"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles
TEXT

CHAPTER 17
Forgiveness and Healing

IX. The Conditions of Forgiveness

74 The holy instant is nothing more than a special case or an extreme example of what every situation is meant to be. The meaning which the Holy Spirit's purpose has given it is also given to every situation. It calls forth just the same suspension of faithlessness, withheld and left unused, that faith might answer to the call of truth. The holy instant is the shining example, the clear and unequivocal demonstration of the meaning of every relationship and every situation, seen as a whole. Faith has accepted every aspect of the situation, and faithlessness has not forced any exclusion on it. It is a situation of perfect peace simply because you have let it be what it is.

75 This simple courtesy is all the Holy Spirit asks of you. Let truth be what it is. Do not intrude upon it, do not attack it, do not interrupt its coming. Let it encompass every situation and bring you peace. Not even faith is asked of you, for truth asks nothing. Let it enter, and it will call forth and secure for you the faith you need for peace. But rise you not against it, for against your opposition it cannot come.

76 Would you not want to make a holy instant of every situation? For such is the gift of faith, freely given wherever faithlessness is laid aside unused. And then the power of the Holy Spirit's purpose is free to use instead. This power instantly transforms all situations into one sure and continuous means for establishing His purpose and demonstrating its reality. What has been demonstrated has called for faith and has been given it. Now it becomes a fact from which faith can no longer be withheld. The strain of refusing faith to truth is enormous and far greater than you realize. But to answer truth with faith entails no strain at all.

77 To you who have acknowledged the call of your Redeemer, the strain of not responding to His call seems to be greater than before. This is not so. Before, the strain was there but you attributed it to something else, believing that the "something else" produced it. This was never true. For what the "something else" produced was sorrow and depression, sickness and pain, darkness and dim imaginings of terror, cold fantasies of fear and fiery dreams of hell. And it was nothing but the intolerable strain of refusing to give faith to truth and see its evident reality.

78 Such was the crucifixion of the Son of God. His faithlessness did this to him. Think carefully before you let yourself use faithlessness against him. For he is risen, and you have accepted the cause of his awakening as yours. You have assumed your part in his redemption, and you are now fully responsible to him. Fail him not now, for it has been given you to realize what your lack of faith in him must mean to you . His salvation is your only purpose. See only this in every situation, and it will be a means for bringing only this.

79 When you accepted truth as the goal for your relationship, you became givers of peace as surely as your Father gave peace to you. For the goal of peace cannot be accepted apart from its conditions, and you had faith in it, for no one accepts what he does not believe is real. Your purpose has not changed and will not change, for you accepted what can never change. And nothing that it needs to be forever changeless can you now withhold from it. Your release is certain. Give as you have received. And demonstrate that you have risen far beyond any situation that could hold you back and keep you separate from Him Whose call you answered.

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Part I
Introduction to Lessons 181 - 200

1 Our next few lessons make a special point of firming up your willingness to make your weak commitment strong, your scattered goals blend into one intent. You are not asked for total dedication all the time, as yet. But you are asked to practice now in order to attain the sense of peace such unified commitment will bestow, if only intermittently. It is experiencing this which makes it sure that you will give your total willingness to following the way the course sets forth.

2 Our lessons now are geared specifically to widening horizons and direct approaches to the special blocks which keep your vision narrow and too limited to let you see the value of our goal. We are attempting now to lift these blocks, however briefly. Words alone can not convey the sense of liberation which their lifting brings. But the experience of freedom and of peace that comes as you give up your tight control of what you see speaks for itself. Your motivation will be so intensified that words become of little consequence. You will be sure of what you want and what is valueless.

3 And so we start our journey beyond words by concentrating first on what impedes our progress still. Experience of what exists beyond defensiveness remains beyond achievement while it is denied. It may be there, but you cannot accept its presence. So we now attempt to go past all defenses for a little while each day. No more than this is asked because no more than this is needed. It will be enough to guarantee the rest will come.

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Lesson 197
It can be but my gratitude I earn.

1 Here is the second step we take to free your mind from the belief in outside force pitted against your own. You make attempts at kindness and forgiveness. Yet you turn them to attack again unless you find external gratitude and lavish thanks. Your gifts must be received with honor, lest they be withdrawn. And so you think God's gifts are loans at best; at worst, deceptions which would cheat you of defenses to ensure that when He strikes He will not fail to kill.

2 How easily are God and guilt confused by those who know not what their thoughts can do. Deny your strength, and weakness must become salvation to you. See yourself as bound, and bars become your home. Nor will you leave the prison house or claim your strength until guilt and salvation are not seen as one and freedom and salvation are perceived as joined, with strength beside them, to be sought and claimed and found and fully recognized.

3 The world must thank you when you offer it release from your illusions. Yet your thanks belong to you as well, for its release can only mirror yours. Your gratitude is all your gifts require that they be a lasting offering of a thankful heart released from hell forever. Is it this you would undo by taking back your gifts because they were not honored? It is you who honor them and give them fitting thanks, for it is you who have received the gifts.

