Emanuel Swedenborg writes that one of the best ways to grow spiritually is to embrace and embody love in the same way God radiates it. That may seem like a pretty tall order, but throughout his writings, Swedenborg offers some clues about how we can put divine love into practice in our everyday lives.
1. Do something that’s useful for others
“God dwells in the individual useful things because he dwells in the purpose behind them.” — True Christianity #13
Swedenborg often talks about usefulness, the idea that everything and everyone has a purpose—a unique service that they provide to the world just by being who or what they are. What’s something that you could do today to help others, to move a project forward, to contribute ideas or inspiration, or to help bridge a communication gap?
2. Forgive someone
“The Lord forgives everyone’s sins. He does not accuse us or keep score.” —Divine Providence #280
Many people are taught to think of God as a wrathful being who punishes people for the smallest transgression. But Swedenborg says that God is pure love, incapable of hating or even being angry at any person, no matter what they’ve done.
It’s human nature to hold grudges, big and small. Are you holding on to anger at someone who was rude to you at a store, or who cut you off in traffic, or makes your daily life difficult in some way? One way to deal with those situations is to think about them as whole people who have goodness inside them, even if they make mistakes or if their actions have consequences they might not have intended. Just as we can forgive ourselves for having a bad day, we can forgive others, too.
3. Take care of someone
“The sphere of divine love has a special influence on parents. Because of it, they tenderly love their children (who are outside themselves), the want to be one with them, and they want to bless them from themselves. The sphere of divine love affects not only the good but also the evil, and not only people but also animals and birds of every kind.” — True Christianity #44
Parents aren’t the only people with the urge to help others. Is there someone in your life who needs extra help, maybe someone that you already spend a lot of time caring for? Are there little ways that you take care of the people in your life, even if it’s an action as small as cleaning up a mess or helping them to find a lost object?
If we consciously choose to perform caring actions for others out of a sense of love or kindness, Swedenborg tells us that we open ourselves up to even more of that love in the future.
4. Celebrate differences
“It does seem as though Divinity were not the same in one person as in another, as though it were different in a wise person than in a simple one, for example, or different in an elderly one than in a child. This is just the deceptive way things seem, though. The person may be different, but the Divinity within is not.” — Divine Love and Wisdom #78
Celebrating differences can be a bit of a cliché. It’s easy to forget that it’s human nature to judge others—not just for obvious reasons like race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and so on, but for things as simple as how a person dresses and what kind of music he or she likes.
Every day we’re surrounded by people who are different from us in some way, large or small. Have you ever caught yourself forming preconceived ideas about people who aren’t like you or people you don’t understand? How might those people be expressing the Divinity within themselves?
5. Be generous
“The love we were created with is a love for our neighbor that makes us as generous with our neighbor as we are with ourselves, and even more so.” —Divine Providence #275
Everyone has something that they can share with others, whether it’s a tangible item like food or money or an intangible like time, experience—or love. It’s easy to share things that we have in abundance, but sometimes it can be a powerfully loving act to share something that you don’t have a lot of. Try it, and see how it feels.
“Good Love and Good Actions,” an excerpt from Swedenborg’s book True Christianity
“The Lord’s Nature is Love,” an excerpt from Swedenborg’s book Heaven and Hell
“Usefulness,” an essay from psychologist Wilson van Dusen on how to apply Swedenborg’s concept of being useful.