothing He could say would change their minds, and words spoken in frustration and anger would certainly not be of any use to them.

But often when we attempt to just ignore the hurt, we hang onto it. We keep it inside and let it seethe and bubble just beneath the surface. It may be the co-worker who takes the Lord’s name in vain. We may try to ignore it, for fear of appearing too good, or because we do not want to cause trouble. But it keeps bothering us. It grates and increases our overall irritability. Perhaps we cannot identify it as the source, but we may find ourselves with a shorter temper and more prone to feel bad about how the day has gone.

This seems to be the state that the Lord was addressing when He told people to leave their gift before the altar and work things out with their brothers. People of that time could think they were fulfilling all their religious obligations by obeying certain laws and regularly offering sacrifices. The Lord pointed out that just going through the motions when there is an inner turmoil is not acceptable. Gifts to the Lord are not received from someone who is agitated and angry at others. When there is conflict between us and another, the Lord would have us face the situation and deal with it rather than let it be a source of continuing upset. For pretending a problem does not exist rarely makes it go away. In fact, it usually complicates the problem, making it more difficult to resolve later.

When someone has hurt our feelings and we try to hide it, we will more than likely wind up complaining to friends. Their willingness to listen will probably encourage our sense of injustice, and magnify the irritation and anger. Then we will see more and more what is wrong with the person who has offended us, and be looking for ways to even the score.

“But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matt. 5:39). Obviously the Lord does not intend us to invite attack and abuse (see AE 556:8). What He does want is for us to refrain from responding in anger and with revenge. When we are hurting, it seems to be so easy and satisfying to hurt others, but nothing good comes of it. Evil for evil does not lead to good. The Lord would have us leave our gifts before the altar and reconcile things with our brothers.

When we have been hurt and seek reconciliation, the first step is looking at ourselves. The Lord said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). There is no blessing in being persecuted as an end in itself, but only if it is for righteousness’ sake. When we are criticized, has there been a good reason for it? Has the complaint against us been valid? In the heat of indignation we tend not to admit any guilt. And if we torment our minds with the cruelty of it, we will find even more reasons to deny any fault on our part. But how often are we entirely innocent, entirely without fault? Like any argument, rarely was it started or continued by just one.

Beyond being hurt by criticism, we have to look at ourselves whenever we feel pain. We can unconsciously place ourselves in positions where we are likely to get hurt. One of the great tragedies of alcoholism is that the spouse or close friends of the alcoholic often aid and abet the disease. Yes, they get hurt by the unkept promises, the lies, the degenerating behavior. But their denial of the problem prevents treatment, the hope of recovery, and they often welcome the pain as a perverse kind of punishment for their own sense of guilt.

Reconciliation begins by looking at ourselves first, for that puts us into the proper frame of mind. We should first remove the plank from our own eyes before we can see to remove the speck from our brother’s (Matt. 7:5). If we approach someone in anger, then he will not be able to hear us – he will be too busy defending himself. Our words will not be of use unless they come from love and are spoken in charity. Reconciliation requires that we shun anger, hatred, and revenge (see Life 73). These must be removed from our minds before there is any feeling of love or concern for others (see AE 746:19).

In a sense, what is required is agreement. “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him . . . ” (Matt. 5:25). Seeking for what agrees means looking for truth in the criticism. Perhaps what was said or done was, at least in some measure, deserved. If we can remove ourselves from the situation and try to be objective about ourselves, we can often prosper from criticism. One of the uses of the evil spirits in the other world is to draw out what is hellish in others so they might see it and shun it. When they attack someone, their intent is to harm, but it can be turned to good by the Lord.

Along the same lines, Swedenborg was once accosted by some who said there was nothing but evil in him (see AC 10808). Apparently their intent was to drive him away. “But it was given me to reply that I well know that such is the case…… Imagine their surprise when he agreed with them! He could have taken it personally and been offended. Instead he used it as an occasion for instruction. By his agreeing with them, their desire to hurt was deflected, and no harm was done.

Then, after looking at oneself, reconciliation requires confrontation. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15). Rather than keep it inside, letting anger build, talk to the person. For change cannot come about unless there is knowledge that it is needed.

