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Healing Ourselves
Reprinted from Healing the Cause - A Path of Forgiveness by Michael Dawson.

Page references are from A Course in Miracles.
T = text W = Workbook M=Manual

S = Song of prayer P = Psychology (ACIM supplements)

Chapter Five

If we decide to follow the ego's advice to get ill, we shall, in the next moment, deny having made that decision. I can clearly remember a time when I became conscious of the choice I had to become sick or not.

Whilst talking with a group of people one day, I noticed the first symptoms of a cold. As I thought to myself that I should go and take some medicine, I became aware of a'voice' saying to me,"Careful! If you do that, you might lose your cold." It was amazing for me to realise that part of me wanted that cold. I could also see the'advantages' of being sick. I could imagine myself tucked up in bed with a pile of my favourite books which I never found the time to read. It would also give me an opportunity to take a rest from what I considered a heavy workload. I decided I wanted to make a conscious decision about whether to be sick or well. Taking out my diary, I looked at my appointments over the next few days. I wanted to keep these appointments instead of going to bed, even though my favourite books were a great draw! Over the next few days, I had a few mild cold symptoms which did not interfere with my work. In the language of the Course, I had chosen a miracle. This enabled me to drop the ego's thought system which portrayed me as a victim of circumstances and instead view the situation through the eyes of the Holy Spirit and forgive myself.

We always'look inside' our mind first and then project what we find onto the circumstances of the world. To forgive ourself and others, we need to choose to look with the Holy Spirit's thought system and not the ego's.

One night shortly before going to sleep, Salice and I had an argument. My ego told me I had been unfairly treated and I should separate from her by not communicating. Salice's ego had apparently given her the same advice, for neither of us was now talking to the other! I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. I saw a pack of Workbook Lesson cards and felt the impulse to take one. The title of the Lesson was ŰI could see peace instead of this'. (Lesson 34) The significance of the Lesson was not lost on me and simultaneously another line from the Course came into my mind: ŰDo you prefer to be right or happy?' (T573; T29.VII.1:9) For a moment I considered my two options and then said to myself,'I'd rather be right' and put the Lesson card down again. Feeling miserable but justified in my pain, I returned silently to bed and fell asleep.

In the morning I woke up still feeling separated from Salice, as she did from me. I returned to the bathroom and remembered picking up the Lesson card from the night before. Out of curiosity I read the title again,"I could see peace instead of this", and remembered the choice I had to be right or happy. I became still for a moment and this time I chose to be happy. I felt the impulse to share what was happening to me with Salice. She was sitting quietly at the table and as I sat down next to her I said,"I want to let you know that I'm not handling my side of this dispute very well." At this statement Salice began to cry and we began to share honestly with each other how we had been feeling.

Through this process we were able to understand each other's fear and found ourselves quickly moving into a state of mutual openness, care and affection. In the language of the Course, we had joined and felt at peace. At these moments I always wonder why I choose to be right and not happy. However, I am also aware that it is taking me a shorter time to forgive than it has done in the past. What would upset me for days may only last a few hours now. I am also aware that some issues which triggered pain in me in the past no longer affect me. Progress on the spiritual path may be measured by how much of the day is spent listening to the ego compared to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Eventually, only the Holy Spirit will fill our mind and then there will be no more temptation or choice, for there will not be two voices to choose between. The decision maker will have disappeared with the ego, and the Holy Spirit will fill our mind with God's love and wisdom. We shall simply know what to do from moment to moment. The Course describes this state of existence as being in the real world and this is the goal of the Course. To achieve this goal we must practise forgiveness over and over until we at last see there is nothing to forgive.

Forgive the world, and you will understand that everything that God created cannot have an end, and nothing He did not create is real. In this one sentence is our course explained. In this one sentence is our practising given its one direction. And in this one sentence is the Holy Spirit's whole curriculum specified exactly as it is.

A Course in Miracles
M50; M-20.5:7-10

How Do I Forgive?

