Negative Influences

Negative Influences

Of course, there are also factors which work against our spiritual rebirth. Our natural egotism opposes the process of rebuilding our spiritual character. Hereditary tendencies to evil fight it, and there are influences in the world we live in which appeal to our evil tendencies and encourage us to act on them.

For rebirth to happen, we have to cooperate with the forces which help the process. This cooperation means avoiding anything that is wrong because it is an offense against God. Wanting and doing what is wrong will get in the way of our developing the way the Lord wants us to. It will make it difficult to establish the principles of heaven in our hearts, minds, and lives.

You should realize that if this cooperation is going to have any value in your spiritual development, it has to come from good motives. You may avoid doing what is wrong for sell-centered reasons, not honestly trying to hide it from the people around you. You might be honest, or avoid lying, because you want to look honest and keep a good reputation with your friends. If that is your reason for being honest, then if all your fears of being found out were taken away, your inner dishonesty would immediately show itself in your actions.

Swedenborg says, “If a person does not avoid wrongs as sins, but only because they are harmful, he does not look to the Lord, but only to himself, and so he stays in his degenerate state.” And in another place he says, “An evil person may avoid wrongs as hurtful, but only a Christian can avoid them as sins.”

In short, our avoidance of wrongs should have a religious motive. When evils in ourselves such as selfishness, greediness for wealth, unkind thoughts and actions are avoided as offenses against God, He can give us the strength to overcome them. We can’t overcome our faults without letting the Lord into our lives. While we are expected to do this good work as if we were doing it by ourselves in fact, as if the outcome depended completely on us we should realize that our determination to avoid what is wrong is inspired by God and our actions are supported by Him. This highest act of cooperation with the Lord may seem to be a negative thing, but it is not. There are teachers who insist that we become good by ignoring faults and doing good things. But in actual fact, we can’t do any good that is really good until we act from a spiritual motive. And as long as the evil of selfishness is solidly fixed in our motives, this spiritual motive is absent. Only as we get rid of our faults can good qualities take their place. Really, our determination to avoid doing wrong is an effect of good from the Lord working in our deeper being. And that good replaces evil when the mind, by actively changing its attitudes, is prepared to receive the good and give it expression.