I am assuming that anyone reading this week’s Minister’s Reflection has, at least, several decades of life experience under their belt. I am also certain that each and every one of you have, like me, heard one or more of the following trite sayings when facing even the smallest of life’s challenges:
“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
“Stand on your own two feet.”
“If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
And a favourite of Frank Sinatra fans; “I did it my way!”
But let's face it, with time, we've all come to realise that just as pulling oneself up by their bootstraps is literally impracticable it is also spiritually impracticable. Far from “standing on our own two feet,” life experience helps us to see what Sir Isaac Newton observed: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
In our journey through life, it is often tempting to follow our own, sometimes misguided, paths and beliefs about what is truly right and good for us. At the very heart of our nature lies the conflict between selfish desires and genuine love for others. When we follow our self-centred beliefs about what's good for us, we often ignore the broader perspective and can inadvertently harm others and ourselves. For instance, making decisions based solely on personal gain might bring immediate satisfaction, but it can lead to longer-term regrets, isolation, and missed opportunities for deeper connections.
It should also be noted that for all our individualism, particularly in modern western culture, humans didn’t evolve with community as just an aspect of humanity; in many ways, they evolved because of it. The recognition of the significance of working together was fundamental in shaping our evolutionary journey from early hominids to the complex societal structures we have today.
It is a deep understanding of the pitfalls of doing what I want to do (particularly when the “want to do” overrides the “should do”) that I have learned the value of receiving coaching. I find myself often, when struggling with how to do a particular task, reminding myself to “be coachable.” In other words, allow myself to be corrected by someone outside of myself who can see what I am doing incorrectly in a given situation.
The notion of being "coachable" doesn't mean surrendering our agency or not trusting our intuition. Instead, it highlights the importance of remaining open to external wisdom. Just as athletes benefit from the guidance of their coaches who offer a broader perspective, we too can learn immensely from others who might see our blind spots.
Other people, whether they're friends, mentors, or even strangers, can provide invaluable insights that challenge and refine our beliefs and behaviours. They can guide us towards making decisions that are not just good for the moment, but beneficial in the grander scheme of life. By staying receptive to such guidance, we avoid the pitfalls of narrow-mindedness and grow in both wisdom and humility.
Of course, in this context I am not only thinking of the person who helps your tennis game or helps you train to run your first marathon. I am thinking also of that “inner coach.” You see, the Lord gives each of us the framework for the best “inner-coach” there is, that framework is our true conscience. Think of it as an 'inner coach' - a voice or feeling that guides us towards genuine goodness and truth. This conscience isn't just about knowing right from wrong in a moral sense; it's a deeper connection to our spiritual essence and purpose.
When we make decisions aligned with this inner guide, we not only act in the best interest of others but also move closer to our true selves. It's a continuous journey of self-discovery and alignment with the Divine. By regularly checking in with our inner coach, reflecting on our choices, and ensuring they resonate with our spiritual purpose, we lead lives of deeper meaning, joy, and connection. However, in the teachings for the New Church, we are warned that our conscience may be true but also spurious, or false. For this reason we are encouraged to continue to cultivate the ground upon which a true conscience can be received.
Listening to our inner coach - our true conscience - is a transformative experience. It's about tuning into a higher frequency, one that resonates with love, empathy, and genuine concern for the greater good. As we make this a habit, our natural lives – our relationships, decisions, and behaviours – start reflecting our spiritual progress.
Being coachable, both externally by those around us and internally by our conscience, enables us to live in harmony with our spiritual nature. It ensures that we not only contribute positively to the world but also journey towards our highest potential.