Resentful – How can I stop this feeling?

resentfulI suppose it is natural for us to feel resentful when others demean us, frustrate us or do us harm. I feel resentful about how Sharon spoke to me. Not what she said, but how she said it – shouting and slamming the phone down. It’s not as if this were a one-off: there have been several angry outbursts lately. I keep thinking about how unfair she is being.

Yet people say how wonderful she is. It seems as if no-one but myself knows what she is really like. I have started to imagine her making a fool of herself and showing herself up – then others will see her poor self-control and feel about her the same way as I do. Perhaps she’ll get the boot. Part of me thinks ‘Let’s hope so, I don’t want to see her again.’

At the same time another part of me seem to dimly realize that it is unhealthy to allow my hurt feelings to smart for too long.

Do you recognise this kind of resentful feeling in yourself? Do you ever find yourself occasionally imagining getting your own back on someone who has offended you? Such feelings can fester for a long time and start to eat away at a relaxed and composed state of mind.

It all starts when you feel upset about what someone says or does. Maybe you are uncomfortable about directly complaining to that individual or perhaps you have had little chance to do so. From a spiritual perspective, I would suggest that if you open yourself to an unforgiving spirit then you will entertain resentful blaming thoughts which stew and spoil future communication.

You may find yourself engaging in private resentful thoughts that even end up turning into vindictive fantasy. And before you know it, you are feeling so tense and irritated with someone that your relationship goes from bad to worse.

The question arises how can you stop feeling so resentful?

Feeling less resentful by not retaliating

Surely if you start to retaliate this will damage your chances of putting aside resentful feeling?

The film Tit for Tat featuring Laurel and Hardy comes to mind. The two heroes open an electrical goods shop next door to Charlie’ grocery store. The comedy develops in the way the characters involved respond to each other. Charlie mistakenly thinks that Ollie is making advances towards his wife and damages a few items in Stan and Ollie’s shop. Resentfully, Stan and Ollie respond by destroying Charlie’s things and the confrontations continue eventually wreaking havoc in both stores.

This comic picture sadly mirrors the tragic events of history where reconciliation is prevented by the violence of retaliation.

At the time of writing we are in the middle of another nightmarish escalation of bloodshed in the Middle East with rockets sent into Israel aiming at indiscriminate killing of civilians and Israeli forces bombing buildings packed with civilians thought to harbour Hamas fighters. These are disproportionate responses to what preceded. Neither side seem interested in working towards a permanent peace. Israel wants security but is creating more enemies. We can only feel great sorrow for the despairing people in each community led by those who want to vent their resentful fury with no spirit of forgiveness in their hearts.

Finding a way out of this kind of mess is of course easier said than done. Stopping the retaliation can only be part of the answer.

Feeling less resentful by noticing anything that is good about the enemy

It is very difficult not to allow anger to rule one’s thoughts when you have been hurt. But I wonder whether another part of the answer is for those involved in conflict to take a step back from their resentful thoughts and search for new ways of thinking. Ways that don’t involve jumping to conclusions and seeing things in black and white.

I strongly believe that if you turn yourself towards a spirit of forgiveness then you can discover fairer and calmer ways of seeing a situation: a spirit that helps you try to see things from the point of view of those who have caused offence to you and that focuses on their good points and well-being as well as your own.

Feeling less resentful by considering one’s own faults

Don’t we all do something wrong at some time or another in our lives? I would suggest that it is easier to see the misdeeds of others, than face up to your own failings.

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ (Jesus Christ)

Isn’t getting irritated about someone else’s behaviour a way of turning a blind eye to one’s own faults?

It is uncomfortable examining one’s own weaknesses and mistakes – probably because we play the blame game; easier to accuse someone else than point the finger at oneself. But why look for blame anywhere? Why be judgmental about anyone including yourself?

When we see the need for forgiveness for our own blunders then I would suggest it is easier for us to accept that the enemy also needs forgiveness. If we ask for our own misconduct to be set aside and forgotten then does it not become possible to have a forgiving attitude towards others?

If you cannot pardon your our own wrongdoing then what chance have you of believing it is possible for you to excuse your foe?

From a religious angle, in holding a grudge we are cut off from sensing the divine spirit of compassion. As the Christian prayer says

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

Getting angry isn’t the problem. Holding the anger and acting on it are the problems. When we start to consider the well-being of those who have angered us then our resentful feeling has no room within our hearts. I believe then we can swallow our injured pride and can ‘forgive and forget’.