Certainly if we were doing something that bothered others, we would appreciate knowing it. If a joke went too far, or if we are not allowing others to finish their stories, we need to be made aware of it so that we can stop. So if we are offended, we are to go to that person, privately, and explain. It has to be done with love, not anger. But if the person really is a brother, meaning he has a love of what is good, then the truth will provide him with a grasp of what was wrong and how to change (see AC 9088:2; AE 746:15).

This does not mean that when we first describe the wrong to someone that person will welcome the news. Would we? It is very difficult to hear that we have a problem. At first there often is denial, so the Lord suggests taking others to speak with the person. This could be done in some situations. But the point is that major change does not occur suddenly, so it takes many confirmations for the knowledge to firmly take hold. Married couples can be working on aspects of their relationship for long periods of time before changes occur. It takes repeated experiences of pain and reconciliation for behaviors to permanently change (which is one of the values of thinking of marriage as an eternally evolving relationship).

The goal is, of course, to regain one’s brother – to have peaceful relationships with others. But this goal cannot always be met. Reconciliation will not always produce harmony. This the Lord recognizes, for if someone refuses to listen, He said, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). To be a heathen or tax collector was to be repulsive, to be avoided at all costs.

Where efforts to work out differences fail, and when it is possible to avoid the person, it is a wise course to follow. When the Lord was traveling to Jerusalem, a Samaritan village refused to receive Him. The disciples James and John were angered and wanted fire to rain down upon them. But the Lord rebuked them, and they went to another village (see Luke 9:51-56).

We cannot get along with everyone. In the Lord’s house there are many mansions. Different personalities, attitudes, and values cause spiritual distance to occur. Charity is sometimes exercised by avoiding people with whom full reconciliation is not possible.

This does not mean that we turn away in anger or judgment. The Lord said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Love, bless, do good to, and pray for – quite a challenge! We cannot change others but we can control how we think of them – we can change ourselves. Regardless of the wrong others may do to us, we cannot let them be the cause of the growth of hell within us. When we hate in response, we harm only ourselves. The heavenly state to which the Lord is leading is far removed from such feelings, for the doctrines of the New Church state that angels “are in the continual desire of doing good to others, because this is the delight of their life; and therefore as soon as there is any opportunity, they do good both to foes and to friends . . . ” (AC 8223:2).

To be reconciled with others means to allow the Lord to bring peace into our lives. If we always remember that there is good in others, even if we do not see it, we cannot be harmed by their actions (see AE 644:23). If we strive to feel love for others, wish blessings for them, look for what good we may do, and above all, pray for them, then there is no conflict between us and what is good. For we will not be able to hate or stay angry if we sincerely pray for the good of others.

Then we will be reconciled with the good in our brothers. Then there will be no cause for hard feelings or vengeful actions. Then we can return to the altar. We can raise up our gifts, our hearts and minds, and they will be acceptable to the Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 5:38-48, Luke 9:51-56, AC 9088:2

Arcana Coelestia 9088:2

[2] The case herein is this. If good or truth is being perverted by means of falsity, then that which has been perverted must be amended by means of truth; within the church by means of truth from the Word, or from doctrine which is from the Word. The reason why this must he so, is that truth teaches what is evil and what is false, and in this way the man sees and acknowledges it; and when he sees and acknowledges, he can then be amended. For the Lord flows into those things in man which the man knows; but not into those things which be does not know; and therefore He does not amend what is evil or what is false until the man has been instructed that it is evil or false. From this it is that those who do the work of repentance must see and acknowledge their evils, and thus live a life of truth (see n. 8388-8392).

The case is the same with purifications from the evils of the love of self and the love of the world. Purifications from these loves cannot possibly he effected except by means of the truths of faith, because these teach that all concupiscences are from these loves. It was for this reason that among the Israelitish and Jewish nation circumcision was performed by means of a knife of stone; for “circumcision” signified purification from these filthy loves; and the knife of stone” by which it was performed signified the truth of faith (n. 2799, 7044). Moreover man is regenerated by means of the truths of faith (n. 8635-8610, 8772). This was signified by the “washings,” whereby in olden time they were cleansed. The same is also signified at this day by the waters of baptism, for “waters” signify the truths of faith by means of which evils are removed (n. 739, 2702, 3058, 3121, 1976, 7307, 8568), and “baptism” signifies regeneration (n. 4255, 5120).

