Choose Goodness

It is what comes out of a person that defiles. –Mark 7:20

Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,

Are we born good or evil? This has been the never-ending debate since very ancient times. However, these days more people seem to be inclined to believe that we are born good, but corrupted by the bad influences of people and society. If this theory were to be true, all toddlers should be angelic. Yet, as a father of two children, I am pretty certain that toddlers are not angelic at all. Of course, that does not mean they are fully evil either. In my experience, babies are born simply self-centered, which is often very close to being selfish. And, being self-centered and/or selfish is neither good nor evil, but just a mental state in which all of us arrive in this world. In other words, in my belief no one is born fully good or fully evil, but neutral.

One big difference between being evil and being selfish is that being evil is mostly related to an actualized outcome that is often harmful to another person and/or oneself, while being selfish is just a mental state of being that could be the cause of choosing evil. What this means is that we are all born in the same (or very similar) spiritual state of being with the power to choose the dominant reality within our mind. Jesus confirms this truth in Mark, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile (7:14&15).” When we reflect upon this teaching deeply, we might arrive at an understanding: what I have become is due entirely to choices that I have made with my own reasoning and justification. In other words, after passing a certain age or stage in life, we should stop blaming DNA, influences of other people, or the world regarding our own shortcomings and mistakes, and should instead take thoughtful responsibility for our words and actions.

If we desire to make our words and actions kind, loving and wise, we should take to heart the teaching of Jesus in Matthew, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye (7:5).” Yet, if we were to have a hard time on transforming our thoughts and desires to be kind, loving and gentle, you may take Swedenborg’s advice: thoughtfully and intentionally transform your words and actions with kindness, sincerity and gentleness. The amazing thing is that if we were to talk and act in such a loving way outwardly, our inward thoughts and desires could be tamed!

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee