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.
A bit of self-pride seems part of the positive trait of self-esteem.
Possible danger of self-pride
Yet we speak of pride before a fall. The story of Icarus is about a young man’s attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. In flying too high he is often seen as possessing overconfident arrogance. The proverb ‘Pride goes before a fall’ seems apt, implying suffering for those too cocky for their own good.
On the other hand, sounding superior and important are favoured traits in today’s tough competitive economic climate. Even if you are not in business, you need to market your work skills in order to keep your own job or get another one.
“At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” (Muhammad Ali)
And it is said that it can become counter-productive to be modest because you may not be taken seriously.
So is it really true that you will be like Icarus and suffer in some way as a result of being full of yourself and your ability? What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?
Noticing the sacred in others rather than self-pride in oneself
In his book Essential Spirituality, Roger Walsh writes about noticing the sacred in other people.
He tells a story about an old woman sitting by the roadside outside her town who was approached by a traveller who asked “What kinds of people live in this town?”
“What were the people like in your home town?” queried the old woman.
“Oh, they were terrible!” fumed the traveller. “Liars, cheats, incompetents, you couldn’t trust any of them. I was glad to leave.”
“You’ll find the people in this town just the same.” Responded the old woman.
Not long afterwards, she was approached by a second traveller who also questioned her about the people in the town.
“”What were the people like in your home town?” she asked.
“Oh, they were wonderful!” exclaimed the traveller. “Fine, honest, hard-working, it was a privilege to be with them. I was so sorry to leave.”
“You’ll find the people in this town just the same. “responded the old woman.
So, how you see others and what you say about them reveals more about yourself than about them. You don’t want to seem to be a know-it-all full of self-pride who fails to notice the value in others. Few people want to appear big-headed about their own abilities at the cost of the abilities of others. Moreover, seeing what is valuable about others helps you be honest with yourself about your own limitations even when this is uncomfortable.
Seeing the sacred in life itself
Spiritually-minded people acknowledge a source of deeper energy and wisdom beyond their own mind. They ask how can one not feel humbled by the wonders of the universe, or when seeing the power of altruistic love manifest in the most extreme circumstances. We are so often exposed to the scientific view, of an evolution without purpose and a universe as a meaningless machine, that no transcendent sacred force — whatever we want to call it — is allowed to exist.
But then we are pulled up short by tantalizing glimpses, of a mysterious quality within nature — perhaps triggered by a beautiful sunset, the wisdom of birds and animals, or the vastness of space — glimpses that offer a truly awe-inspiring experience of something beyond oneself. At such moments the mundane world is transfigured.
Such experiences, can lead to acknowledging a higher good and truth that exists beyond your own ability, and which is the source of inspiration for human effort. In this way of thinking, the focus is not on the strengths of humanity but on the strengths of the Divine presence within the human soul and accepting one’s dependence on this presence for finding tolerance, patience, and other virtue. Not, as do some Christians, in sanctimoniously promoting themselves as Godly and thus betraying a self-pride in being better than others. Instead, by genuinely bowing down to an origin of all that is good, the individual does not feel empty but full.
“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” (Blaise Pascal)
Neither need one indulge in self-abasement as do some believers but rather celebrate one’s ability to be uplifted and share the spiritual power available: not in denying the inner strength in oneself but rather in recognising that it is received from a higher Divine source. A bit of self-pride might not be an appropriate attitude for those with this kind of true humility.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Yet elsewhere, Swedenborg insists that God’s truths cannot be instilled (acquired) into one’s inner life without temptations.
So what gives here?
According to Swedenborg, the Lord God uses every circumstance wisely (and providentially) to promote His heavenly trajectories. This means allowing infernal spirits (from hell) to reprove and chasten—that is, to challenge any genuinely spiritual idea in a person’s memory.
(Even noble ideas must go deeper than a person’s memory function in order to be appropriated. But such a temptation to make this happen is not permitted among those with wrongly oriented hearts.)
The resulting conflict (and friction) between opposing influences forges particular notions to form an eternal belief system within one’s inner (spiritual) organic fabric. In this way God uses evil to help in the process of spiritual transformation because evil is then used as an important passive principle to allow Truth to become organically fixed (qualified) deeply into the human spirit.
Gushiness, chumminess and worldly affirmations are manifestations of lazy worshippers choosing not to enter into this humbling process and self-conflict.
Matthew 5: 1-11: “1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” “
Matthew 16:25: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Mark 10:15: “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
(compare Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17):
Matthew 19:13-15: “13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”
Luke 18:15-17: “15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
John 12:25: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”