We know we have received the gifts of God when we give them. We can't know about what we have and what we are until we give and extend. This is a central thought in the Course. In fact, Jesus says reversing our view of giving is a
"major learning goal this course has set." (W.105.3.1) What is your idea of giving? Isn't it mostly about what you can get in return? In the world's perspective,giving is about loss and a requirement for reciprocity. Don't we usually expect something back? If I am kind and generous to you, I expect some kind of gratitude, kindness and generosity in return. When we really understand there is no need for reciprocity, because we are only giving to ourselves, then we can experience true giving where there are no expectations.
"God's peace and joy are yours. Today we will accept them, knowing they belong to us. And we will try to understand these gifts increase as we receive them
." (W.105.1.1-3) How do we accept God's peace and joy? It is by recognizing if they are in us now, then everyone must share in our peace and joy. These attributes are already in everyone because they have been given to us all by God in our creation. We all share in the oneness. The ego would have us believe if we have peace and joy, we must have gained at someone's expense. It is the belief in one or the other. If I am happy, I have won my happiness at someone's expense and they have therefore lost what I have gained. This is why we feel guilty when we feel very happy, and believe happiness can't last. We feel we don't deserve to be happy. The ego is all about bargaining. It is only happy to give when it will get something in return.
A friend recently gave me some items in her garage sale for which I paid what she asked. Later, I noticed there was a small item I had picked up I had not paid for. I assumed it would perhaps be worth about three to five dollars. When I phoned her and told her I wanted to pay for this item, she told me I could pay for the lunch we had scheduled the following week. Lunch would be in the neighborhood of twenty dollars. All of a sudden I felt as though I had lost in this transaction. The bargain was not in my favor. It was another opportunity to look at my idea of value and a sense of having lost in this transaction. But to the spirit, nothing can be lost. We are only giving to ourselves all the time. The gifts we truly give, we truly receive.
Where the thought originated in the mind was with the belief we stole our identity from God and now we have our individual self at His expense, because there can't be both God and me in oneness. If I exist then He cannot. It is a thought of 'one or the other,' meaning if I win, someone must lose. It is how we function in the illusory world. With this thought comes the belief we have done something terribly wrong, so we feel guilty. It is not a conscious thought in us, but don't we all carry a vague feeling we are wrong, although we are not sure why? When we hold onto this belief, any happiness we feel is tinged with guilt, because we feel someone must have lost if we have gained. For example, if I feel happy my needs are being met, it is based on my expectation that you have sacrificed your happiness on my behalf. Now I feel loved and supported by you. I have received what I want from you. As a result, my happiness is tinged with guilt. It is because we feel if we got what we wanted, we must have stolen it, just like we stole God's gifts and hid them in the world to escape His wrath. So it seems like peace and joy can't be ours without being accompanied by the feeling we don't really deserve to have them. If we have them, someone else must not.
This idea is really developed in Chapter 16 where Jesus talks about our special relationships. These are what he calls the "bargains made with guilt." (W.105.1.5) They are bargains made with guilt because in our special relationships, we give our gifts in exchange for receiving them from the other. Yet we want something better than what we gave. Our special relationships are about trying to extract from the other gifts of greater value than the ones we gave. We each want to give as little as possible to get as much as possible. All the conflict we experience in our relationships is based on this premise. We are constantly trying to extract from the other what will best meet our needs. It is the basis for our misery and suffering because now we live in guilt. Healing requires this be looked at with great honesty. Otherwise we exempt ourselves from this process, seeing ourselves as innocent while others are the guilty ones, withholding from us what we are trying to extract from them.
"Each partner tries to sacrifice the self he does not want for one he thinks he would prefer. And he feels guilty for the 'sin' of taking, and of giving nothing of value in return. How much value can he place upon a self that he would give away to get a 'better' one?"
(T.16.V.7.5-7)(ACIM OE T.16.VI.49) We can't stand to be happy for long, because our guilt says we don't deserve it. With each bargain we make in our special relationships, our guilt is reinforced because we are constantly making bargains to serve our needs at the expense of our brothers, exchanging our gifts of little worth for ones where we hope to gain with each exchange.
The belief God has lost because I have taken His love and joy for myself is the basis for what I have carried into the thought system in the world. It is such a foundational belief in our lives and so deeply defended against, which makes it very challenging to see, yet it is the foundation of everyone's lives here. In order to recognize this pattern in our lives, we must stay very vigilant about our motivations and intentions so we can bring them to awareness. We can't heal what we don't see. To see it takes great honesty.