It is impossible to forgive another, for it is only your sins you see in him. You want to see them there, and not in you. That is why forgiveness of another is an illusion.

Song of Prayer S10; S-2.I.4:2-4

We can only begin the process of forgiveness when we start to realise how much alike we are to the person we wish to forgive. When we cannot forgive someone, it is because we cannot forgive ourselves for the same problem, albeit in another form. For example, a woman may dislike her husband's aggressive outbursts of anger, whilst she may never exhibit such outbursts herself. However, her anger will be just as strong as his but will be found in a different form. For instance, when she feels angry she may withdraw herself and cut off from people emotionally, successfully suppressing her anger. Or her anger may be expressed aggressively when she is alone. A common example for many people is when they are driving a car and someone changes lanes or stops suddenly. Anger can well up in us and in the safety and privacy of the car we may yell or swear angrily at the other driver. The woman dislikes her husband's anger because it mirrors her own which she has not forgiven in herself.

Forgiveness recognises that what we thought was done to us, we truly did to ourselves, for only we can deprive ourselves of the peace of God. As the Course teaches, we forgive others for what they have not done to us, not for what they did, and true forgiveness recognises an attack as a call for love. Forgiveness is thus a shift in perception. Our only problem is the belief in separation from God; our only healing is by joining with each other through forgiveness.

The Three Stages of Forgiveness

Kenneth Wapnick has identified in the Course three stages or steps on the path of forgiveness which I find helpful in understanding the nature of true forgiveness. I have used these steps as the basis for the following discussion on forgiveness.
Firstly we must take back the projections which we have made onto the world and take responsibility for our own pain. See Figure 5.2.

We must stop pointing our finger at people and situations and accusing them of hurting us and see that they are mirroring to us the areas we have not healed and forgiven in ourself. In fact these people and situations merit our thanks for showing us what is in our unconscious mind. Without them we would not see the forces that drive us.

The secret of salvation is but this: That you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognise it is your dream.
(T545; T-27.VIII.10)

Our attacks are not limited to people who are behaving inappropriately and obviously acting from their ego. We are also capable of attacking people who have done nothing to us. I recently watched a television documentary about the life of Mao Tse Tung. During the period of his cultural revolution he encouraged the working classes to seek out and persecute authority figures. In one particular village the people experienced a problem carrying out Mao's command as they had already killed the landlord several years earlier. The programme mentioned that over a million landlords had been killed by the peasants at the beginning of Mao's rule in China. They remembered, however, that the landlord had a son. Although he did not hold any office of power or authority in the village, and lived as one of them, they sought him out and tortured him to death.

This story clearly illustrates the need of our ego to find fault outside ourself. We want to find sin in the world so we have something onto which we can hook our projections. If we looked fully at the insanity of the ego's thought system, we would no longer follow it. The ego is well aware that its continuity depends on us not looking deep█ly into our mind and it tells us to look in the world for the cause of our distress. The Course reminds us that'to the ego, the guiltless are guilty'. (T224; T-13.II.4:2) To usurp God's power, break up Heaven and create an alternative to God's creation is a sin, and we should feel guilty. If, like Jesus, we don't feel guilty, we are invalidating the ego and telling it that its creation is an illusion. This is the greatest sin we can commit against the ego and warrants death in its eyes. That is why Jesus was killed, although he had harmed no one.

The ego encourages us to attack everyone, whether they have attacked us or not. We need to see sin in the world so we don't have to confront the ego's thought system in our own mind. This is why our newspapers and television news programmes are largely filled with disturbing news. We want to read it and see it so we can say,'They are the wicked ones, not me. They deserve God's punishment, not me. They are the cause of the pain in the world, not me.'
As we actively seek for enemies outside ourself, we simultaneously strengthen the guilt within our mind and so the ego's vicious circle of guilt and attack is complete. This trap is so hard to break free from that without the Holy Spirit's help we could never do it. Before the Holy Spirit can heal our mind, we must first discover what it is that needs healing. If we believe the problem lies in the world instead of in our mind, the Holy Spirit can do nothing to help us.
When we realise that there is no one or nothing to blame'out there' and that the problem lies within us, we usually fall into the trap of feeling guilty. This is because we make a decision to listen to the counsel of our ego which has a very low opinion of us. Our ego tells us we should feel guilty for our sins, for in this way we will take the world of separation seriously. It is very easy to fall into the ego's trap of judgement. Guilt always demands punishment and this prevents us from releasing our pain. Our ego does not care if we blame the world or ourself for our unhappi█ness. Either way we are reinforcing our belief in the ego's thought system and its survival is all that it cares about.

