Psyche and Spirit
by Paul Werner
9. Personal Development
Mastering the Self
Repentance and Forgiveness
When our struggles become "visible" to us, it is an indication that we are on the right road -- that we are growing and developing. We should not think that if someone struggles he is just antagonistic or has become negative. Of course his actions at the time may seem inconsistent, but from the viewpoint of the Principle, every individual actively growing in his spiritual maturity attempts to get away from Satan and at the same time come closer to God. We are wedged between completely opposing forces, and our challenge is to move forward, not backward-to develop, not decline.
Mastering the Self
Crises are not foreign to any of us, for we all face them frequently. We each must discover the best strategy to deal with them most effectively. If we attempt to avoid them, we merely postpone the inevitable. Each of us has certain discrepancies within our character which stand in the way of our reaching perfection. The most constructive measure we can take is to analyze our particular weaknesses and make a plan of action to conquer them. Although we may successfully screen our mistakes from others, if we confront our problems honestly and overcome them before they grow into seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we will naturally feel greater self-esteem and confidence.
We have the choice to "develop" in a good or evil way. Because we possess both an original mind and an evil mind, there is discordance within our own character. The best way to tackle the problems associated with our inner struggles is by conquering our bad points systematically. We should take the time to do it properly. If we attempt to become perfect overnight, we are simply being unrealistic. Such an expectation would most certainly lead to disappointment and discouragement, for when we discover that based on our desires we are not magically transformed, we might be ready to even doom the effort altogether.
Developing compassion and appreciation for people is one step toward perfecting our love, but it does not happen instantly. Only with practice and experience will we be able to involve our heart in any decision-making and discernment of character. When someone stagnates and becomes content to live without God, he is in a dangerous and vulnerable position. When we do not bother working to escape the grip of satanic forces, we could easily lay a base for spiritual attack through indulging in evil thoughts or actions, or even by recalling unpleasant memories that are actually best forgotten.
Our imperfections are rooted deep, and they definitely stand against us; Satan uses them to torment us time and again. We sometimes make it so easy for him or evil spirits to assault us. Our apathy and acceptance of our sinful nature are among the ways that give him such advantage. Each of us has major weaknesses and character flaws. But we are too often unaware that Satan sees a great deal more of them than we might anticipate. He knows exactly what our weaknesses are, so those are the very points which we must strengthen. If we find that we are not surmounting those hurdles quickly enough, we should attempt to compensate in ways that prevent him from tormenting us -- especially by making conditions that will draw us closer to God. When we do actively work on personal restoration -- for example, by resolving our resentments Satan might become so angry by the change in our attitude, he could attempt to attack the people closest to us. These are the clever, often subtle, ways he uses to make us lose confidence or feel inadequate. He does whatever he can to hold our development in check; unfortunately, our ignorance of the many faces and masks he wears, gives him a leading edge.
The sins of our ancestors definitely contribute to our own spiritual frailty. Accusing an individual, the world, or even God as a consequence of feeling spiritually impotent, will do nothing to improve the situation. There is no magic or easy answer. To become spiritually liberated, we have to work on tackling our problems which can be traced to our attachment to Satan. But without a model, we are at a loss as to what to do. It is the example and counsel of the Messiah which can show us how to perfect our love and personality, and to triumph over our fallen selves.
Why does man think so much in terms of what he cannot do instead of what he can do? Why all the pessimism? Isn't it possible that this way of thinking is generated by Satan? Couldn't it be that it is Satan or evil spirits who cajole man into adopting the philosophy of "can't do?" Isn't it also possible then that it is God who appeals to our conscience, reinforcing the idea that we absolutely can do whatever we set our mind to?
Throughout human history the spirit of God has quietly and gradually been influencing man to become wise to the ways of Satan; His is the unseen force perpetrating a can do ideology which is spreading under the circuit of both religion and modern psychology. Why do we have such a hard time believing Him?
We cannot be cleansed when we insist on masking our bitterness and resentment. We neither behave correctly nor develop properly if we constantly worry about whether we are adequately covering all our bases. Once people in therapy uncover their hostility and recognize their anti-social behavior, they are given some tools by which they can begin to modify their conduct; that is how man grows and develops. All of us, therefore, need to use some form of self-therapy. When we visualize goals and take steps toward reaching them, we will implement changes in our attitude and subsequently in our behavior.