4 It does not matter if another thinks your gifts unworthy. In his mind there is a part that joins with yours in thanking you. It does not matter if your gifts seem lost and ineffectual. They are received where they are given. In your gratitude are they accepted universally and thankfully acknowledged by the Heart of God Himself. And would you take them back when He has gratefully accepted them?

5 God blesses every gift you give to Him and every gift is given Him because it can be given only to yourself, and what belongs to God must be His own. Yet you will never realize His gifts are sure, eternal, changeless, limitless, forever giving out, extending love, and adding to your never-ending joy, while you forgive but to attack again.

6 Withdraw the gifts you give, and you will think that what is given you has been withdrawn. But learn to let forgiveness take away the sins you think you see outside yourself, and you can never think the gifts of God are lent but for a little while before He snatches them away again in death. For death will have no meaning for you then.

7 And with the end of this belief is fear forever over. Thank your Self for this, for He is grateful only unto God, and He gives thanks for you unto Himself. To everyone who lives will Christ yet come, for everyone must live and breathe in Him. His Being in His Father is secure because Their Will is one. Their gratitude to all They have created has no end, for gratitude remains a part of love.

8 Thanks be to you, the holy Son of God, for as you were created you contain all things within your Self. And you are still as God created you. Nor can you dim the light of your perfection. In your heart, the Heart of God is laid. He holds you dear because you are Himself. All gratitude belongs to you because of what you are.

9 Give thanks as you receive it. Be you free of all ingratitude to anyone who makes your Self complete. And from this Self is no one left outside. Give thanks for all the countless channels which extend this Self. All that you do is given unto Him. All that you think can only be His Thoughts, sharing with Him the holy Thoughts of God. Earn now the gratitude you have denied yourself when you forgot the function God has given you. But never think that He has ever ceased to offer thanks to you.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 197
It can be but my gratitude I earn.

The Lesson today clearly affirms that gratitude is only in our own minds and is not something dependent on anything outside of us. Gratitude and love go hand in hand because both reflect the Oneness of reality. Just as attack comes only from our own minds, the same is said here of gratitude. This Lesson addresses the belief we hold that there can be something outside of our own minds that can help us or hurt us.
 
Gratitude is a gift we give ourselves. If I give anything to anyone and they do not respond as I expect they should, I may withdraw the gift unless, of course, I see that I give only to myself. Since that is the case, I would not want to withdraw the gift. When someone does not respond the way I expect them to, with gratitude, appreciation, attention, loyalty, or a gift in return, then I may have a grievance. Now, what I have given is no longer a gift, but an attack on them. In effect, I am saying, "I did this for you, and I expect something in return." Clearly, this is an affirmation that we are separate because we don’t realize we are always only giving to ourselves. There is no one outside of ourselves, so the gift is given or withdrawn from ourselves.
 
The special relationship is about bargaining, where we give with the expectation or requirement of a gift in return; hopefully, it is something better than what we have given. If I don't get what I expect from you, I hold a grievance in my mind and no longer choose to give. When we see ourselves as doing our part in being generous and do not receive appreciation, love turns to resentment and bitterness; but, this is not giving and clearly not love. The conditions we have placed on the gift make it a form of manipulation. If you prove you are not worthy of my gift, I take it back. It is how we relate to God, believing He too wants something from us in return for His gifts, and ultimately, it will cost us our lives. Our misguided perception is that we must sacrifice for His love. Thus, our relationship with God becomes one of bargaining.
 
Putting any conditions on our giving is what we think a capricious God does. "And so you think God's gifts are loans at best; at worst, deceptions which would cheat you of defenses, to ensure that when He strikes He will not fail to kill." (W.197.1.5) We think God asks something of us, and if we don't give it, He will kill us. We defend against His "love," as we fear our vulnerability. We don't trust love, and in the same way, as we protect ourselves from God, we set up defenses against being hurt in our relationships.
 
"How easily are God and guilt confused by those who know not what their thoughts can do." (W.197.2.1) Jesus explains this by telling us, "A major source of the ego's off-balanced state is its lack of discrimination between the body and the Thoughts of God. Thoughts of God are unacceptable to the ego, because they clearly point to the nonexistence of the ego itself. The ego therefore either distorts them or refuses to accept them. It cannot, however, make them cease to be." (T.4.V.2.1-4) (ACIM OE T.4.VI.70) He goes on to say that what we try to do is conceal our "unacceptable" body impulses and also our impulses toward the love of God because both threaten us. Our fear of love is our fear of God, for the ego tells us that to accept His love is to lose ourselves. We are threatened by this because all the ego is concerned with is self-preservation.
 