During this second stage of forgiveness (Figure 5.3) we begin to realise how deeply attached we are to our guilt. It appears to be a sacrifice not to feel justified in being a victim and the desire is to hold on to our anger, jealousy or greed.

Although guilt is painful, it is what we are familiar with and we prefer it to the increase in self-responsibility we know will come to us when we lose our attachment to being a victim. We can now choose to decide that guilt no longer serves us and that we would like it to be undone. As we have so identified with our false ego-self, we do not know how to undo our guilt. As an example, let's imag█ine a couple who are having an issue around jealousy.

The wife is upset with her husband because of his jealous nature. He denies that he is jealous, saying that what she sees as emotional outbursts are only his feelings of love for her. Although his wife is often upset by his possessiveness, she unconsciously approves of it and translates his need of her as love. One day the husband realises that his own thoughts of insecurity are producing his jealous feelings and that his wife is not to blame for his unhappiness. He also realises that if he forgives himself and lets his jealousy go, his wife might become so threatened at losing his'love' that the relationship might end. At this point his ego will rush in and guide him to keep his jealousy or he might lose everything.

The husband is now caught in a difficult situation, for to allow his jealousy to go appears to him as a sacrifice. Thus this second stage of forgiveness can be more difficult to accomplish than the insight needed in the first stage. If, however, he chooses to listen to the Holy Spirit, he will realise that the healing of his jealous nature will take him further along the path of peace. Perhaps his wife will leave him but he has prepared the way to be with people who do not mistake jealousy for love.
Our little willingness to change, to shift our perception, opens the way for the third stage of forgiveness. In this final stage our guilt is undone by the Holy Spirit as we allow His light and peace to shine away our guilt. The following prayer from the Course contains within it the three stages of forgiveness. The Course urges us to use it whenever we are not joyous.

I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace.
I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise.
I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace.
I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him.
I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.

(T83; T-5.VII.6:7-11)

The first two sentences of the above prayer describe the first step of forgiveness and how we must take responsibility for the way we feel. If our peace has gone, it is because we have given it away and not because it has been taken from us. The third sentence of the quotation reflects the second step of forgiveness, when the decision is taken to see our sins as errors which can be corrected. In this step we stop listening to our ego's counsel that we are guilty and deserving of punishment and choose instead to have our errors healed. The last sentence of the quotation describes how the Holy Spirit will come to heal our mind once we have invited Him in. See Figure 5.4

The first two steps of this forgiveness process are taken by us. In the first step, we take our projections back and stop judging the world. In the second step, we stop judging ourselves and ask for help. This now makes way for the third step that is taken by the Holy Spirit. We have invited His light into the darkness of our guilt and He shines it away by His very presence, just as a dark room cannot remain dark when light is brought into it. In this analogy we can recognise that light is real, and that darkness is simply the absence of light. We cannot bring a'lamp of darkness' into a lighted room and make the room dark but we can bring a light into a darkened room and make it light.

Whenever we agree to invite the Holy Spirit into our mind, the ego's world of darkness must disappear into the nothingness that it really is. It is often difficult to remember that there is always the Holy Spirit's love waiting to respond to any genuine call for help. It is easy for us to fall into the trap that we have to sort out all our problems ourselves. Our ego firmly believes it knows how to do this. In contrast, the Course tells us that the ego only knows how to create problems and we must get help from outside its thought system if we are to experience peace. The third step of forgiveness reminds us that we can only be helped by the Holy Spirit. Our only responsibility is to understand that we have given our peace away and that the errors in our thinking can be corrected by the Holy Spirit, once we invite Him in.