The Necessity of Offering Indemnity
A person who has incurred debts must make some kind of restitution. In the spiritual sense, too, a person cannot simply pray to God and automatically expect to be free from Satan. As the Principle illuminates, Satan will have license to pull a person away from God unless he is "paid off." Satan's timing is calculated; he waits for just the right moment to intervene. If a person does not make an offering pure enough for God to accept, Satan can and will invade.
How many of us allow God access to our thoughts and reflections? The very ideas we are intent on keeping secret become the means through which Satan can retain greater hold on us. Even though we may desire to give an offering to God, if our attitude remains tainted with impurity, it is Satan and not God who has the right to claim it.
It is our position to make offerings to God, yet many people do not see the significance of doing so, and instead become caught up in the secularizing milieu of this world. In our innocence we then often repeat past failures rather than restore them. Indeed, it takes much more effort for man to develop than to deteriorate.
We may be forgiven of our mistakes, but the Principle specifies that quite apart from this, man further needs to offer payment -- "indemnity" -- for such errors. This is a concept certainly recounted throughout the Bible, yet many people do not grasp the full meaning. For example, many Christians feel Jesus has done everything, and that all a person needs to do to be saved is believe. While it is true that Jesus has done everything to create a foundation, each individual must inherit it, something which entails faith and action. After receiving him as our personal savior, we then should emulate him. One key aspect in overcoming spiritual and psychological ills is becoming Christ-like in behavior and attitude.
Growth through Indemnity
The Principle explains that for man to restore and ultimately perfect himself, he must pay indemnity. Unification teaching further illuminates that a person is able to pay indemnity when he accepts chastisement and direction with humility and does not seek revenge. Even though he may feel offended and insulted that his deficiencies are exposed, by keeping his temper under control and accepting the comment humbly, he can triumph over self-centered thinking. Those who carry their unresolved sins without confessing them deny themselves the certainty of solace and spiritual gains they could receive were they absolved of them. Admitting our problems is arduous and humbling, but doing so speeds our personal restoration.
And submission to God is definitely an important part of the growth process.
One of the quickest ways an individual can advance toward perfection is by making no bases for Satan's intrusion, and by giving him no cause for attack. We develop most rapidly by fostering good thoughts, and focusing on performing acts of goodness and kindness -- doing things geared to the public purpose, rather than fulfilling personal desires. In a sense, "I" is the biggest obstacle each of us must tackle. When our personal needs and ambitions become our primary focus, it is as if we are blinded spiritually. Yet learning to live in service to others will open vistas that we cannot even begin to envisage at the moment.
Growth and the Help of Spiritual Beings
While bitterness and complaint only negate our efforts toward restoration, gratitude and perseverance have the power to transform suffering into a genuine offering of indemnity. There is nothing wrong with asking God's help to maintain a pure attitude; all of us need help to overcome our fallen nature. We can petition the assistance of those spiritual beings who are aware of the importance of spiritual growth and desire the same. We can also request that they, and those of our ancestors working with us, help others make progress. This is a selfless attitude -- one which can attract the attention of spirits and move them to act.
If we fail to believe that God can work with us, we might come to view life more as a burden than an adventure. This is a problem of attitude, but one which a certain kind of spirit might use to propagate his own opinion. Spirit persons who had similar feelings while they lived on the earth might decide to settle within our heart. To them, complaining and resentment were comfortable habits; since they are able to express those feelings only through a physical body, they may relish the opportunity to do so through us. We may not realize what they are doing. Unless we are careful, they can easily abuse us. Once we realize that we are being forced to do something through spiritual coercion, we must assume control before the spiritual beings do. It is possible to succeed by ordering -- even demanding -- them to leave us alone. Yet another approach would be to turn away from our own problems and serve others.
As the Unification teaching clearly illustrates, evil spirits do not survive well in an atmosphere of love. When our vision changes and broadens, the spiritual being who happened to "bunk in" our heart will be forced to "move out." A person's attitude determines to a great extent the caliber of spiritual beings able to abide with him. It is imperative that a person become competent in discerning between the work of good and evil spirits, and in detecting how they affect his daily life.
Repentance and Forgiveness
We can best temper our spiritual growth through repentance. It is one of the great comforts and strengths afforded those living a religious life. When a person brings his heart of contrition before God, he might feel small and inadequate, for in the presence of God, a person can easily sense the need to be forgiven of his sins.
