ACIM Text Reading for May 21
Chapter 16 ~ The Forgiveness of Illusions
I. True Empathy
To empathize does not mean to join in suffering, for that is what you must refuse to understand. That is the ego’s interpretation of empathy, and is always used to form a special relationship in which the suffering is shared. The capacity to empathize is very useful to the Holy Spirit, provided you let Him use it in His way. He does not understand suffering, and would have you teach it is not understandable. When He relates through you, He does not relate through your ego to another ego. He does not join in pain, understanding that healing pain is not accomplished by delusional attempts to enter into it, and lighten it by sharing the delusion.
The clearest proof that empathy as the ego uses it is destructive lies in the fact that it is applied only to certain types of problems and in certain people. These it selects out, and joins with. And it never joins except to strengthen itself. Make no mistake about this maneuver; the ego always empathizes to weaken, and to weaken is always to attack. You do not know what empathizing means. Yet of this you may be sure; if you will merely sit quietly by and let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathize with strength, and will gain in strength and not in weakness.
Your part is only to remember this; you do not want anything you value to come of a relationship. You choose neither to hurt it nor to heal it in your own way. You do not know what healing is. All you have learned of empathy is from the past. And there is nothing from the past that you would share, for there is nothing from the past that you would keep. Do not use empathy to make the past real, and so perpetuate it. Step gently aside, and let healing be done for you. Keep but one thought in mind and do not lose sight of it, however tempted you may be to judge any situation, and to determine your response by judging it. Focus your mind only on this:
- “I am not alone, and I would not intrude the past upon my Guest.
- I have invited Him, and He is here.
- I need do nothing except not to interfere.”
True empathy is of Him Who knows what it is. You will learn His interpretation of it if you let Him use your capacity for strength, and not for weakness. He will not desert you, but be sure that you desert not Him. Humility is strength in this sense only; that to recognize and accept the fact that you do not know is to recognize and accept the fact that He does know. You are not sure that He will do His part, because you have never yet done yours completely. You cannot know how to respond to what you do not understand. Be tempted not in this, and yield not to the ego’s triumphant use of empathy for its glory.
The triumph of weakness is not what you would offer to a brother. And yet you recognize no triumph but this. This is not knowledge, and the form of empathy which would bring this about is so distorted that it would imprison what it would release. The unredeemed cannot redeem, yet they have a Redeemer. Attempt to teach Him not. You are the learner; He the Teacher. Do not confuse your role with His, for this will never bring peace to anyone. Offer your empathy to Him for it is His perception and His strength that you would share. And let Him offer you His strength and His perception, to be shared through you.
The meaning of love is lost in any relationship that looks to weakness, and hopes to find love there. The power of love, which is its meaning, lies in the strength of God that hovers over it and blesses it silently by enveloping it in healing wings. Let this be, and do not try to substitute your “miracle” for this. I have said that if a brother asks a foolish thing of you to do it. But be certain that this does not mean to do a foolish thing that would hurt either him or you, for what would hurt one will hurt the other. Foolish requests are foolish merely because they conflict, since they always contain some element of specialness. Only the Holy Spirit recognizes foolish needs as well as real ones. And He will teach you how to meet both without losing either.
You will attempt to do this only in secrecy. And you will think that by meeting the needs of one you do not jeopardize another, because you keep them separate and secret from each other. That is not the way, for it leads not to life and truth. No needs will long be left unmet if you leave them all to Him Whose function is to meet them. That is His function, and not yours. He will not meet them secretly, for He would share everything you give through Him. That is why He gives it. What you give through Him is for the whole Sonship, not for part of it. Leave Him His function, for He will fulfill it if you but ask Him to enter your relationships, and bless them for you.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for May 21
Now we review again, this time aware we are preparing for the second part of learning how the truth can be applied. Today we will begin to concentrate on readiness for what will follow next. Such is our aim for this review, and for the lessons following. Thus, we review the recent lessons and their central thoughts in such a way as will facilitate the readiness that we would now achieve.
There is a central theme that unifies each step in the review we undertake, which can be simply stated in these words:
My mind holds only what I think with God.
That is a fact, and represents the truth of What you are and What your Father is. It is this thought by which the Father gave creation to the Son, establishing the Son as co-creator with Himself. It is this thought that fully guarantees salvation to the Son. For in his mind no thoughts can dwell but those his Father shares. Lack of forgiveness blocks this thought from his awareness. Yet it is forever true.
