It is helpful for each of us to look at the many forms our resistance takes. It may be forgetting the Lesson, deciding to do it our way, or projecting our own understanding from past teachings to what we read. When I take time to focus on the instructions Jesus has laid down for the practice, I notice the resistance in my mind to "being told what to do." Clearly, I like to do things my way. It certainly is an indication of the level of fear I have to waking up from this dream. I see how attached I am to my way, my specialness, my unique self, and my values and beliefs. It is an investment in this world I still hang onto. Having said that, there is certainly a significant increase in my level of trust as I experience the miracles in my life. "Every miracle that you accomplish speaks to you of the Fatherhood of God. Every healing thought that you accept, either from your brother or in your own mind, teaches you that you are God's Son. In every hurtful though you hold, wherever you perceive it, lies the denial of God's Fatherhood and of your Sonship." (T.11.II.2.4-6)(ACIM OE T.10.III.17) This is how trust and confidence is being developed as our perception is changed.
And thus, the teaching has taken on a deeper, more profound meaning for me. In accepting the power of the choice for forgiveness and the miracle, the shifts taking place in my mind have brought more peace and joy into my life. I am finding it increasingly painful to accept the ego's counsel to compare, judge, attack, and try to benefit at anyone's expense. It makes me realize, even more fully, the message of this Lesson, which is that I can only give to myself. "All that I give is given to myself," (W.126) because there is only one Self. My brother and I are one, and what I give to him I am giving to myself. When I attack him, I am only attacking and hurting myself.
The Lesson today is so pivotal to our appreciation of just how wrong we are about everything. This realization is essential to our willingness to listen and to be taught. This Lesson, more than any other perhaps, is significant in overcoming the ego. It is one we should really give our attention to. I say this because Jesus is very clear in his statement, "Today's idea, completely alien to the ego and the thinking of the world, is crucial to the thought reversal that this course will bring about." (W.126.1.1) In other words, we will not see the importance of it until we really apply the Lesson. Oh yes, we might, at this point, be able to understand this idea conceptually and even have some significant success with forgiveness, but Jesus goes on to explain why we still really don't get it. He explains how we don't really see how, when we attack a brother, we are doing it to ourselves. In the same vein, we don't see that when we give love, we are receiving it for ourselves. In other words, we don't see there is only one of us. We share one identity-the Christ Self. As such, there is only one mind and nothing is outside of my mind. As long as we still see ourselves as different from our brothers, we will think that we are completely safe from our projections onto them. The ego has taught us 'ideas leave their source' in the mind. The fact is, what we give our brothers we keep for ourselves.
The thought system of the ego, which is to see differences and to make separation real in our minds, certainly does not affirm this message of sameness. The thought system of the ego is entirely based on differences, on private thoughts and on separate interests. It started with the thought, "I am separate from God and different from Him." It started with the thought, "Now I have a will separate from God and I am the one sitting on the throne, not Him." There can only be one reality, so if He is real, how can I be real and exist? It must be me or Him. One or the other. Both can't be true. This is the basis for the thought of separation that came with the "tiny, mad idea." "Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." (T.27.VIII.6.2)(ACIM OE T.27.IX.82) It was the first thought of separation, differences, and competition. Time is made real and it now appears a part of God can attack itself. We don't see ourselves as the same, but rather as separate beings, thinking our own separate thoughts and living in our separate bodies. I see everyone outside of me and different from me.
As a result, we don't see our brothers' appeals for help as our own. We don't see their problems as having anything to do with us, but see them as miserable sinners who are responsible for the condition of our lives. They are seen as the guilty ones, not us. We therefore hope God's punishment will ultimately fall on them rather than us. While this is not a conscious thought, it is the basis for our investment in seeing others as guilty. By comparison, we see ourselves as the innocent ones. The guilt in our minds is now on them. In this scenario, our hope is that we will get off scot-free while they will experience God's punishment. We can easily find those to blame for the condition of our lives. We are loathe to see their sins as our own projections of the guilt in our minds that came with the belief in separation. We think we can judge their 'evil deeds,' and yet we see ourselves as remaining totally apart from the judgment we put on them. This is because we have forgotten the origin of our self-condemnation, which is the guilt in our own minds. We have chosen not to see this guilt, but have projected it onto figures in the dream we are dreaming. This is precisely how the ego set it all up. Knowing we could not live with such a load of guilt, it devised a plan to get 'rid' of it by seeing our own guilt in our brothers instead. To make it all seem real, the ego has given us separate bodies with senses so we can see our sins in others. "It seems to you that other people are apart from you, and able to behave in ways which have no bearing on your thoughts, nor yours on theirs." (W.126.2.2)
Jesus goes on to explain a kind of forgiveness, based on seeing sin in others as real, and then trying to overlook it or forgive it. He calls this, forgiveness to destroy. I spoke about it before in Lesson 121. It is basically about being charitable to someone we see as less worthy, so we might see ourselves as superior and even more spiritual. "He has not earned your charitable tolerance, which you bestow on one unworthy of the gift, because his sins have lowered him beneath a true equality with you." (W.126.3.3) Thus, our superior stance, in relation to another whom we choose to forgive and deem guilty of a sin, is simply an attack. While we may think we are offering forgiveness, in fact, we are actually benefiting ourselves. We make the sin real in someone else and then maintain our own specialness at the expense of our brother's guilt. I am the determiner of whether you deserve my charitable notion of forgiveness or not, based on my judgment of your worthiness. To a large extent, this kind of forgiveness, based on a whim, is how the Bible has defined God, sometimes punishing and sometimes being merciful, depending on His mood. We have just made God in our own image. We have told Him who He is according to our definition.