There are definite tensions which hold a person back from God. Religion commonly refers to them as sins. They are what block the relationship we seek to make with God. We must recognize that we sin, and that we have need to implore God's acceptance and mercy.
The Laws of Repentance
Repentance could be viewed as a declaration of spiritual bankruptcy. We need to believe that our God of mercy will forgive and cancel our debts. It could be considered that spiritual "bankruptcy" Laws operate in the same way as secular ones. After declaring bankruptcy in a spiritual sense through repentance, a person is allowed to start anew. But once someone receives forgiveness from God, he must acknowledge and accept it, then no longer accuse himself of those sins. Part of our responsibility is to leave the memory behind. God does; He wipes the slate clean.
Confession is a medium used by religious people which enables them to unload their spiritual burdens. It is a form of repentance, something which can bring relief and spiritual emancipation. Roman Catholics are urged to confess their sins to a priest; in doing so, they receive penance and are assured that forgiveness is theirs. As such, confession could be considered a form of psychotherapy.
Frequent confession is stressed, and for good reason. Man has constant need to seek God's forgiveness, whether for not achieving a goal, for harboring unholy thoughts or feelings, or for acting in an improper or irresponsible way. There is a wide range of methods which deal with the freeing of the heart. But the key "psychology" behind them is ultimately the giving and receiving of love.
Our personal maturation can be impeded by wrong-doings long past which are unresolved. These must be drawn out, and then aired out before God through confession. Keeping them bottled up stunts our spiritual growth, and definitely has an impact upon our behavior. When we conceal and even bury our sins, we might always feel a sense of paranoia that at sometime, someone will discover them. We act and react under the stress of this possibility, but in running scared, we will not necessarily develop our full potential.
Because we sin daily, we should also repent every day both for sins we have committed, and,things we have left undone. Yet few people do that. There is so much we talk out with others, but so little we talk out with God. We do not concentrate on revitalizing our relationship with Him, and thus both sides are often frustrated, and all that results is a stalemate.
Repentance and Guilt
We can become free of the burden of guilt when we repent of our sins. But if we do not have the strength to confess -- either to God in prayer, or to another person-and instead allow our emotions to fester, they will continue to bother us. The beauty of confession is that our guilt disappears once we speak out, once we unload our burden of sin.
Guilt is destructive; it is what motivates us to protect what we feel we need to keep secret. In covering up, we often make even more mistakes, which in turn we also need to hide; the cycle continuously perpetuates. Sometimes we use the measure of hurting others -- often even knowingly -- just to protect ourselves and to make sure we don't get hurt. Sometimes we are harsh or arrogant, and unfeeling toward our family, neighbors, or co-workers. We don't know what comes over us-why we act and react in such hurtful ways. We might use superficial excuses, but in reality, it is because something within us is still not resolved; we have definitely left some stones unturned.
To mature and develop into a true person we have to become free inside. We must vanquish all of the blocks and obstacles in our way. If we are self-centered, we will never be free. Likewise, if we are afraid of the future, of our family responsibility, relationships, or environment, and as a result feel no confidence in our abilities, we will certainly not perform optimally. We must ask ourselves why we feel these things. And why all the guilt?
Some people can feel guilty over nothing, while others don't feel a twinge of remorse even though they hurt many people. The person who becomes free of either of these types of guilt complexes has the greatest capacity to be used as a channel by God. Once all the protective devices are gone and he has no fear, he can genuinely love himself and others. We pretend and cover up because we are fearful. We do not want the devil within us to be recognized, and that is why we hide. We do not want other people to uncover the sins within us. To protect ourselves, we might act jealous and demanding. At other times our pretense might take the form of anger, revenge, or even blackmail.
Guilt complexes make the soul sick. The person afflicted with this "ailment" does not develop or mature properly; rather he turns inward and centers almost exclusively on himself. This tendency is extremely dangerous and detrimental to both psyche and spirit, for in order to develop and grow toward perfection, all of us need to be liberated from giving in to our self-serving instinct. We must instead overcome ourselves, and we can-by starting with repentance.