Let us begin our preparation with some understanding of the many forms in which the lack of true forgiveness may be carefully concealed. Because they are illusions, they are not perceived to be but what they are; defenses that protect your unforgiving thoughts from being seen and recognized. Their purpose is to show you something else, and hold correction off through self-deceptions made to take its place.
And yet, your mind holds only what you think with God. Your self-deceptions cannot take the place of truth. No more than can a child who throws a stick into the ocean change the coming and the going of the tides, the warming of the water by the sun, the silver of the moon on it by night. So do we start each practice period in this review with readying our minds to understand the lessons that we read, and see the meaning that they offer us.
Begin each day with time devoted to the preparation of your mind to learn what each idea you will review that day can offer you in freedom and in peace. Open your mind, and clear it of all thoughts that would deceive, and let this thought alone engage it fully, and remove the rest:
My mind holds only what I think with God.
Five minutes with this thought will be enough to set the day along the lines which God appointed, and to place His Mind in charge of all the thoughts you will receive that day.
They will not come from you alone, for they will all be shared with Him. And so each one will bring the message of His Love to you, returning messages of yours to Him. So will communion with the Lord of Hosts be yours, as He Himself has willed it be. And as His Own completion joins with Him, so will He join with you who are complete as you unite with Him, and He with you.
After your preparation, merely read each of the two ideas assigned to you to be reviewed that day. Then close your eyes, and say them slowly to yourself. There is no hurry now, for you are using time for its intended purpose. Let each word shine with the meaning God has given it, as it was given to you through His Voice. Let each idea which you review that day give you the gift that He has laid in it for you to have of Him. And we will use no format for our practicing but this:
Each hour of the day, bring to your mind the thought with which the day began, and spend a quiet moment with it. Then repeat the two ideas you practice for the day unhurriedly, with time enough to see the gifts that they contain for you, and let them be received where they were meant to be.
We add no other thoughts, but let these be the messages they are. We need no more than this to give us happiness and rest, and endless quiet, perfect certainty, and all our Father wills that we receive as the inheritance we have of Him. Each day of practicing, as we review, we close as we began, repeating first the thought that made the day a special time of blessing and of happiness for us; and through our faithfulness restored the world from darkness to the light, from grief to joy, from pain to peace, from sin to holiness.
God offers thanks to you who practice thus the keeping of His Word. And as you give your mind to the ideas for the day again before you sleep, His gratitude surrounds you in the peace wherein He wills you be forever, and are learning now to claim again as your inheritance.
My mind holds only what I think with God.
(121) Forgiveness is the key to happiness.
(122) Forgiveness offers everything I want.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #916: I have been wanting for so long to have some peace, some love in my life and I am so sad. I am so hard on myself and I don’t know how to be anything else. I am trying so hard to do what the Course says, about looking at my ego with Jesus. I have been doing this again today and I was reading an answer you wrote to someone (Question #387) about if they were identified with their ego they would have difficulty hearing Jesus’ direction, let alone accepting and following it. I would like to say that I am no longer identified with my ego but I am, so is there hope for me? I am not looking for an easy way out. I do believe that every word in A Course in Miracles is the truth. I want it to work, I want to let go of my self-hatred and my fear and guilt. What would you suggest that I do?
A: You first want to learn to be gentle with yourself. And this begins with accepting yourself exactly where you are, identified with your ego, feeling unhappy, miserable, alone, frustrated, filled with guilt and self-hatred. And this genuine self-acceptance can seem like one of the hardest things in the world to achieve, for we believe when we have such feelings, that we have to do something to change them, as if the feelings were the problem. But they are not — they are only the effect. The real problem is that we want to feel however we are feeling, and so saying we want to change how we feel is denying the power of our mind to have chosen to feel that way in the first place. We still believe there are external circumstances, such as lack of love in our lives, that are the cause of how we feel. And then no matter how willing we believe we are to look within for the answer, we keep looking for the external to change.
