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  • Writer's pictureHoward Thompson

Unveiling True Goodness: The Journey to Eradicate Selfishness and Embrace Divine Wisdom

In teachings for the New Church, we are often reminded of the importance of examining our motivations, our intentions, with the goal to eradicate selfish motives from within us and within our actions. The absence of selfishness allows us to gain wisdom in divine matters, as selfishness prevents our deeper selves from connecting with the Lord and heaven. Those dominated by selfish love find themselves in darkness concerning heavenly realities, even if they possess worldly knowledge (Heaven & Hell 272).

Selfishness refers to solely wishing well for ourselves, without considering others unless it benefits us. When we are selfish, we do not truly love our God, country, community, or neighbour. We may perform good deeds for them, but only to enhance our reputation, status, or fame. If we do not see any personal gain in helping others, we dismiss it as unimportant (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Teachings 65).

A person's life is defined by their intentions or goals, which reflect their love and character. The image of a person seen in heaven's light is precisely aligned with their intentions. Surprisingly, this image is present in every aspect of their will, making a person wholly identifiable by their end in view (Arcana Coelestia 6571).

An interview several years ago with Terry Waite, former Assistant for Anglican Communion Affairs for the Archbishop of Canterbury, provided a thought-provoking perspective on selfish motivations. Waite's kidnapping in Lebanon in 1987 resulted from his efforts to secure the release of four hostages. His concern for one severely ill hostage led him to risk handing himself over to militants, believing he would meet the man face-to-face. Despite the danger, Waite agreed to the exchange because "they gave me their word."

Waite admitted his decision wasn't entirely selfless, as he would have felt regret for not making every effort to visit the dying man. This confession reveals that even when our actions appear altruistic, traces of selfish motivation may still be present.

We must acknowledge that none of us can fully understand our motivations. However, a simple passage indicates the proper motivation's impact: "those who do good for their neighbour's or for the Lord's sake are in heaven" (Arcana Coelestia 9210.3).

This idea aligns with the Lord's words to one of His disciples: "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God" (Luke 18:19). In essence, true goodness comes from selfless intentions, and we must continuously strive to examine and purify our motivations.

It is crucial for us to evaluate our motives and strive to eliminate selfishness from our lives. Selfishness obstructs our connection with the Lord and heavenly wisdom. By practicing selflessness and doing good for others or the Lord's sake, we can attain a place in heaven and experience true goodness. Reflecting on Terry Waite's story can inspire us to recognise the complexity of our motivations and the need for constant self-reflection in the pursuit of divine wisdom.

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