The Importance of Forgiveness
We also have need to ask forgiveness of, and then to pardon each other-husband and wife, brother and sister, teacher and student, employer and employee. Making these relationships anew through exoneration is crucial to our personal development. Receiving pardon from another definitely hinges on baring our own soul. Yet that is a most difficult task.
Although in relating to one another we often hide behind a protective shield, we cannot do the same in our relationship with God. If our repentance is thorough, we will feel His forgiveness and at the same time sense a certain spiritual freedom. With nothing left to be exposed, we can be completely free to be ourselves. Unquestionably, that is what people are longing to do. Unfortunately, far too many just do not fathom that it is possible. They feel awkward coming before God and asking forgiveness. Neither do they believe it can be done in front of each other without suffering considerable humiliation. People mumble, "Sorry," even though they do not mean it. They may not have the slightest idea what it is to be truly sorry for their words or actions. They step on our toes, say, "Sorry;" but do it yet another time. They say "Sorry" again and again, for even hundreds of misplaced footsteps. That kind of repentance has little value. When we feel genuine remorse, tears will accompany our repentance, even that which we bring before one another.
We need to realize that judgment is God's prerogative, not ours. Yet people "judge" God, questioning that if He actually does exist, how is it possible that such a great and benevolent Parent could allow suffering to continue? And many simply surmise, then, that He must not exist. Those who do, fail to reflect upon a hidden aspect of "psychology" that God's suffering is much greater than ours. Man fell from God; this hurt Him deeply. Coupled with the fact that we commit sins every day, His pain has never abated. As the Principle elucidates, He does not allow suffering -- neither man's nor His own; it is we who do not comprehend the need to, or accept our responsibility to, separate ourselves from Satan-as individuals, families, societies, and nations. We do not block Satan's tactics, but instead mimic them, something which destroys rather than develops us, as individuals or as the family of God. And this hurts Him even more.
Because of our mistake in falling from God, we actually do not deserve the gift of forgiveness. Yet it is an endowment God freely bestows when we make an offering of repentance. Absolution can be expressed by Him directly, or channeled through another individual. When we refuse to offer forgiveness to another, we may prolong that person's suffering, as well as God's own agony. But many people deliberately push away the grace which God or others offer them. They stew in their pain, and blame the world for their predicament. Forgiveness which has force enough to heal the deepest of wounds cannot adequately penetrate the human heart until and unless one repents.
When we hurt someone, we should solicit forgiveness from him as quickly as possible after the incident, and next petition God for pardon. If much time passes, both parties may suffer needlessly. It gives Satan cause to accuse, and the leeway he needs to intervene in our lives.
If we feel guilty after offending someone, it may be difficult for us to accept forgiveness from him. Our fallen nature may not allow us to trust the purity of either the other person's motivation or the love he expressed by forgiving us. Thus, we may continue to feel unforgiven and ashamed, feelings which could even develop into resentment. A great many people intuitively don't want to be forgiven, and therefore never seek pardon from God or others. Some people even feel insulted if someone suggests they might need to repent. To ask forgiveness for an offense we may have committed against another, might actually unnerve him. One cardinal rule, then, which should be employed in both the asking and the tendering of forgiveness is to do so with sensitivity.
So many of us possess a pair of "perfect" eyes-perfect in the sense that they notice nearly every mistake people make. Many individuals use the "data" they collect through their scrutinizing observation against another person, even if it is just through silent accusation. When they gear it toward themselves, they wallow in guilt. Because we are still fallen human beings who possess original sin and have not yet perfected our love, we must also "recognize" that everybody makes mistakes. Everybody trespasses against his brother. Everybody needs to be forgiven, and everybody has to pay, for eventually every human being must be restored to his original position as God's child. Since we are all in the same predicament, then, we all should have compassion for each other, and minister to one another through offering the gift of love and forgiveness.
Our humility and tearful repentance before God will move righteous spirits into action; they know how difficult it is to conquer sinful nature, for they themselves are involved in the very same process even as they work through us. But they also understand that when we repent of our mistakes and forgive others of theirs, both sides definitely make progress. This insight gives many of them the impetus to extend compassion, and cooperate more strongly with us.
In His role as creator, God set forth definite goals and had a specific vision and ideal for this world and for man. In our role as a co-creator, we should .follow God's pattern, which is certainly something involved with our personal development.