The next step is to ask yourself why you would want to feel the way you do. Believe it or not, we all take a certain comfort in our so-called bad feelings. They are very familiar, and a lot of how we identify ourselves is tied up in those feelings. Who after all would I be without my sadness and self-hatred and hopelessness? And if I choose to keep myself in pain and despair, how angry can God really be at me for stealing my miserable little life from Him. Now these thoughts generally are not conscious, but they nevertheless continue to dictate our decision for unhappiness until we become more conscious of them. So after beginning to accept how you feel without trying to change your feelings, you may want to begin to ask for help in seeing how those feelings are really your choice. The awareness may be fleeting, or it may hit you like a ton of bricks, but your part is only to be willing to allow it to come to the surface. They are really very silly thoughts, but while we continue to keep them buried, they can seem quite dark and serious.
Did you know that you are setting yourself up for failure with the Course? In commenting on the answer to Question #387, which says it’s difficult to hear Jesus when you are identified with your ego, you conclude that you will only hear him when you are no longer identified with the ego. That is not what this answer is saying — that would be a nearly impossible, hopeless state to attempt to achieve, for it would mean you could only hear Jesus once you no longer needed his help! The answer to Question #387 simply means you will vacillate between moments of being identified with your ego, when Jesus will seem miles away, and moments when you have temporarily disidentified with your ego, and are able to observe it without judgment. In such moments, Jesus’ help will be available, until you become fearful again and push his love away. And it could only be your ego that would deny that you have ever had such experiences of Jesus’ love and guidance!
The Course is not something that you should have to work hard at. Jesus only asks us to have a little willingness, and that willingness is simply the willingness to look at what we have chosen and wanted to make real in our lives, without judging ourselves for having made that choice. As we look with Jesus at our foolish choice for the ego, we will be begin to be able to smile with him at how silly we are, and in those moments, the effects of having chosen guilt and sin and pain will simply dissipate. It really is that simple, and only our own resistance, because we do not want to believe we are worthy of love, makes it seem at all difficult.
Q #917: The Course’s separation myth emphasizes the making of the world as a defense mechanism against the guilt and fear that God would take away the separate existence the Son desired (and the result is billions of fragments). I don’t see how this relates to what I think is the most basic fear: the fear of death. And I wonder why this separateness didn’t produce individuals that could last forever.
A: From our perspective as separate bodies in the world, it does seem that the fear of death is one of our most basic fears. And yet, from Jesus’ perspective, our problem is not our fear of death but our attraction to it, as discussed in great detail in the third obstacle to peace (T.19.IV.C) . For the belief in death is the cornerstone of the ego’s thought system — our seeming separate life came at God’s expense, requiring His death, the destruction of Oneness, according to the ego myth. And the belief that God eventually is going to steal back the life we stole from Him, culminating in our death and the end of our individual existence, is simply further proof that the separation is real, a sin punishable by God.
The irony of all of the ego’s defenses, including the fragmenting of the mind and the seeming projection of those fragments out into a world of form, is that none of them works, in terms of the purpose the ego has promised us they will serve. While we remain identified with the ego, nothing can make us safe, nothing can protect us from God’s wrath, except temporarily, for in the end death is inevitable, and it is this we believe we fear.
But what the ego defenses in fact do accomplish, which we do not allow ourselves to see or accept, is to keep our focus outside ourselves, on the world and the body and death, so that we do not see that we have made up the entire situation, from the beginning to the end in death, and none of it is true. Bodies may seem to die, but we are mind, created eternal by God, and the death of the body has nothing to do with us, unless we want to believe that it does. And we only want to believe that it does if we want the thought of separation and death to be real and we want to remain identified with the ego — which we do! And so that is why Jesus speaks of our attraction to death, conveniently hidden by our apparent fear of death.
Nearly all of our conscious thinking is upside down and backwards, and our conclusions seem quite justifiable because they seem to be all that we know. And so Jesus, through A Course in Miracles , is attempting very gently to peel back the layers of defense that we have embraced to keep our real attraction to death out of our awareness, so that we can see what we really believe and are choosing. As it becomes clearer to us that we are really choosing to believe in death, Jesus knows that we will be willing to make a different choice — for life, which has no opposite in death (W.pI.167.1) and has nothing to do with bodies.
Regarding your final question, while there are many different forms and stories that the ego could have produced, individuals who live forever is not among them. For the separation was made to be the opposite of God and Heaven, which alone are eternal, and so the ego can only attempt to mimic infinity and eternity ( e.g., T.4.I.11; T.4.V.6:1,2) . Even today’s scientists see its apparently most impressive accomplishment, the expanding universe of time and space, as eventually collapsing back upon itself.