humility where is the good in it

spiritual questions and answers

humility where is the good in it

People often equate humility with submissiveness, low self-esteem and low confidence. Not qualities suited to say being a leader or entertainer.

humility
Jim Kong Kim

However, Jim Kong Kim (President of the World Bank) is a leader who recognises the value of humility. He says it allows him to ask for coaching of new personal skills and request feedback on his performance from his subordinates.

Sure, cockiness and arrogance can lead us into trouble. An inflated ego, showing off and seeking admiration can create high expectations that one cannot fulfil. But is a positive sense of self-respect, confidence and assertiveness that are not taken too far, actually compatible with humility? Can humility be a good thing?

Features of humility

So what do we mean by humility? You may associate humility with shameful experiences. I can recall many years ago on holiday waking up in my tent alone. My two sleeping companions were elsewhere. We had been drinking vodka the evening before and I couldn’t remember going to bed. But I was shocked to see I must have thrown up in the tent. I had to eat humble pie when I met up with my mates.

humility
Professor June Tangney

There seems to be several key features of humility according to June Tangney, professor of psychology, George Mason University

  • An accurate sense of one’s skills
  • The willingness to acknowledge mistakes, and gaps in one’s knowledge
  • An openness to advice and new ideas, even if they contradict one’s assumptions.
  • A capacity to ‘forget’ the self.
  • An appreciation of the value of all things.

Humility and inferiority

It can’t be a bad thing to be able to take an honest and even-handed look at oneself – warts and all. Seems like this doesn’t require a sense of inferiority to others. The truth about oneself is solid rock – rather than shifting sand – on which one can start to build one’s character.

In fact a sense of inferiority may hinder humility. Psychologist Dr. Julie Exline points out:

People may need a secure sense of personal worth before they can tolerate an honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

You don’t need to feel inferior to others in order to humbly see yourself as a relatively small part in the larger scheme of things perhaps in comparison to the universe.

Are you willing to learn from others – your friends, work-mates, family members? And can you give credit where it is due? Those who are humble will not need to put others down to feel better about themselves. Also can you admit it when you need help?

Humility and pride

If you are an unassuming soul you probably may not impress people on first meeting. But they will probably take to you more than to the proud overbearing type of individual who doesn’t have the humility to admit when he’s wrong about something or whose boasting and showing off will eventually lose him friends.

Such an individual:

“places merit in good deeds .. and believes that all good originates in himself.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)

People like this tend to think they deserve rewards on the basis of what they see as their own worth. Yet doesn’t true happiness come from wanting to do what is good and useful without having any concern with being well thought of by others or remunerated?

Swedenborg reports on a vision he experienced. He saw people cutting wood. They carried on doing this without tiring. This was their delusion.

“They seem to themselves to be cutting wood. This is exactly how it appears to them. I have spoken to them. When they are doing their work and are asked whether they are not tired out, they reply that they have not yet done enough work to be able to merit heaven.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

He says that these people had confirmed themselves in the idea that they deserved credit for the good things they had done in life. Consequently, they believed they could save themselves from unhappiness and suffering by their own efforts alone. We are told that because they had led a conscientious life this mistaken belief would eventually start to fade and they would stop the wood cutting and be taken care of.

Humility and awareness of one’s limitations

Clearly we are all obliged to deal with the problems of living by making our own choices and trying to make the best of things. People who are aware of their own limitations soon realise that, of themselves, they can achieve very little. They are the first to put their hands up into the air and say – sorry I can’t do this without assistance. I need ideas and support from colleagues, family, friends. Even help from a force for good that is beyond my own limitations.

Have you ever had a feeling of surprise and admiration, evoked by an experience that is in some way inexplicable or that surpasses expectation? Perhaps it was something of the mystery of life or a fresh insight into familiar thing. By reminding us of our own limitations, a sense of wonder may lead to humility, reverence, and an appreciation of things that are greater than ourselves.

Humility of a tree branch

If you know anything about orchards you will know that one needs to cut off any withering branch of a tree not producing fruit. Might as well throw away and burn it for all the good it does. Also one should prune those branches that are okay so that they will produce more fruit. The obvious point is that no branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain attached to the trunk.

Isn’t it the same with each of us? I would like to make the suggestion that it’s no use trying to live life as if we are unattached to the source of life. No good trying to go it alone. The branch needs to remain connected so that the tree’s energy and nourishment is working in the branch.