It is essential that we contemplate and plan what we want to make of our lives, for once we have an ideal in mind, we can become a goal-setter, and a goal-reacher. Modern psychology emphasizes how important this is for the health of the psyche. What should not be overlooked is that it has its place in the maturation of the spirit as well. For instance, if we fail to keep the long-term goal of reaching perfection and becoming a true child of God well within our vision, how can we expect to achieve it? At the same time, we should also have daily goals-for instance, working to strengthen healthy relationships, and to keep our sinful nature in check. Each of us will become aware of what we need to work on through introspectively studying our psyche and spirit, for even that creative process could be considered a part of our personal development.
If we do not have lofty dreams and keep them alive, we might become spiritually dull and lackluster. That will allow Satan another condition through which he can control us. He actively works to tear down our self-confidence; people who don't set goals and work toward reaching them have little feeling of victory, and hence, develop little self-respect. We might compare ourselves with others who reach their personal goals, yet feel guilty. But the guilt could take the form of resentment. We have the power to break out of that mold. Visualizing ourselves as creators -- even in the sense of recreating or restoring ourselves will help us mature. Becoming narrow-minded and "perfectionist" in the small and temporal things of life will not help us reach the goal of perfecting our love.
An important point which most people do not realize about goal-reaching is that although fallen man generally perceives he must do everything by himself, he absolutely can call upon the assistance of good spirits and even God Himself to actualize his dreams. As the Unification teaching expresses, many spirit persons share man's goal of salvation, for they can appreciate how precious it is to live with God eternally. Thus, our success depends partially upon the cooperation they afford.
Resentment gets us nowhere; it only succeeds in blocking us from growing spiritually. The temperament of sinful nature backed by a stockpile of resentment is accusatory, whereas restored or divine nature is appreciative and loving. If we could see all people and situations with the eyes of God, everything would look different. For example, it is a human tendency to feel resentful when noticing that someone receives more love than we do. Yet if we could regard that person as God does, we would feel differently. Too often we allow jealousy to take the upper hand, and we react by displaying crestfallen face and spirit. We behave differently from the way we normally would, which in turn affects the behavior of others. Some people voice their criticism loudly, while others suppress such a feeling and simply withdraw from a relationship when it becomes too painful. Yet these methods, both of which are quite extreme, create a base for even greater resentment to breed.
This kind of gesture summons spiritual beings who have similar feelings. They like nothing better than to vent their emotions, but as the Principle indicates, they must do it through a physical body. Unfortunately they do -- and could use ours! At such times we might feel burdened by waves of hostility or vindictiveness, which seem to nearly engulf us, and we subsequently find it hard to control them. There are times when it is difficult to grasp that the vehemence with which we slam the door has a lot more behind it than the strength of our own muscle power. Resentment originated with Satan, but through his influence, has gathered momentum throughout these thousands of years. And today it is very strong.
When we consider the tragic history of mankind with its wars and suffering, we also confront the burden of resentment with which humanity has had to contend. Every human being experiences some indignation, hurt, and righteous anger-whether from the loss of loved ones through illness or war, or the lack of the basic necessities of life. But to reiterate one of the hidden points of spiritual psychology -- God Himself even feels resentment. Just as we may be influenced by Satan's accusation and vindictiveness, at times we may also feel overwhelming anger at the pitiful situation we recognize as the human condition. This feeling, though, may be God's own emotion, which He simply can no longer contain. He is hurt and angry at what Satan has done to all of us who should have become His true children. And the tears that flood our eyes could be the means through which He is releasing His outrage, loneliness, and frustration. When we feel these sentiments, we should realize how crucial it is that we work on dissolving the resentment of God. The Unification teaching makes it clear that doing so requires employing great capacities of forgiveness and love; but again, God is more than willing to channel His compassion through us to appease such emotions, if only we call upon His assistance.
The restoration of resentment is a formidable task, one fraught by complexities. Unfortunately, too few people realize Satan is the instigator of resentment, and he continues to cleave to his feeling of hostility against God. As a result of his influence, whole lineages may still clash in the spirit world. Even if we cannot discern that this is what occurs through the unfolding of our personal relationships, we do have a certain responsibility. For the sake of both our ancestors and our descendants, we must bridge the divisions and dispel this long-standing animosity. And we must develop ourselves as God's true children. Recognizing the culprit as Satan, and the victim as God, can sharpen the picture and bring our task into focus.
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