An experience I had some time ago illustrates the above three stages of forgiveness. I had been experi█encing a pain in my chest for two days. It was not unfamiliar to me as I had experienced this feeling many times before in my life. It would come when I perceived myself as being unfairly treated and sometimes would last up to three days. The pain weighed me down with an intense feeling of sadness and heaviness. As I lay on my bed wondering why I was going through this all again I decided to look honestly at the'advantages' I knew I must be gaining for holding on to the pain.

My new willingness to look at myself soon revealed the sweet pleasure of self-pity and the desire to close my heart so I would not be expected to give so much to others. I felt inside that I no longer wanted to carry this pain around and was ready to release it and accept the increase in self-responsibility which now did not seem like a sacrifice. It was not serving me any more and I could give it away. I brought my awareness and acceptance to the heart area and offered the pain to the Holy Spirit. I asked Him to take it, knowing that it would give Him joy to receive it. To my own astonishment the pain disappeared in under a minute. In fact I worried that the pain would return at any moment. But it didn't, nor have I suffered such long periods of chest pain again.

I remember seeing advertisements on billboards saying,'Cast your burdens on the Lord'. I thought this an impossible idea and knew it could not work. It was surely up to me to sort everything out in my life. As my perception and awareness of the Holy Spirit grew, I realised what love He must have for us and that He views our activities as a mother would her child having a nightmare. She would not condemn the content of her child's nightmare but seek gentle ways of waking the child up. How much more then would God love to take away our self-created nightmares if only we would let Him. To practise forgiveness we must first stop judging the world and then stop judging ourselves. As we do this, our ego defences are lowered and automatically the love and the light of the Holy Spirit will shine our guilt away.

When we allow ourself to wake up from our ego nightmares by practising forgiveness, we shall discover that we are still as God created us, perfect and eternal, and that nothing can harm us. What then will there be to forgive? As the Course says:'And that in complete forgiveness, in which you recognise that there is nothing to forgive, you are absolved completely.' (T298; T-15.VIII. 1:7) This realisation that forgiveness is an illusion does not come until the end of the process of forgiveness. Whilst we believe we are separated from God, forgiveness is a helpful illusion that will awaken us from all illusions.

Our Resistance to Forgiveness

It is often thought by people new to studying A Course in Miracles that their lives will become more peaceful as they begin to practise its teachings. However this does not always follow. In fact things may seem to get worse, not better. Before practising the principles of the Course, they will probably have heeded the ego's counsel and denied the guilt they feel and projected it onto others. Now they attempt to bring their unconscious mind to consciousness, which starts the process of undoing denial, bringing their guilt to the light of the Holy Spirit to be forgiven. To become aware of the ego's darkness in the mind is not an easy process.
The principles of forgiveness as described in the Course are relatively simple to understand and bring us great rewards if we apply them. It is also true that most of us find it very difficult to own our pain and ask for help. To help us understand why this is so, the Course goes to great lengths to show how subtle and devious the ego really is. We are largely unconscious of the way it operates owing to the wall of denial we have constructed. The Course encourages us to look behind that wall and learn to laugh gently at what we find there.

As we practise forgiveness, at the same time we shall be lessening the importance we have given to the ego. Having identified so strongly with the ego's thought system, it seems as if we are sacrificing something very dear to us. As we bring our darkness (illusions) to the light (truth) the Course states that we will experience'periods of unsettling'. These are times of discomfort and anxiety that we must inevitably feel in the process of shifting from the ego's thought system (wrong-mindedness) to the Holy Spirit's thought system (right-mindedness).

First, they (God's Teachers) must go through what might be called'a period of undoing'. This need not be painful, but it usually is so experienced. It seems as if things are being taken away, and it is rarely understood initially that their lack of value is merely being recognised.