Isn’t the tree of life the source of our deeper motives and ideas? Some would say this spiritual source can be recognised as a cosmic love and wisdom that pervades the universe, if only we would acknowledge and receive its inflow.

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

The Great Swedenborgian Debate!

Once upon a time a denomination of the Swedenborgian Church hosted a debate between two Swedenborgian experts on various spiritual topics. The first panelist had suggested that hell was eternal, that the human will was totally corrupt and the kingdom of heaven was not easy to obtain.

The second panelist eventually agreed, reluctantly, that “hell,” at least as theologian Emanuel Swedenborg described it, is an eternal outcome. The reason why this agreement was not immediate was because it seemingly challenged the idea of God’s Infinite love and mercy—which is what gets church pews to fill up.

We now cut to the live and continuing discussion over the other two highly contested remarks made by the first panelist:

“Swedenborg states in many places in his theological writings that the human will has complete control over the human intellect and makes it conform to its own disposition,” said the second panelist. “Therefore, something in the human will must be good in order for individuals to discern and make the best moral choices. So the human will cannot be totally corrupt.”

The second panelist notices the first panelist is shaking his head and immediately begins to provide more supportive ideas for his belief that the human will is not totally corrupt.

“The human understanding is capable of learning and considering nobler ideas, like God’s Ten Commandments, which challenge us to transcend the flawed proclivities of our worldly will. These higher principles of living can last long enough in the brain so that one’s earth-bound will, little by little, gets used to heaven-bound thinking and begin to make better choices,” said panelist number two.

“Nope,” said the first panelist. “The will that we are born with, including all its inclinations and compulsions, is put off during one’s spiritual evolution and salvation. An entirely new ‘heavenly will’ must be created by the Lord God to set the process of salvation in motion. God does not make the old will better.”

Clinging to some residual effect of his earth-born will, the second panelist reacted as if this statement were a personal attack. “Read Swedenborg’s statement in his work Heaven and Hell, number 533. It suggests to me, at least, that the process of salvation is continuous and commences from the old will as it gets better information,” said the visibly irritated second panelist.

“You cannot simply pick a quote by Swedenborg to get the big picture,” replied the first panelist. “My statement that the human will is totally corrupt comes from a synthesis of many of his writings. If we are attentive and look further into this matter we learn that it is not from our native will that God conducts His work of salvation. The Lord works from what Swedenborg called ‘remains.’ These are affections and bits of information that a child experiences in life and the Lord secretly stores away for safekeeping within the unconscious or involuntary mind.  The remains keep the child inwardly connected to heaven and its angels. When the process of spiritual regeneration begins, the Lord activates a person’s remains so that it can become a matrix or plane by which a new will and intellect is generated. This can also be understood as the formation of both a new conscience and a spiritual body, capable of living in heaven’s unique ecosystem.”

“Well, even if you are correct, that doesn’t mean it is difficult to get to heaven,” said the second panelist as he sat back in his seat and folded his arms over his chest.

“Proper humility is the hurdle,” replied the first panelist. “Unfortunately, the human race is allowed to sensate on earth that life and goodness flows out from the person—rather than flow into the person from God and heaven. Even when novice spirits are being prepared for a heavenly life after their departure from this terrestrial orb, they can unexpectedly be put into a situation whereby they experience a most unflattering revelation. Spirits communicate their affections and thoughts with others of their spiritual community. Swedenborg observed an experiment where spirits were temporarily removed from the spiritual community their hearts and minds were intimately conjoined with. This separation caused these particular spirits to enter into a diminished cognitive state whereby they falsely perceived that all goodness and truth proceeded from themselves and was their own. When their error was pointed out to them they became indignant. (Angels have no such illusion.) Accepting such a reality is anti-intuitive to human experience from living on earth, and creates a real challenge to one’s worldview and self-esteem. Acquiring this kind of humility, which is angelic, is not as ‘easy as pie.’”

Dear readers, please comment on which debater you believe made the most convincing points.

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Spiritual Astronomy

What is spiritual astronomy? It involves looking at the discoveries of astronomy in a novel and more personal way that can lead us to making similar spiritual discoveries about ourselves.

For instance, Galileo made the claim that the sun was the center of the planetary system rather than the earth. This was proven to be true. We can also make a similar spiritual discovery that the world does not revolve around us. When the Lord was in the world he challenged people to make exactly this same important discovery—by teaching that “Loving God and loving the neighbor” were the greatest commandments.

