Last week, we talked about divisiveness and how to overcome it. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose join with our viewers to explore more tools, techniques, and insights from Emanuel Swedenborg on how to change the dynamics between people who disagree.
Jonathan has found it useful to put himself in the other person’s shoes and wish the other person well. This is harder in practice, but he’s found one useful trick—when he’s angry, say when someone cuts him off in traffic, he’ll say, “I hope you go to the highest heaven!” This knee-jerk positive reaction helps to remind him that he really wishes the best for them.
Curtis likes to remind himself that the need to be right is a facet of what Swedenborg would call “love of self.” When Curtis takes a moment to be humble, he finds that he is able to accept that the other person might have a point.
Dialogue, Friendship, Principles
So what’s wrong with arguing? While there is a kind of challenge that makes it enjoyable, reveling in these disagreements can take us in a bad spiritual direction.
[A certain spirit was] sent down deep and to the place where they are constantly quarreling about everything and endlessly contradicting each other and consequently there are endless fights and torn clothes. There too is the place of those who fight over matters of the church’s doctrine and unceasingly speak against each other, one after another, and who want to have control, the one over the other, believing that the things they say are truths and wanting others to believe and speak as they do. The results of this are quarrels, arguments, and railings. And so they go and come back, still arguing and quarreling, and certainly not in the least on account of truth, but on account of themselves and the love of being in control. Closer to the center are those who believe they know everything and that nothing can be said that they do not know better than others. (Spiritual Experiences §5104)
People who love to argue attract spirits who thrive on argument, and they can get mired deeper and deeper in that love of self and that conviction that they are right.
Assuming that we don’t want that to happen, what are some tools we can use to break the cycle?
Leonard Swidler, founder of the Dialogue Institute joins again to explain what dialogue really is. To him, all of reality is a dialogue—the interaction of mass and energy in physics, the joining of body and spirit on a individual human level, and the interaction between people within a community. He sees this ability to live in community as a path to becoming more human, and the skill to engage in dialogue as something that puts us in harmony with the entire structure of the universe.
Curtis and Jonathan point out that this has a lot in common with Swedenborg’s own philosophy. Swedenborg saw the universe as a dialogue between pairs: love and wisdom, good and truth, and so on, and he also emphasized that humanity is not something we’re born with, but something we achieve as we draw closer to the Divine.
Rebecca Mays, also from the Dialogue Institute, believes that friendship is essential to good dialogue. Dialogue is a two-sided project that requires the participation of both sides, and that starts by making people feel comfortable. After that, tools like asking questions, honesty, and close listening are important to the process.
Swedenborg would agree:
Charity means love for our neighbor. It means mercy too, since if we love our neighbors as we do ourselves we have mercy on them when they are suffering, as we would on ourselves. (Secrets of Heaven §351)
All togetherness and unity are the result of charity, while all dispersal and disjunction come from a lack of charity. What purpose is there to faith, or to the facts, insights, and teachings of faith, except that we may become what faith teaches us to be? (Secrets of Heaven §343–344)
The Devil’s crew is nearby when we lack charity. The only thing that chases them from the door is love for the Lord and for our neighbor. (Secrets of Heaven §364)
When we deprive ourselves of charity, we cut ourselves off from the Lord. Charity—love for others and mercy—is the only thing that binds us to the Lord. Without charity, there is disconnection. (Secrets of Heaven §389)
All this love is incredible, but what do we do if we’re already embroiled in a conflict? In a continuation of her interview from the previous episode, Dr. Soni Werner shares some ideas, all around being friendly, firm, and fair. Goodwill (or charity) doesn’t just mean agreeing with everyone. True kindness is honest.
Bonus track: What do the four horsemen of the apocalypse have to do with all this?
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- What did Swedenborg say about what a person should learn when they are an innocent victim of violence?
- Can you have productive dialogue with evil?
- What do we do when the person you’re dealing with is very unkind?
- Is there an argument when both sides listen to the other?
At the beginning, we asked viewers which tools they use to move through disagreement. Here are some of the answers.
- Humor and patience.
- Telling myself not to let my ego take it personally, and wondering what my angelic friends would ask me to do.
- Accepting that we are different and respecting our differences and letting go of things . . . this is how I deal with it.
- We can agree to differ and be respectful of each other’s opinion.
- Humor, put myself in their place, try not to take it personally, walk away, let them figure it out or think what they want.
- Listening to the reasons for the other person’s opinion is a tool I like to use.
- To know that only God knows what is in another’s heart. Not judging and leaving my ego behind leads me through adversity.
- Write in my journal and just BREATHE!
- Blank my mind and say love your enemy cuz Jesus does too.
- When I’m in an argument with my wife, I know I have 100% responsibility for getting us into this place.
- Ask God to help take my bad feelings away, that I don’t wanna feel that way and he does, and it gets easier every time. Then I start to see myself in others actions too.
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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In a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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