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

Build trust — How to help my organisation.

Do you trust senior members of your organisation to get it right or to be a credible source of information? Do you trust the constant stream of commercial messages and political spin to which you are exposed.  What can be done to help to build trust?

Benefits of trust within an organisation and community

Organisational and community life is not risk-free and depends on an appropriate degree of trust. Trust makes social life predictable, it creates a sense of community, and it makes it easier for people to work together.

“Trust makes the world go ’round,”

Where there is an element of distrust between neighbours over social nuisance issues or between local tradesmen and customers, then there is damage to community cohesion. Whatever the type of organisation you are associated with, you will probably know that to try to build trust among its members, stakeholders and users is crucial for things to go well. Significant distrust much increases the time it takes to get things done.

Help to build trust by being trustworthy

Trying to build trust can help the general quality of life so that people can thrive. Be trustworthy by doing what you say you will do and doing it well and on time.  Keep secret what people confide in you and don’t betray the organisation’s confidential information. At the same time talk straight and don’t spin facts, telling the truth even if this is not always comfortable or pleasant. For example own up to mistakes and if caught in a lie admit it explaining why you were less than honest.

Help to build trust by trusting others

Show trust with neither gullibility nor cynicism (see here ) For example getting recommendations before engaging a plumber or electrician but then trusting them to do a good job and not overcharge beyond their estimate. In the last analysis life is not risk-free.

Being a little open speaking your feelings means being a little vulnerable. You can be truthful about how you define a boundary around what you are keeping secret. Honesty helps to create rapport and rapport builds trust. Likewise volunteering information you didn’t have to give. In other words demonstrate your trust in others and they will trust you.

Help to build trust by being generous

Trust grows when mutual commitments are delivered without concern for personal advantage or attempted manipulation or control. So be willing to share your knowledge, your contacts, and your sympathy — without expecting anything in return. The more you take the initiative to give, the more it builds trust.

Help to build trust by making positive contact across social lines

Build trustSince its legal inception in 1921 Northern Ireland has been plagued with violence and dispute. The central problem of mistrust there has been probably caused by a mixture of perceived imperial action by Great Britain,  an entrenchment of the past, cultural clashes and a severe identity crisis.

Research by social psychologists has established that positive contact across social lines when it is frequent non-threatening, non-anxiety provoking, tends to reduce prejudice. This was true in the results of study of students in Northern Ireland who identify themselves as belonging to either the Protestant or Catholic community Friendships across a group divide such as the religious divide, can powerfully reduce prejudice and suspicion. Simply knowing other ingroup members who have friendships with outgroup members can also lead to reduction in prejudice.

Help to build trust by looking for the good in others

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg there are limits of trust in this world because we are not all in a heavenly state. There are people who increase mistrust due to selfish greed and dishonesty. However he says that people with a charitable heart try to look for the good in others.

I would interpret this to mean, when challenging someone, first speak to what is good about someone rather than overplaying the negative — in other words showing respect even when you are inclined to be critical.

Help to build trust in diversity

Swedenborg says that heaven hangs together as a unified whole in harmony although it shows a huge variety of individual differences between its inhabitants. No two people are ever entirely alike as to their memories, perceptions and thoughts, or to their feelings, inclinations and intentions.  Despite this, because of their heavenly character, they live in complete unanimity and harmony.

Being open

He also describes the heavenly afterlife in terms of openness. In heaven this is said  be as a state of being where one’s inner state is seen by others. So he maintains that the wise ideas and intentions of one individual are directly shared with another.

“Heaven is where everyone shares everything of value. This is because the very nature of heavenly love is to want what is one’s own to belong to another.” (Swedenborg Heaven & Hell section 268)

For him, this love is the basis of heavens trust and happiness.

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

Cynical or too trusting? Where is a happy medium?

Not cynicalIn the fairy tale The Adventures of Pinocchio, the title character is the opposite of cynical. He is a gullible puppet who is repeatedly duped by other characters. Part of his transformation, into a human being, is learning to avoid becoming too trusting, while still exercising empathy.

A popular test of gullibility is to tell a friend that the word gullible isn’t in the modern dictionary; a gullible person might respond “Really?” and go to look it up! But we would not expect something like that from Pinocchio by the end of his story.