In summary, we believe: 1. Other people are apart from us. 2. Their thoughts have no bearing on ours. 3. There is no direct impact of our attitudes on theirs. 4. Their call for help has nothing to do with our own need for help. 5. We can judge their sin without affecting our perception of ourselves. In other words, we believe we can judge their sin, yet we remain perfectly at peace ourselves and apart from condemnation. Think about it. Isn't this the way we mostly think? Buying into the ego thought system is buying into our belief that we are separate, unique individuals, with separate interests. We are bodies living in a world of time and space, birth and death, experiencing pain, pleasure, vulnerability, and problems, all of which we see as real.
In this view of forgiveness, we don't receive the gift of forgiveness for ourselves. In fact, on the contrary, we believe that through this act of "charity" we experience loss. With this kind of forgiveness, we are not correcting anything in our own minds. Oh, we may feel like do-gooders in the process, but we don't feel true innocence, joining, or oneness with our brother. In this definition, forgiveness is not based on any solid ground ". . . on which to rest dependably and sure." (W.126.5.1) In fact, it is nothing more than an eccentricity ". . . in which you sometimes choose to give indulgently an undeserved reprieve." (W.126.5.2) Thus, you can't receive it for yourself because you don't even recognize your own guilt, only the guilt in the other. Our own guilt is now hidden and protected. In this picture, we are clearly separate and different, which reinforces the ego's program. No wonder Jesus concludes that we don't understand forgiveness. "As you see it, it is but a check upon overt attack, without requiring correction in your mind." (W.126.6.2) In other words, we see nothing wrong in ourselves that needs to change. I see the problem and the correction as being out there and nothing to do with me.
We rail against the world and against the guilt in others. Clearly, Jesus tells us there is no peace in this for us because there is no release from the guilt in our own minds. "It has no power to restore your unity with him to your awareness." (W.126.6.5) The goal of this Course is to heal the guilt in our own minds, which cannot occur when we see forgiveness in this way. "It is not what God intended it to be for you." (W.126.6.6) God intended forgiveness as a gift we give ourselves for the healing of our own minds, so we can experience the gifts He has laid out for us, which we currently don't consistently experience. These gifts are peace, ". . . happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world." (W.122.1.4)
Taking responsibility for our own projections is the process by which healing can be brought to our minds. When our sin, guilt and fear (none of which are real) are brought to the light, then we will see a world of innocence. We would have no problem at all forgiving anyone, if we truly saw this would free us from continuing to hurt ourselves. "You would understand the means by which salvation comes to you, and would not hesitate to use it now." (W.126.1.3) How we see others has a profound effect on how we see ourselves. When we condemn others, we lose our own peace of mind. Surely it is not something we would want to choose for ourselves, and yet we do.
We will only know our own innocence when we can see it in others. Does that mean we should pretend we don't see wrongdoing? No, the ego is erratic and we will continue to see misbehavior, but we can see someone who is attacking and still recognize the innate innocence of that person. We see beyond appearances when we see with vision. When we lack confidence in our brothers, we deny the power of their minds to change, and thus we deny the power of our own minds to change. The gift of forgiveness is really for ourselves. "Yet would He ask you for a gift unless it was for you?" (W.126.7.2) True forgiveness is the way we achieve the gifts salvation has to offer, one of which is the gift of happiness. True forgiveness ". . . must heal the mind that gives, for giving is receiving." (W.126.7.5) When we bring our own projections back to the mind, take responsibility for them there, and willingly turn them over to the Holy Spirit, then ". . . what has been given must have been received," (W.126.7.6) because our minds are joined.