Applying these Lessons in our daily lives and staying very vigilant in watching our thoughts is important if we are to make progress in undoing this thought system. "This strange distortion of what giving means pervades all levels of the world you see. It strips all meaning from the gifts you give, and leaves you nothing in the ones you take." (W.105.2.3-4)
The ego constantly wants to prove to us it is the source of our love and our life, not God. While we invest in its thought system, we will feel guilty when we experience peace and joy, because these "gifts" come at someone's expense. Yet true giving entails no loss. "Accept God's peace and joy, and you will learn a different way of looking at a gift. God's gifts will never lessen when they are given away. They but increase thereby." (W.105.3.3-5) This is an authentic kind of giving, because we give and know in this giving we can't lose. We then won't feel guilty in receiving the gifts we give and receive. We are undoing the idea of giving to get. We are increasingly learning, through the application of the thought system Jesus is teaching, all we give is given to ourselves, as Lesson 126 reminds us. Every time we bring our specialness to awareness and are willing to release it for healing, we receive the miracle. Specialness tells us we are number one. It is all about me.
Now Jesus tells us "giving has become a source of fear, and so you would avoid the only means by which you can receive. Accept God's peace and joy, and you will learn a different way of looking at a gift. God's gifts will never lessen when they are given away. They but increase thereby." (W.105.3.2-5) Ultimately, our fear is, we will be punished for what we have stolen from God and are taking from our brothers in the self-serving bargains we try to make with everyone. Now we are called to bring the guilt, specialness, hate and fear in our minds to the altar of truth, so we can experience the gifts of peace given us by God, Whose infinite love for us is boundless.
While the Lesson says God's joy grows with our acceptance of His joy and peace for ourselves (W.105.4.1) and He is not complete until we do, this should not be taken literally. God's joy is complete now. Nothing is lacking in Him. It is just an expression of how much we should take to heart the importance for ourselves of accepting the fullness of God's love for us. With acceptance of our Reality comes gratitude for the joy we are, and the joy we affirm in ourselves as we give with no expectations of anything in return.
Today we are asked to choose someone we think of as an enemy to whom we have denied peace and joy. We have forgotten they are the same as us and "under the equal laws of God." (W.105.6.2) In seeing differences with our brother, we have denied ourselves the same peace and joy in us both. Now we can claim the peace and joy we have denied ourselves by seeing our brother as innocent. (W.105.6.4) We do so by recognizing anything we give our brother we give ourselves. Any attack we make on another is an attack on ourselves, while the peace and joy we extend to another we receive for ourselves, as we are one with every brother. Now we learn how we see our brother is how we see ourselves. We are all the same in our divinity. This sameness is a reflection of the one Self we are. We all hold the same thought system that came with the separation, and we also all hold the same healing light of the Holy Spirit within our minds. There are no differences despite appearances in the world of form.
When we become willing to take responsibility for our guilt by seeing it is only ourselves we are attacking, we can bring the guilt back to our own minds and choose to give it over to Spirit. By bringing our projections to the Holy Spirit, they are released. "Now we are ready to accept the gift of peace and joy God has given us." (W.105.7.4) This allows us to truly experience the joy and peace we have denied ourselves. (W.105.7.5) Only by silencing the ego's voice of specialness will we hear the Voice of the Holy Spirit. In order to hear His Voice, we need to look at all the ways we interfere. We do this when we express impatience, irritation, think unkindly of others, gossip about them, get frustrated and all the other ways we throw our peace away. When any brother tempts us to throw away our peace and joy, it is because we actually want them to betray us so we can blame them for taking our joy from us. We have actually chosen to throw our peace away and project the choice we have made onto them, making them responsible for our lack of peace. No one can take our peace unless we give them the power to do so. By choosing to take responsibility for everything that seems to happen to me, I increasingly come to recognize I truly am not a victim of the world I see.
Today we choose to release our misperceptions and offer blessings instead, so we can receive the blessings for ourselves. Every one of our brothers deserves to receive this blessing from us with no exceptions. It is their "right under the equal laws of God." (W.105.6.2)
Today we are called to look at who we are withholding blessings from and recognize, when we do, we are only withholding them from ourselves. By cutting someone off from my love, I am cutting it off from myself. When I open my heart to my so-called "enemies" by seeing their call for love and understanding, rather than focusing on their behavior, I am opening up to the gift of peace and joy God is holding out for me. Thus, I am opening myself to receive these gifts. It is not something we receive first and then give, but in fact we give in order to know we have received. These gifts of peace and joy are already in us. It is not just affirming God's peace and joy are ours, but letting go of the barriers we put up against receiving these gifts.
Our 'enemies' are not really outside of us, but reflect our own inner self-hatred, which we project onto our brothers. The self-hatred must be seen for what it is if we are to heal our minds. To accept the gifts of God, we must take the self-hatred we feel we have projected on our brothers and we must take responsibility for it. As we turn it over to the Holy Spirit, He reminds us it is not the truth about ourselves or our brothers. Our brothers are innocent, just as we are. We are the same. When we see others as different from ourselves, we are always trying to get, bargain, and see ourselves as the special ones who deserve more than what others get. It is important to look at our motivations and be very, very honest in recognizing the guilt these relationships entail. We are worth the effort it takes to remain vigilant in watching our minds. What we don't see can't be healed.