A cynical response to mass media messages

There are pitfalls in you trusting too readily what you are told. Living in the 21st century means being exposed to a constant stream of commercial messages and political spin. So many people promoting a particular version of the news or of what legitimate investigations report; all trying to tell you how to think. Perhaps they cynically assume we are all stupid, or that we put our intelligence to sleep as soon as we switch on the radio or TV.

Sometimes it feels you have to believe or disbelieve — to accept or deny — what you are being told. It can be difficult in this complex world to form a right opinion. So, rather than risk showing any ineptitude in your judgments, you might adopt a cynical attitude. Instead of becoming vulnerable to emotional appeals from people, you might dismiss in your mind any chance what they say has any validity.

But isn’t to do so, just swinging from one extreme to another: from being naive to lacking any hope in something good and true?

Cynicism makes things worse than they are in that it makes permanent the current condition, leaving us with no hope of transcending it. Idealism refuses to confront reality as it is but overlays it with sentimentality. (Richard Stivers)

How to get away from a cynical attitude

Our natural tendency is to see and experience everything in terms of space and time. Emanuel Swedenborg, however, exhorts his readers to raise their minds above space and time in order to comprehend something of the infinite and eternal. In other words he is saying it is a mistake to judge by appearances. But this is exactly the mistake you can easily make.

If you feel it might be too trusting to put your total faith in a spiritual dimension which you can only sense inwardly, you may instead adopt the position that only material things that science can demonstrate are real. In my opinion, in avoiding the error of credulity you would be falling into the trap of not realizing that outward appearances are often illusory, veiling a deeper spiritual reality.

What in effect Swedenborg is claiming is this. We all are given some intuitive awareness of what is deeply real in life. But some people are uninterested in knowing more about such things. Only when you have a love of knowing more about the deeper aspect of life, can your understanding of such things become enlightened. Until then you will tend to be materially minded and can become cynical about anything spiritual.

Noticing the spiritual

One example of what is spiritual is genuine romance between two people deeply in love.

But the cynic can deny such a spiritual reality

When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance. (Oscar Wilde)

A second example of what is spiritual, that can be denied, is the existence of a loving higher power influencing the universe and a source of what is noble in the human spirit.

They that deny a God destroy man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature. (Francis Bacon)

A third example of the spiritual that can be denied is individual existence following bodily death.

Those who have adopted a cynical frame of mind say:

When you’re dead, you’re dead.

Such a view is probably an understandable over-reaction to a faith in traditional Christian doctrine of an afterlife that has no bodily sensation, is sexless and unproductive. Such an outmoded doctrine is contrary to Swedenborg’s own experience of meeting people who had once lived on earth, who, he claims, continue their existence in a realm subjectively similar to this one, in a spirit body with sight, smell, hearing and interaction with other spirit people.

Sceptical but not cynical

In favouring spiritual beliefs, I am not arguing for a thoughtless acceptance of what you read in books or of what spiritual teachers claim. On the contrary, I feel you should tackle such ideas by asking questions like, “What makes you think this way?” “What assumptions have you based your claim upon?” “What human experiences support your ideas?” To be sceptical is not to be too trusting but neither is it to become cynical.

Cynics never trust any information contrary to their belief system. They are closed minded. But sceptics want the truth and are brave enough to search for it.

Only by really wanting what is good and true can your understanding become enlightened.

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


Christmas spirit – How do I foster it?

Christmas spiritYou want to experience the Christmas spirit but you feel uneasy. You will be with the relatives and in-laws, whom perhaps you don’t often see, and you want it to go well without too much family drama. But you know you will be spending a lot of time with perhaps a person or two you can find irritating or with whom you don’t particularly get on. If seems that there is always someone who never likes the present you buy, the food you cook or the family game you suggest.

There may be disagreement over what to watch on television. Embarrassing questions may be asked and unresolved issues touched on. If some one has a dig, it is so easy to take the bait and get upset with people on top of each other. You may even sometimes wonder whether you can survive Christmas with the relatives.

Yet the Christmas spirit is supposed to be about generosity and warmth, for family togetherness, children and fun. How can we foster that Christmas spirit in the face of our unease? Here are some suggestions.

