Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Intentional Love: Goodwill

Continued from the post: Intentional Love: Reverence

by Troy Chapman

(published January 06)

The second face of intentional love is goodwill, having a desire for the persons or things we encounter to reach their highest potential.

Like reverence, goodwill is easy to practice toward those we like and admire, i.e., unintentionally. It’s more difficult to practice toward those we fear and revile. But that’s what we’re talking about here, intentional and universal goodwill.

One of the most destructive aspects of the American psyche is our concept of justice (which we’ll explore more fully later). Particularly I’m talking about the notion that justice is a matter of deciding who deserves to suffer and then withdrawing our goodwill from such people. Nature hates a vacuum, so the moment we withdraw our goodwill, ill-will rushes in to fill the void. We want those who offend us to suffer, we want some harm to come to them.

This plays out not just in matters of criminal justice but in all aspects of our everyday lives. We withdraw goodwill from political adversaries, from people who differ with us religiously, from the driver who cuts us off, the cashier who’s rude, the waitress who gives poor service. This desire to see those who “deserve it” suffer is the opposite of love and is like a poison in our culture and in our souls.

The thing to understand about it is that desire of any kind is a spiritual energy that affects our world. Our mechanistic view of the world tells us that thoughts don’t have any direct effect on the world, but spiritual masters have long claimed they do. Jesus taught that to think murderous and adulterous thoughts is the same as committing the deeds.

Thoughts are either pathogenic or biogenic, death-inducing or life-inducing; they are either toxic or nurturing, just like other things in our environment. What we call will, either goodwill or ill-will, is a concentrated direction of our thoughts toward some aspect of our world. In the case of ill-will, it’s like deciding to spray poison on some aspect of our world.

Think about all the ill-will, the anger, callousness, apathy, fear, and hatred that’s flying about in our culture. A culture is like an ecosystem, a pond for instance, that we all share, and if we believe that we can indiscriminately dump poisons into this ecosystem and escape the deathful effects of it we’ve missed the environmental lessons of the past three quarters of a century. Yet we do seem to think that directing ill-will toward certain people is not only harmless but virtuous.

We are deeply connected within the web of life and if the system is sick, the individual organisms within the system will be sick. This is as true on the metaphysical as it is on the physical level. We may not be able to trace the complex connections between cause and effect, but if we understand the principle we don’t need to. We know that toxins don’t simply go away. They go into the system and ultimately have a negative effect.

They also have an effect on the user. What we put out comes through us. The practice of ill-will stunts our spiritual growth. Goodwill, being a part of love, facilitates our development toward our potential.

I remember when I first started to change 20 years ago, I focused on my behavior. I forced myself to refrain from violence and other bad acts yet I found that I still thought about lashing out at people who tried to harm or otherwise step on me. Ultimately I concluded that merely controlling my action wasn’t much of a virtue. I set about trying to intentionally replace ill-will with goodwill. It was like setting off an atomic reaction in my spirit. That was the moment my transformation began to accelerate beyond anything that had come before.

The practice of goodwill intentionally, universally, and even aggressively, is a powerful catalyst for our own personal transformation and the transformation of our world. It is the second face of intentional love and we practice it by consistently saying “yes” to the intentions of life and “no” to that part of ourselves that wants others to suffer — as we would say “no” to a child if he or she had this same negative desire. This face is the inner foundation of all kindness, gentleness, compassion, and forgiveness. And when we create these things in our heart, they will spill out in an authentic form on the world.

Next time: Assistance

Continued in the post: Intentional Love: Assistance