(By the way, it wasn’t Galileo’s science that got him in trouble with the church, it was his challenge to a literal interpretation of Holy Scripture. He believed that true science would not contradict Scripture if properly understood.)

Since Galileo’s time, astronomy has made additional discoveries that our sun is one of billions of suns in the Milky Way galaxy, which is just one of billions and billions of galaxies far out in space. Thus, when we measure ourselves against this vast universe we become less than a speck. So there is no premise by which we can rationally support and embrace self-conceit and self-importance. Again, the Lord taught humility, and to serve others.

Are your worldly hopes and wishes merely insignificant specks of dust in God’s Infinitely wise eyes? Or are your hopes and dreams worthy of divine notice? When you sincerely love others, God can find an abode in your heart and mind. You can then provide residence for something infinitely more vast and important than the entire physical universe!

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Do I get my way too often?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Who wouldn’t try to persuade their youngster to study for what they see as a promising career? Who wouldn’t pull out all the stops to influence investors to support their business? Who wouldn’t want to make their spouse feel the same way about having more children or a house move? It is surely normal for me to want the best for someone as I see it? Or is this sometimes as case of me wanting to get my way. Have things as I see fit?

I have to ask myself if my attempts at influencing others amounts to trying to make them think, act, or feel the way I do? get my wayAll this made me wonder just how I might assess the way I manage other people in my life. Do I try to get my way with others too often?

Do I try to get my way by force?

‘Hang on,’ I hear myself say. ‘I don’t force anyone to do anything. That would be selfish.’  Okay so before the kids left home, I seldom shouted at my teenage daughter to keep her  bedroom tidy. I seldom ordered anyone in the family to do their chores. In fact even now I  rarely if ever voice explosive anger, never mind any verbal abuse or any threat of violence to get my way. But perhaps I don’t even realise if I use less obvious methods of manipulation?

Do I try to get my way by nagging?

You may have heard of the young woman who thinks she will be able to change her man after they are married. Make him tidier, stop smoking or whatever. But he may be of a different mind. And when she fails to alter his bad habits, she may end up just nagging him which can cause irritation but no change of ways. Telling someone what to do or what to think doesn’t usually work because people like to decide things for themselves.

Do I try to get my way by telling?

Offering a point of view for their consideration and rational arguments to support it can be quite another matter. For this is respecting their personal choice. A father who insists on telling his daughter what to believe about politics, religion and so on, will appear as someone who thinks he knows best.

He may feel certain he is right. However, these days, less and less people will tolerate being told what to think. They really do prefer to make up their own minds. By claiming absolute answers to life’s issues, perhaps without realizing it, the father is arrogantly trying to impose his views. He would be advised to more humbly offer his beliefs for consideration and they even may be welcomed as his gift.

Do I try to get my way by being deaf?

Many parents have learned not to speak dogmatically about matters that are dear to their hearts. But some still don’t want to hear anything that might distract from their agenda. And so they sometimes fall foul of the mistake of turning a deaf ear to their teenager’s point of view.

This shows when they refuse to pay attention to anything that opposes them, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it”.  Or they may show a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, or make rhetorical comments, or use subtle sarcasm. The trouble is how we come over to others is not always apparent to us, and we can get into unfortunate habits in how we communicate.

Do I try to get my way by being less than honest?

Making up excuses is something I have done at some time or other to cover up my  embarrassment or mistakes. Perhaps you have taken this a step further and been engaged spinning a yarn to the media on behalf of your company or to your friends regarding your achievements. It is not only ‘spin doctors’ who twist the truth to suit their own ends. The trouble is when dishonesty becomes a habitual method of trying to get our own way.

Like when we refuse to admit something obvious, or use weasel words to give vague, irrelevant, rambling, responses to evade revealing our real intentions. For we hope that only by changing the subject and keeping quiet about what we are up to, instead of giving a straight answer, can we hope to change someone’s mind or actions.

Am I on an ego trip?

Ray and Star Silverman in their book Rise Above It have given a Swedenborgian perspective on trying to get our own way. Whether we do this coercively or subtly, it is said to be a sign that we want to possess what belongs to another person for our own sake; having charge of what they think and believe.

Any apparent success in controlling someone feeds the ego trip that our ideas are more valid than the other person’s, and the illusion that what we want is more important than what he or she wants. A few people want to possess someone’s aspirations, values and even their deepest desires.