  • If the strain is beginning to tell, why not take some time out for yourself. Think of some reason to leave the company for a while if someone is really getting under your skin — going for a short walk “to clear the head after too much to drink”, going into the kitchen “to do the washing up”, going upstairs “to check on the children.”
  • You might be able to suggest a change of scene for at least some of the family group e.g. going out to a football match or the pub for those who might enjoy this. It could distract people from what had been going on.
  •  You might try taking a step back from the emotional atmosphere around you.  Adopt passive observation rather than active participation. Observe what is going on as if you are watching a television drama. In this way you can achieve a degree of emotional distance from the person who is irritating you and feel less involved in any arguments.
  •  In these days of ready expression of personal feeling we tend to say ‘Let it all hang out.‘ The idea of suppressing our feelings is not what we are supposed to do. The old Victorian saying ‘Least said, soonest mended,‘ has gone out of common use. But perhaps its time has come again. When feeling provoked, why not try counting to ten  before rising to the bait? Instead of immediately saying what is on your mind, you could ask yourself whether a social occasion such as a special family occasion is really the time and place to have a row about something that is under the surface and not going to be resolved easily. Ask yourself whether speaking your mind would really help clear the air rather than make something bigger than it need be and add ammunition for future tension. Then you can choose between saying nothing or asserting your viewpoint (quietly and with respect for the other person’s perspective).
  •  Don’t allow someone sulking or getting overexcited to spoil your own good time. Even when they are boring or annoying you, try to appreciate the presence of people with whom you have ties of family identity and common interest. It is easier to overlook someone’s negative side when you can see their good points; easier to have fun when you are in good humour. In other words why not enjoy what you can in making the most of the situation you find yourself in?

I believe if you think ahead about possible choices and then at the time choose the wisest one for any given situation, it should be possible to rise above family difficulties and foster a Christmas spirit.

From a deeper perspective, this means letting the ordinary attachments of what has been called the ‘little self’ to die. The ‘little self’s’ ordinary attachment is to receiving attention, praise, or pleasure at the expense of the needs of the social context. I would suggest that only when the ‘little self’ dies can the ‘higher self’ become fully alive. Only when you let your selfish cravings die will the Christmas spirit or Christ’s spirit become incarnate within you.

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

Who to trust these days?

 Who to trustYou discover that the popular celebrity you like and have enjoyed watching on television has a dark side, abusing his position to engage in predatory sexual contact with children. Not only do you feel betrayed by him but also by the broadcasters who turned a blind eye. It makes you wonder who to trust.

You want to applaud your favourite sporting heroes but there is that lingering doubt. Did they cheat to win, unfairly seek an advantage by taking a phoney dive on the playing field, or use performance enhancing drugs to beat their rivals?

You have a problem with the car, or the house roof, or you suffer tooth pain. Who to trust   — the mechanic, builder, or dentist not to exaggerate the problem and thus the cost? You want to develop your business by taking on extra staff but surveys find that  employers report nearly half of the CV’s received contained lies and over half of all employees admit phoning in sick when they weren’t.

We live in sceptical times but life has always been about mutual dependence. We all need to rely on other people to a varying extent. But will people really do what they say they will do? Who to trust that will keep secret that personal information you shared? Who to trust to look after your pet properly when you are away?  Choosing who to count on isn’t always easy.

Yes, you try to be right about people. So you use common sense to size people up, taking account of their track record and you don’t go into something with someone with your eyes closed. We learn to read other people. We acquire skills in social perception detecting those individuals who get irritable and easily offended when criticised, or who will respect the spirit of constructive criticism even when not agreeing with it. We realise that the person who gossips to you about others is likely to be the sort of person who may gossip about you too behind your back.

You may pause before deciding who to trust if your fellow workers are not open about their feelings. You may be doubtful who to trust if you find out the people you are with are critical of you behind your back. Likewise if they use evasion, spin and weasel words or choose email, or a text message to convey difficult messages to you.

Someone may do none of these damaging things. However, even when the signs are very good, you can never know enough about someone to be absolutely sure of them. When it comes down to it, life is just not risk-free. No matter how hard you consider the character of likely individuals, in the end it is a risk who you take on to look after your children, who to ask to mend the chimney, who to lend money to.

Of course, when it comes to personal relationships the issue of trust is more complex. Who do you try to get closer to? This is likely to be someone you want to spend more time with; the kind of person who has similar interests, and shares your values and principles. If a personal relationship is to start someone has got to make the first move and if it is to grow someone has to make further moves. For all you know, your friendly overtures may be snubbed, or you voicing an uncomfortable truth to someone may result in your head being bitten off.  Playing safe all the time never won a fair lady. You don’t get trust because you earn it; you get it because you give it. Take the risk of showing trust to someone and you may be trusted in return.