Jesus assures us, "Yet you will never realize His gifts are sure, eternal, changeless, limitless, forever giving out, extending love and adding to your never-ending joy while you forgive but to attack again." (W.197.5.3) In our attacks, we affirm separation and differences. We must remain vigilant when trying to be helpful and loving to another. There may be a subtle hook, where we see that we are giving in order to get, which is the nature of the special relationship. Whenever you see this in yourself, it is important not to feel guilty and beat on yourself. Recognize that this is very helpful to your healing. It is something you can willingly put on the inner altar for healing so you can accept the love that you are back into yourself.
 
When we deny the strength of God in us, all we have to depend on is the weakness of the ego. "Deny your strength, and weakness must become salvation to you." (W.197.2.2) We rely on the ego to save us, yet the ego is a sign of weakness accompanied by guilt. To overcome this belief in weakness, we try to get strength from those around us, competing for some form of power. The ego has extracted its strength from the death of God, and now it seems to live off His strength.
 
Today, we keep our awareness on the attachment we have to the results of our giving. We remember that when we give truly, we earn our own gratitude. Every gift we give is received. Every blessing we give our brother is received, even if it is not apparent to us. "In his mind there is a part that joins with yours in thanking you." (W.197.4.2) "In your gratitude are they accepted universally, and thankfully acknowledged by the Heart of God Himself." (W.197.4.5) It does not matter whether others express appreciation or not because a part of their mind is grateful, and the gift is acknowledged in the One Mind. What is given is accepted by the One Mind. The light of Christ shines in every mind where the gift is received. The same light shines in us all, as minds are joined. When we come to know our gifts are only given to the Self we are, we realize that to give and to receive are one in truth.
 
In Oneness, there is only the One Self that gives and receives the gift. Whether it is the gift of forgiveness or healing or some other kind of gift, it is all the same. It is all a gift given to ourselves. To be concerned with whether the gift has been received or not is to see others as separate and that is an attack. We are One Self, one with each other, and One with God. In the holy instant we experience a moment of sanity and recognize that we have not changed ourselves from the glorious beings we are as God's Son.
 
The core of the gift given to our brothers, regardless of the form, is forgiveness. When the gift of forgiveness is given and received, we experience our own innocence. When we withdraw the gift, we reinforce the guilt in our own minds. Sometimes our giving has subtle hooks attached in the form of expectations that we have of how they should respond to us. Again, it is giving to get. For example, we may be nice to someone because there is something we want for ourselves. We are kind and helpful because we think we will get love and appreciation in return. This is different than just letting the love of the Holy Spirit come through us, with no concern for any kind of response. The ego can be subtle and wily in not acknowledging that what we are doing is giving to get. Great honesty and courage are called for to look beyond the immediate inclination we have to deny the truth that we want something in return.
 
"Withdraw the gifts you give, and you will think that what is given you has been withdrawn." (W.197.6.1) Clearly, when I withdraw my gifts, I believe others will do the same to me. It creates suspicion of our brothers that, like our own gifts, their gifts have strings attached as well. Sometimes, when we receive gifts from them, we wonder what they want and expect of us in return. That is why receiving can be difficult for us. God, too, is constantly giving us His gifts of love and holiness, but we have withdrawn from His gifts, substituting our own instead. Now we believe He is the One Who has withdrawn His gifts from us. I am the one who has withdrawn my love, but now I project that belief and see others withdrawing their love from me. "Do not forget, however, that to deny God will inevitably result in projection, and you will believe that others and not yourself have done this to you." (T.10.V.2.1) (ACIM OE T.9.XI.94) This is where Byron Katie’s work is so valuable, where we turn around what we are seeing in anyone and recognize that it all starts in our own minds. For example, what I see in you, I turn around and take responsibility for, since it is in my own mind.
 
The gifts of love and forgiveness, which are the core of all our giving, remind us of who we are in truth. When our guilt is healed, fear is gone, and we experience the love of God, Who has laid His Heart in our own. "In your heart the Heart of God is laid." (W.197.8.5) The memory of God is in our right minds. Jesus reminds us, "He holds you dear, because you are Himself." (W.197.8.6) We can only know this when we exclude no one from His Love; for again, we are only doing this to ourselves. So whenever we feel unfairly treated by anyone, we are saying that they are different from us, which reinforces our separation from each other, and in our minds, it justifies our attacks on them.
 
Today, notice when you want to withhold gratitude from people in your life, when you feel unfairly treated by anyone, when you are tempted to exclude anyone from your life, when you are inclined to hold grievances whenever your expectations are not met, or in any situation where your thoughts and feelings are not peaceful. They are all opportunities to see how you are withholding joy, given you by God, from shining forth. Our focus is to undo the false self and remember who we are.
 
Today, above all, we can be grateful for this teaching and for this classroom where we have many opportunities to fulfill our function, which is to reflect God's Love through forgiveness. Every brother contains the memory of God's love. Thus, we can "Give thanks for all the countless channels which extend this Self." (W.197.9.4) There is no one outside of our own minds. "It can be but my gratitude I earn." (W.197)
 
Love and blessings, Sarah

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