When you notice yourself starting to manipulate other people, perhaps for genuinely held reasons, you might however want instead to hold back. I find it helps me to remember the importance of giving respect to other people who need to find out things for themselves, be free to choose what they want, and take responsibility for their own lives.

Even though we each may have a specific superior talent for something or a more important social responsibility, nevertheless everyone has a significant role to play in the universal human family. Someone controlling their attitudes can rob them of their unique contribution.

In striving to overcome the love of power, I like to think I have discovered the power of love.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

Posted on30th March 2012CategoriesEthics, Interpersonal EthicsTags,, , , , ,, , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , ,, , ,  Leave a comment

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Spiritual Contraception

We not only have the means to prevent unwanted births, we have adopted similar means of preventing ideas from inseminating our minds.

For instance, the Ten Commandments can be read, stored in the memory as data, but never acted upon. The Lord, while in the world, simplified these ten laws into two – loving God and loving the neighbor. Still, the Lord’s teaching of loving God and loving others can simply be filed away in the memory as mere data.

Anything that prevents God’s ideas from taking hold in the mind and not being allowed to grow into the mature and loving actions of one who seeks eternal life and blessedness is spiritual contraception.

The Christian doctrine of salvation by faith alone is just such a spiritual birth control pill. The reason is that faith alone stresses “belief” over “acts of goodness” for obtaining salvation and entry into the gates of heaven.

This is holy hogwash!

Believing alone is like allowing a concept to enter into one’s memory without the conceiving. In other words, when an idea is not allowed to germinate and change the way we act in the world, how can mere “believing” lead to our spiritual rebirth?

Rebirth implies real, tangible process.

What possible process is involved when ideas simply remain as un-germinated seeds in the soil of the human memory? Those who embrace the doctrine of faith alone point out that no one is perfect and that no human act or deed of goodness can help us gain the credit of the Lord’s righteousness.

The doctrine of faith alone allows Christians to overlook their personal flaws and serves as a prophylactic to the commandments and introspection. Such believers cleverly point out that an individual who seeks salvation through good deeds seeks his or her own merit. But they miss the point that, because people are imperfect, they must seek and pray for the Lord’s help in becoming a better person. One does not seek merit if he or she approaches the Lord with sincerity and humility. (And one cannot effectively seek God’s help unless one sees specific inclinations and compulsions that need overhauling.)

The other thing people tend to overlook is that good deeds are not sincere until someone tackles their personal flaws. Otherwise, a person can accomplish good deeds for the sake of reputation, self-promotion, and even to keep personal agendas hidden from the world.

Repentance precedes good deeds. This brings innocence to the deed.

Love is faith put into action. True faith is the love to do what is true. Love makes faith alive. The warmth of Love is how faith germinates in our memory and grows out into the living actions of our heart. Any religious doctrine that deters the growth and development of spiritual love in our lives is “rebirth control.”

God’s heavenly kingdom consists of mutual love. Mutual love is more than our possessing the right idea in our noggins. It necessitates doing the right thing from a spiritual conscience.

Posted on January 12, 2009by thegodguy

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Hope – But what to pin it on?

Turn on the television news, look at your bank statement, listen to your friend’s woes. Faced with the basic problems of living who hasn’t despaired of things ever turning out okay? How are you to be delivered from all that is going wrong with the world – the hate and violence, crime, stress, family breakdown, business dishonesty? What power for good is going to make a real difference? In what can you turn to for confidence about things improving?

Hope in bodily pleasure

One answer is to rely on bodily pleasure. Who doesn’t look forward to escaping home at the end of a fraught day and crashing out. Some people get a bit tipsy after work trying to forget their troubles. Or indulge in comfort eating. Those who are bored with life perhaps look forward to the excitement of a new sexual thrill or dangerous sport. Others may take recreational drugs to enhance their mood.

Whatever your fix, you will know deep down that it can’t be relied upon to make things better other than on a temporary basis. Bodily indulgence is just a temporary distraction that never really solves anything.

Hope in technology

How about counting on technological invention to permanently make life very different? Given time, engineers, who designed vacuum cleaners and washing machines, will probably create other labour saving equipment in the home. The electronics industry will probably change your life as much as did computers and smart phones.

But do machines make you any more contented? Do they reduce work stress or just give us more emails to answer? Do they help us cope with personal relationships or just take away our privacy whilst using social media? Do they liberate human beings from mundane work or just make people redundant?