Most people have probably been let down by someone some time in their life. But to expect otherwise is to believe in the illusion of a perfect trusting relationship. You would end up always worrying about who to trust. If there were always a wonderful understanding between people and complete commitment, there would never be any pain of conflict and personal hurt. Experience teaches differently. But life goes on and we are obliged to take some chances with people.

One view is that trusting others involves an attitude towards life and that trusting life is something that goes beyond a reaction to how someone treats us. Trusting in life is no guarantee that nothing painful will occur. But it is preferring the chance of being hurt and let down once in a while to the alternative of living in fear and suspicion; of not having to try to protect yourself from all eventualities. Psychotherapist Scott Peck has said that the attempt to avoid legitimate suffering lies at the root of all emotional illness. One’s path in life is unknown and unpredictable. Without some trust in the journey, one is always going to be distrustful and suspicious.

I believe one useful motto in line with all this is to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

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

Criticise them – But how to do so safely?

criticiseYes it can happen. No one likes their faults to be pointed out and some people with thin skins when you criticise them see this as a personal attack. They get shirty, defensive or bite your head off. You probably would think twice before taking the risk of saying what you really think to them. Yet keeping quiet means not doing anything about the problem.


“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” (Winston Churchill)

So what’s the best way to criticise someone?

Shirley needed to criticise her neighbour

Shirley was really getting fed up with her new next door neighbour who played his music loudly some nights after coming home from shift-work. Once, she had called round to ask him to turn the volume down, which was done, but the level of loudness would resume another night. It probably wasn’t bad enough to make a complaint to the local authority. The adjoining walls of their homes were not sound-proofed. She  had heard from someone that her neighbour could turn nasty if provoked. How could she deal with the problem which was upsetting her a lot?

Next time Shirley tackled the guy, she wasn’t sure she could trust herself not to shout and lose her temper. When you criticise it is important to keep the matter in proportion, neither overdoing things, nor being too timid. If she were to come over as arrogant, curt or annoyed, she probably wouldn’t be listened to properly. And were she to resort to insults and hostility the chances are the door would be slammed in her face.

How not to criticise

A Laurel and Hardy comedy comes to mind when the two friends engaged in a tit-for-tat war with their neighbour, each side doing things to damage the next door property, with the punishing actions mounting, until the ludicrous outcome was the destruction of both homes.

The film comically showed the pitfalls of an unkind attitude — using the opportunity to make the critic feel superior or perhaps want to provoke or vent a bit of anger. Shirley could soften her criticism by saying things like “I have made the same mistake myself…” It avoids showing any air of superiority.

Criticise showing respect

The common advice psychologists give is “Respect the individual, and focus the criticism on the behaviour that needs changing – on what people actually do or actually say.”

Good criticism generally comes with some degree of humility and respect for the  possibility of other equally valid points of view. In other words Shirley is advised to refrain from any criticism of the person but merely of the noise he makes. Giving respect means not assuming that he is being thoughtless, inconsiderate, or selfish.
Perhaps he is hard of hearing and doesn’t appreciate how others find loud noise annoying.

Once you start to jump to conclusions about someone’s character then you are liable to show this in how you talk to them revealing sarcasm, anger, hostility or condescension. People hear how you say things more than they hear what you say. You mainly communicate through the tone of voice and facial expressions.

Also choosing the right words still matter.

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” (Zig Ziglar)

Criticise in a precise way

It is important to explain what it is that the other person is doing that is a problem for you and how you feel about it. Don’t say ‘You are causing me grief’ but say ‘I feel the noise is causing me grief.’

If the individual is respected with a bit of humour, and due credit is given to the possibility of their sympathy for your difficulty, it is vastly more likely that the criticism will be understood, and taken seriously.

To criticise can be less difficult

Shirley had the disadvantage of not knowing the person she wanted to criticize. It is easier to point out a fault if you have an ongoing friendly relationship with the person. You have a greater chance of counting on their sympathy or embarrassment. At least she could try to get into rapport with the neighbour before voicing her issue. Perhaps if she invited him into her own house when somebody else was also present when his music was on then her neighbour could more easily appreciate the nuisance he was causing.

When a relationship has already turned sour, then it may need a bit of patience, waiting before the right time and place arrive to make a fair criticism. It may take considerable effort to create the situation in which the criticism will be “heard”. On the other hand if the relationship between enemies is so bad the best thing may be to get a mediator for justice.

