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A Thousand Times Better

From Rev. Erik Buss, Assistant to the Pastor
June 30, 2020

One of the hardest things about being a good person is that being bad feels so fun. We are faced with a very strong desire to do something that is immediately pleasurable, and we oppose that with a quieter inner sense that this act would be harmful or against the commandments.

The strength of feeling is always way stronger for the negative. Unhealthy food on the whole carries more punch than healthy food. While we may come to enjoy healthy food more in time, it can be easy to fall back into unhealthy eating patterns because lots of sugar and the like is so appealing. And it’s the same with losing our tempers. There’s a satisfaction in being able to give someone a piece of our mind that is stronger than the pleasure of saying what we should in a more measured tone of voice.

Swedenborg writes about being allowed to experience what the delight of the love of ruling is really like: “I have been given to feel the nature and extent of the delight of ruling from a love of self. I was let into it that I might know this. It was such as to exceed all delights that exist in the world. It was a delight possessing the whole mind from its inmost parts to its outermost. In the body it was felt as pleasure and enjoyment swelling the chest” (DP 215:9). It can seem unfair that being bad feels so good and being good is by comparison so mild.

Yet there is another reality. When we do what is good, we come in time to find enjoyment in doing what is good to be “a thousand times better than they were before” (AC 5125:2)! This is a very striking statement.

I think there are two reasons for this. The first is that natural pleasures by themselves are fleeting. We eat the sugar but it doesn’t satisfy; we gossip, and then quickly feel empty. By contrast, choosing to speak kindly or respectfully about someone creates lasting pleasure because it enhances the relationship.

The second reason is that our whole being becomes involved in doing good, not just our outermost level. Not only do we feel outer pleasure, but our whole spirit comes to rest in the delight of doing that good thing. External delight is filled with integrity, peace, and innocence.

It may take some time to arrive, but being good is not just satisfying to our souls; it also gives us external delight that is a thousand times greater than doing what is wrong.

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