Hope in politics

You might be banking on politics to make a real difference to your life. The hope is that it may produce a better world to live in. National government can provide solutions to social and economic problems by ensuring good public services such as education and health care. Can politicians do all this and at the same time protect the environment, encourage commercial enterprise and pay for our security? Certainly, they are happy to appeal for votes with policies claimed to meet the country’s need for good housing, high rates of employment, a sense of social justice, and a level of socially cohesion that enables good community relations.

The trouble is there seems in Britain to be a widespread disenchantment with the main political parties. Can we really hope politicians will offer us salvation from our economic and social woes or will they just be too busy slagging off the other side creating falsehood, fear and smear? How can national policies expect to radically change the way human beings behave towards each other in the home, and in the workplace? What the government do cannot make us show more respect for others, give us a social conscience, and reduce our self-interest.

Hope in therapy

Perhaps you should be looking to some form of counselling to rid you of unpleasant feelings like anxiety and depression. Talking with a friend or with a professional therapist is for you when going through a bad time or when you have emotional problems you can’t sort out on your own. You can hope that life will be made easier if you look at your problems in a different way and learn new personal skills.

Critics, however, point out that with over a 25% drop out rate from professional therapy, what may count is how you and the other person get on. What is called the quality of the therapeutic relationship. But choosing who is best for you to work with in confidence is virtually impossible in advance. Also although therapists may be seen as the new high priests, they can’t actually solve the deeper issues of life – tissues to do with your sense of identity, the meaning you attach to being alive, your eventual death and an unknowable future. Nor can they alleviate the socially caused problems that beset you, over which you have no influence.

Hope in oneself

Many will feel that if you want a job doing well then do it yourself. In other words in the end one has to put one’s hope in one’s own solutions to difficulties. Don’t depend on others but become more self-reliant. Taking responsibility for dealing with the mess you find yourself in can be liberating. It can reduce the feeling of helpless dejection by giving a new sense of control. This self-confidence may seem to be a good idea for those who feel they are managing life’s difficulties.

But when you are in crisis being confronted by failure, and factors beyond your own influence then you will be brought up sharp by the burdens of reality and a sense of helplessness. The need is to turn to something that is stronger then yourself to effect change. Members of AA turn to a higher power to help them abstain from alcohol.

Hope in the transcendent

In my view, in rightly rejecting the punitive and judgmental ideas of traditional religion, many people today nevertheless believe in a life force that gives nature its vitality. Others recognize a universal spirit which inspires humane compassion and love; and a divine providence that provides us with the opportunities for learning life’s lessons so that we can become wiser and calmer in the face of adversity.

hopeI happen to believe that what saves you, from all that is bad, is a humble acknowledgment that what is good ultimately does not come from the world or from yourself. For we humans are finite. Instead it originates in an infinite source of goodness itself, far beyond your or my own strength to create. A source of divine love and wisdom which is both mysteriously simultaneously transcendent beyond us and immanently present within us. To find a lasting sense of hope is to put one’s faith in this divine power. Perhaps that is why even in these secular times in Britain many people in crisis, who do not normally do so, pray to God when they are desperate for help.

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

Multiply Yourself – Everywhere!

Be honest. Don’t you wish everyone would think and be like you? If you could turn everyone else into “you,” the world would be six billion times better. I am not kidding.

Furthermore, you actually have the power to do so.

Not only would it be a good thing to turn everyone else into copies of “you,” God wants you to do precisely just that! In fact, it is actually one of God’s great commandments. The commandment is to love thy neighbor as oneself.

Confused? Let me explain.

God really does want us to look at others and see ourselves. But this is not to be understood as a spreading out of one’s self-centeredness in all directions. It is an act of humility.

When one person loves another as him or herself, he or she will then see the other in oneself, and oneself in the other. This spiritual love and consciousness is called empathy.

It is not the multiplication or the forcing of one’s will upon everyone else, either. It is the harmonious unification of the wills of many.

This unites one person with another. And even better, unites one society with another.

This union does not superimpose our likeness upon another person. Rather, it allows us all to take on the likeness of the Lord God, who is Divine Love.

Heaven is a likeness of the Lord because it consists of those who live in spiritual love and unity. Heaven on earth is the adoption of neighborly love by all its terrestrial citizens.

This is the deeper meaning within God’s command to be “fruitful and multiply.” God wants us each to increase the good in the world.

That would indeed make the world six billion times better.

Posted on September 5, 2008by thegodguy

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