“Virtues which have to do with … moral wisdom … have various names, and they are called … integrity, kindliness, friendliness, modesty, honesty, helpfulness, courteousness; … not to mention many others…. In all of these justice and judgment prevail.” (Conjugial Love section 164 by Emanuel Swedenborg)

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

Honesty – Is it really the best policy?

honestyA lot of us have grown careless in what we say. “It wasn’t my fault we lost the game, I didn’t hear the whistle.” or “I was pushed over and my foot hurt.” Who has never made up an excuse to stop feeling embarrassed?

This covering up may seem harmless enough but over time a pattern of making up excuses can become an ingrained habit, a way of defending oneself against any inconvenient fact that might otherwise expose mistakes, greed, or failure.

As a way of avoiding criticism sometimes people unfairly blame others.

So if telling lies gets you off the hook why is honesty the best policy?

1. Honesty involves no wasted time and energy

Only a spurious conscience would worry about telling the odd white lie spoken to pull someone’s leg, or to give a needed compliment. However, lies that are used to defend yourself can grow and multiply and there can be a lot of nervous energy involved in not getting found out. You have got to make sure it’s a credible story that hangs together and remember what was told to whom at various times.

2. Honesty means connecting with others

Who doesn’t get irritated from time to time by other people? Like with a neighbour who has not returned your garden tool or a relative who won’t take no for an answer. Sometimes one ends up saying nothing, or saying “it’s just fine” and pretending not to mind when really one does.

Not being honest actually takes away the chance of connecting with others authentically and experiencing the satisfaction of true friendship.  On the other hand sometimes people assume that being honest means giving vent to their feelings without restraint and of course this can do much harm to a relationship.

What does work is to be firm with someone about your point of view without going over the top and without taking a blaming attitude. Honest communication can be clear and to the point, yet tactful and kindly meant.

3. Honesty can lead to a sense of forgiveness

If you don’t confess to someone anything you have done wrong that affects the person, how can you hope to find their forgiveness? It is difficult to forgive yourself without a sense of the other person’s forgiveness.

4. Causing harm by gossip

We have all probably enjoyed telling tales about someone behind their back when they are not around to defend themself. Sometimes what we say is true but often we give a biased version, slanting the truth to bring out an unhelpful meaning.

Unfortunately a spirit of antagonism rather than harmony develops. Chinese whispers come into play as what we say is repeated and perhaps further exaggerated along the way and our put-downs have maligned the person.

5. Honesty and reputation

Honesty in business and professional life means being true to one’s word, honouring commitments, and keeping promises. Twisting the truth, exaggerating details, deliberately changing a word or leaving out aspects of a story in order to prove one’s point, are all kinds of dishonesty.

When someone’s dishonesty gets found out they lose their reputation for being trustworthy. And once lost, a reputation is very hard to recover. This loss can even affect their livelihood. Who is going to ask for professional advice that is suspected of being unreliable or who is going to deal with a dishonest trader?

6. Honesty with yourself

When reflecting on a mistake you have made or something wrong you have done, it is tempting to believe the rationalisations that come to mind.   It is easier to secretly but unfairly blame someone else than acknowledge one’s own mistakes; nicer to indulge feelings of self-justification and even self-pity.

But self-deception means living a lie and results in all sorts of anxiety because one is not in touch with one’s inner self. What is needed is an honest self-examination to acknowledge one’s errors as well as one’s strengths.

7. Honesty with God

Adam and Eve in the biblical story, after eating the forbidden fruit, tried to evade personal responsibility by dishonestly blaming God and blaming the serpent. Just think how such an attitude might affect the authenticity of one’s relationship with God. According to religion, prayer just doesn’t work without honesty: for the truth will make us free.

8. Honesty prevents distorted thinking

The truth is often sidestepped when we are experiencing a dark mood, or a feeling of anxiety, anger, or guilt.  A distortion of what is reasonable can be an exaggerated way of seeing what is going on, or an over-generalisation unwarranted by the facts. “The plane will crash”; “I will die in the operating theatre”; or “The future is completely without any hope.”

Distorted thinking like this can result in worsening feelings of fear, fury, or despair – emotions which often result in unwise actions such as panic attack, violence, or suicide.

Better to be helped to think rationally getting a more balanced view of how things really are. For what is true has a power to rebut such distorted thinking.

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