Recently I have been involved in several discussions about ideals. I have heard from women who say the Church hurt them by stating ideals when they were young, because they felt they were put ‘outside’ those ideals. I’ve spoken with women who have been harmed by selfish people..people they trusted to uphold the ideals but who instead threw them aside and chose to hurt others..
I’ve heard women who grieve over people mocking, discounting, or ignoring the ideals set forth in the doctrines; feeling they are standing at bay protecting against an onslaught. I’ve heard women rejoice in, and bring the ideals forward for appreciation, like precious jewels.
And I have rejoiced with women over an ideal they’ve just rediscovered after a long spiritual winter, as they hold it in cupped hands for others to gather around and see, a tiny new growing Hope.
Why are there such different reactions to the same ideals and teachings? How do we reconcile them?
I think that a way to resolve these differences is using the affirmative principle.
The affirmative principle means to me, in short, that The Lord created; He created all goodness, all blessings, all Truth, and I need to affirm that anything drawn from the Word is from Him, and therefore true. These ideals aren’t some arbitrary set of rules He made to hem us in. They simply Are the way Creation was created…they are Order, and were put in place ultimately to bless us. Forever. I do not originate any ideals, or own them, but I am hopefully a vessel for them with the Lord’s help.
”There are therefore two principles; one of which leads to all folly and insanity, and the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The former principle is to deny all things, or to say in the heart that we cannot believe them until we are convinced by what we can apprehend, or perceive by the senses; this is the principle that leads to all folly and insanity, and is to be called the negative principle. The other principle is to affirm the things which are of doctrine from the Word, or to think and believe within ourselves that they are true because the Lord has said them: this is the principle that leads to all intelligence and wisdom, and is to be called the affirmative principle.” Arcana Coelestia 2568
I find that , at times, when I look at ideals without this affirmation, they can feel AGAINST me, rather than FOR me. Here’s an example of how this process can go: take the subject of marriage. There are amazing ideals set forth in the doctrines about marriage and its importance in life. The doctrines say that all people in heaven are married. They say that “Heaven and the church are with all who are in true conjugial love and with no others” (Apocalypse Explained 999). The ideals say “the more a person is in a state of conjugial love, the more spiritual he is; and the more spiritual he is, the more human he is” (Conjugial Love 230).
If a person is single, it might be tempting to look at those teachings in a negative or non-affirmative way. She could begin to feel that somehow she failed, or that she was an incomplete person if she was not married, and not really spiritual or truly human…
IF we add to that the knowledge that there’s a special Providence in regards to Marriage, she may feel she’s somehow missed out on that, or been passed over by Providence… But then… would that not just really be saying the Lord has somehow failed her? Or that the ideals are just too hard/unreasonable?
Well, that is simply not true; the Lord hasn’t failed. And the ideals themselves can’t hurt anyone…because they are created by the Lord in His order to bless us with true Heavenly joy. The solution isn’t to change the ideals because we feel hurt by people, or an organisation, or one’s stage in life, or behaviour, but rather to use the ideals as a lifeline to pull us above those sources of pain and confusion.
If we look at those ideals of marriage with the affirmative principle, we can be part of all those states described (whether supporting other marriages, or working on our spiritual lives, cultivating a love for marriage, or preparing for marriage), no matter whether we are married or not. And we can trust that Providence is working for us towards those states.
And in the same way as the above example, I believe those ideals in all areas of life are there to encourage, guide, and inspire us to keep working on what we can, and trusting in the Lord.
And our use of them can be to encourage and support others.
Throwing the ideals out, or not sharing them with others who need them, is not the real solution to our pain or sadness.
It is understandable that in a state of despair, it is hard to feel that the ideals are helpful or accessible, or easy to feel that perhaps we have already made so many mistakes that we are no where near the ideal… and that is where the affirmative principle is key, and it is key, also, to go back and relearn from the Source what the ideals really are, (rather than following our own negative feelings). The Lord is Mercy itself… He never condemns, instead He says ‘Go, and sin no more.’ He gave us the merciful and very powerful steps of repentance to lift us up from the slavery of being in evil.
We are not the ideals, we are not perfect, and nor are we the thoughts that come into our minds, either good or bad.
Rather we are the choice.
We can choose what thoughts to become a landing place for, and what ideas to banish. And banish again. As many times as it takes.
We are the choice to see the ideals as from the Lord, as helpers, beautiful, true, and worthy of effort, or the opposite. And the decision to be affirmative, or negative, towards those ideals given to us, will shape our spiritual experience.
“The evil spirits who are with man and induce temptations, strongly inspire negations. But the good spirits and angels, from the Lord, in every way possible dispel this state of doubt and keep the man in a state of hope, and at last confirm him in what is affirmative. The result is that the man who is in temptation hangs between what is negative and what is affirmative.[For] one who yields in temptation remains in a state of doubt, and falls into what is negative; but one who overcomes is indeed in doubt, but still, if he suffers himself to be cheered by hope, he stands fast in what is affirmative.” (Arcana Coelestia 2338)
“I call the heavens and the earth to testify today against you, that I have put before thee life and death, blessing and cursing; and choose life, so that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed: to love Jehovah thy God, to obey His voice, and to stick to Him; for He is thy life, and the length of thy days, to dwell on the ground which Jehovah promised to thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)