REMORSE

REMORSE

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinAugust 14, 1994

All of us have past regrets. If we could turn back the hands, we would do things very differently. There are probably many things we would do differently, if we had another opportunity to do them. Perhaps we said or did something that hurt someone else, and that hurt is still hampering our relationship with that person. Or perhaps something happened to us in the past, maybe as far back as to our childhood that left deep scars and still causes us great emotional pain. The fact that we can not go back and do things differently can cause us great pain and a great feeling of remorse.

While we are experiencing the pain of difficult past memories, we can identify with David over the lost of his child to Bathsheba. After David became king over Israel, he noticed Bathsheba, who was married to a man named Uriah, and he lusted after her. After David discovered that Bathsheba was expecting his child, he arranged to have Uriah killed in battle and then he took Bathsheba to be his wife. David thought he got away with his plan until Nathan the prophet publicly exposed David’s scheme. David repented, but Nathan said that the child that would be born would die. When the child was born, David prayed and fasted in an effort to save his child’s life. However, after seven days, the child died. Surprisingly, David reacted to the baby’s death with calmness and composure. He cleansed himself and went about performing his duties. In the end, David showed the perspective of focusing only on the things that he could control. When there was no longer any hope that the infant would live, he said, “text” and concentrated on the things that were under his control or domain.

David’s display of dealing with the great loss of his child can provide a great lesson for us today. The regret that he must have felt for the death of his child and the sense of responsibility he must have bore must have been great. But he was able to still perform the tasks that he could do something about and not be completely absorbed in things and regrets that he could do nothing about.

We also will experience many feelings of guilt. However, some of the guilt feelings will actually be good or positive in our spiritual growth. When we are remorseful towards something, that can be an indication that we are making a spiritual advancement in our lives. We are taught that as we learn more truths and have a better understanding of what a spiritual life is, we will recognize more evils within us. We will see faults within us that we did not see before. Even though the guilt we experience is not very pleasant to go through, yet it can lead to a more open reception of the Lord’s Holy Spirit within us.

This can be illustrated in the story of Peter denying the Lord three times. While Peter was denying the Lord, he gave no indication that he was aware of what he was doing. It wasn’t until he heard the rooster crowing that he realized what he had done. The rooster crowing represents the dawn of a new day or state. When we advance into a deeper awareness of the life we are to live, we at the same time will recognize shortcomings that we were not aware of before. Like Peter, they can cause us to go out and wept bitterly. But when we are able to put the evils aside, and advance forward, we will emerge stronger and more effective. This can be demonstrated in the Book of Acts where Peter many times acknowledged the Lord under very perilous conditions. We can only grow by recognizing faults that were before deeply hidden.

Also, we must keep in mind that we do not see our internal loves or thoughts as clearly as we do our external states. Our shortcomings may be more vividly seen than our good points and what we have to offer in the Lord’s creation. Therefore, our sense of guilt may come as a result of not seeing the entire picture of our lives. However, we are assured that our internals, even though they may not be vividly seen as our natural states are still influencing our lives and causing our shortcomings to be brought to view. Even though the guilt and the remorse are not pleasant, it is a necessary step for as to take if we are to have spiritual growth in our lives.

Also, another positive guilt that the Writings speak about is to make ourselves guilty as one of the steps of true repentance. We must search out and acknowledge specific evils that we come across and recognize. The Writings specifically state that we are to make ourselves guilty when we recognize an evil that is within us or that we have done. Only by accepting responsibility, which is done or meant by making ourselves guilty, will we have protection from excusing or justifying our faults. When we acknowledge them and take responsibility for them, then we are in a position to remove them. Part of the temptation in confronting our faults is to find excuses for them. But the more we can confess them for what they are, and accept responsibility for them, the more they can be actually dealt with and removed. When evils are justified, they linger with us. When they are openly confessed and we take responsibility for them, then they are easier to shun as sins against the Lord and for us to begin to live a new life.