As I was writing this, a friend dropped by in great distress because he said his boss was constantly criticizing him. Thus, he sees his boss as guilty of attacking him and he, in turn, defends his position as one of innocence and feels completely misunderstood and victimized. What my friend chooses not see are his own self-attacking thoughts, which he is seeing as outside himself. His boss is simply playing out the role my friend has assigned to him. He is acting out the attack in my friend's mind and seeing it in the split-off part of himself, now seen in his boss. The answer is to take back our projections on our brother and see how they reflect some aspects of ourselves. It is to inquire within our own minds, the root of our own distress. We start with the premise that a healed mind would not be upset by events outside ourselves. We are being called to change our perception of the other, so we can change our perception of ourselves. This is what the gift of salvation is, and the means for this is true forgiveness, where we take complete responsibility for the outward picture of our own inward condition. Jesus says, "You will need help to make this meaningful, because it is so alien to the thoughts to which you are accustomed." (W.126.8.2)
Thus, we are cautioned by Jesus when he says, "Do not leave any spot of pain hidden from His Light, and search your mind carefully for any thoughts you may fear to uncover. For He will heal every little thought you have kept to hurt you and cleanse it of its littleness, restoring it to the magnitude of God." (T.13.III.7.5-6)(ACIM OE T.12.III.17) This requires true humility and willingness, to have our own thoughts corrected. We must realize how we are using others to keep ourselves from the love we are. It takes great learning, because, as Jesus says, it is indeed alien to our current way of thinking. We will benefit in this process when we call on our mighty companions to support us in our inquiry.
"And if you only catch a tiny glimpse of the release that lies in the idea we practice today, this is a day of glory for the world
." (W.126.8.5) We do this by exempting no one from our love for we no longer choose to crucify ourselves. We choose to join our brothers rather than set ourselves apart. We are learning to give up the insanity of the ego. We are willing to see that we have been wrong about ourselves and are willing to ". . . ask Him that He share your practicing in truth today." (W.126.8.4) Ask for help today whenever you see a problem out there. Ask to see it originating in your own mind and recognize it can only be forgiven there. Others are a reflection of what is unhealed in our own minds. Thus, the help you ask for in any situation is always for yourself. We are asked to see the power of forgiveness to release our own minds and thus realize its worth to us. Ultimately, it is a gift to ourselves. All the forgiveness we offer we offer to ourselves. "And true forgiveness, as the means by which it [salvation] is attained, must heal the mind that gives, for giving is receiving." (W.126.7.5)
Our judgments and attacks are all defenses against love, yet we yearn to return to the love we are. The conflict in our minds will continue until we recognize and accept this, and make forgiveness our first priority in every situation. Again, we do this by being ". . . willing to be taught." (W.126.10.3) "Be glad to hear the Voice of truth and healing speak to you, and you will understand the words He speaks, and recognize He speaks your words to you." (W.126.10.4) In other words, the truth is already in our minds and known to us. The Holy Spirit is not separate from us.
We are urged to make this day of special value to us. That means we must set our goal today to remember, "All I give is given to myself. The Help I need to learn that this is true is with me now. And I will trust Him." (W.126.11.3-5) What this means is that we must become willing to go through this day and ask for help of the Holy Spirit throughout the day to shine away all disturbing thoughts that keep us blind to the grandeur of our reality as the Son of God. It means we choose to stay vigilant with regard to any distressing thoughts and be willing to choose against them with His help. Ask for it and trust the Answer is always given when we commit to seeing the false as false.
Watch your judgments today and be vigilant of your ego, so you can bring your judgments and attacks to the light and see them as your own secret sins you are holding against your brother. Recognize any attacks on your brother as never justified. When you see anyone outside of you, there to seeming rob you of your peace, be willing to bring your misperceptions to His truth. Ask for help in understanding that you share the same interests as your brother. We have all been taught wrongly. All the expressions of strong feelings and opinions, either good or bad, are illusory and simply reflect a choice for the ego. Real strength is in the quietness of our minds where truth resides.
Again, remind yourself, as often as you can, that you have a goal today, an aim which makes this day of special value to yourself and all your brothers. Do not forget this goal for long, but tell yourself: "All that I give is given to myself. The Help I need to learn that this is true is with me now. And I will trust in Him." (W.126.11.3-5) Then enter the stillness and hear the Holy Spirit speak to you.