It’s not uncommon for New Church kids to hear these words: “Go be useful today.” And with good reason—uses and usefulness show up hundreds of times in New Church teachings. Uses complete the trifecta with Love and Wisdom. It’s the form that the marriage of good and truth takes. It’s the infant that is born from the marriage of a man and a woman.
In the New Church, when one mentions “being useful,” what often comes to mind is going out and doing things for other people. This could include doing our job, performing acts of charity for others, engaging in social events, or some other activity that benefits the community in some way. Growing up under a father who was a no-nonsense staunch New Church man, I heard plenty about getting out and being useful.
Aspects of psychology these days also support the importance of outward acts of usefulness. In treating depression, getting out and helping somebody in need has been shown to be as effective as some medications.
While considering the importance of Uses, it will be useful to keep in mind that uses are spiritual things and not limit them to those outward forms of charity. Uses are not something we just go out and do, they result from our intention and desire to connect with and make others spiritually happy, and coupling that desire with true ideas from the Lord about how to do that.
Usefulness is so much bigger and so much more encompassing than the big-ticket acts of charity. Every single thing we do in this life has potential to be useful. Anything we do that has an end or purpose of helping others to live a more spiritual life IS useful.
Going to work every day can be useful. Picking up trash in the community can be useful. Smiling at a passerby can be useful. Brushing our teeth can be useful. Spending the entire day curled up on a couch watching movies because life feels overwhelming can be useful. And all of these things can also be useless if we do them for selfish or material reasons. The action doesn’t determine usefulness, the intention does.
New Church teachings on uses are life- and world-changing. And getting out and being useful can be uplifting when we are feeling down. But let’s not forget the importance of occasionally staying in and being useful.