(M8; M-4.I.3:1-3)

This quotation is taken from a section which describes the six stages in the development of trust. Jesus cautions us that four of these stages are normally experienced as difficult and thus we should not underestimate the challenges involved in spiritual growth.

It would be helpful to take a closer look at our investment in the ego and what it seems to offer us. As we start to question the'gifts' it holds out to us, our practice of forgiveness will become easier. Our ego will tell us that we are the most important person in the world. We have special needs which must be fulfilled and we feel justified in using whatever means are necessary to achieve this. The Course tells us that the source of this justification comes from an insane belief stored in our unconscious mind. This belief states that we are lacking the things we need because they have been stolen from us. (See'The Laws of Chaos' in Chapter 23 of the Text) This thought justifies the use of any means to get back what we feel is rightfully ours in the first place. Forgiveness teaches the opposite of this and states that we have given away our remembrance of our spiritual reality in exchange for the experience of individual uniqueness ˇ the need to feel special and different from others.

When we decided to forget our true state of unity within the One Mind of God, competition and judgement had to follow. To maintain a sense of individuality we must continually compare ourselves to others and look for differences. If we meet someone who seems better than us in some way, then we must make them into our enemy or put them onto a pedestal and appear to look up to them. However, at a deeper level of our mind we will hate them for being better than us. The Course states:'Only the special could have enemies, for they are different and not the same. And difference of any kind imposes orders of reality, and a need to judge that cannot be escaped.' (T465; T-24.I.3:5-6) When we come across someone whom we judge as inferior, there will be a desire to keep this person the way they are so we may appear superior by contrast. The Course describes this dynamic as follows:

Against the littleness you see in him you stand as tall and stately, clean and honest, pure and unsullied by comparison with what you see. Nor do you understand it is yourself that you diminish thus.
(T466f; T-24.II.1:6-7)

This quotation reminds us that when we compare and attack our brothers we are also attacking ourself. Our attacks are always centred on another's body or their behaviour and thus our belief in the reality of the body is strengthened and our awareness of spirit is weakened.
The Course states:'You would oppose this course be█cause it teaches you you and your brother are alike.' (T466;T-24.I.8:6) Forgiveness teaches us that our egos are all the same, as is our Christ nature. This is the last thing our ego wants to hear. For the ego to retain its desire for special█ness, it must perceive differences between itself and others. If someone goes to a party, the last thing they want to find is someone else wearing the same outfit as them.
Our original desire to be separate and different from God is perpetuated in our continuing desire to be separate from others. Forgiveness would undo this thought and eventually return to our awareness our oneness with each other and God. This is perceived by our ego as an act of treachery which deserves punishment. To welcome the state of unity back into our awareness means the death of the ego and this it must fight with all its resources.

The ego is deceived by everything you do, especially when you respond to the Holy Spirit, because at such times its confusion increases. The ego is, therefore, particularly likely to attack you when you react lovingly, because it has evaluated you as unloving and you are going against its judgement. The ego will attack your motives as soon as they become clearly out of accord with its perception of you. This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased.

(T164; T-9.VII.4:4-7)

We might experience a day when we feel open to the love of the Holy Spirit and feel a deep sense of peace and well-being. We may even think this state could last forever. However, we might wake the following day feeling depressed and alone and wonder why things have changed so much. To allow this shift to occur, we must be persuaded by our ego that to continue listening to the Holy Spirit is dangerous. The ego reminds us that it is safer to stay as we are as change will involve sacrifice and, even worse, there is an avenging god awaiting us at the end of our journey ready to punish us for our many sins. We are told that if we follow the path of forgiveness, we shall have to look at all the horror and darkness within our mind, and that we shall not survive this experience. The journey of forgiveness is not an easy one, but its success is guaranteed by God, for it is His will that we return to Him.

False Forgiveness

No gift of Heaven has been more misunderstood than has forgiveness. It has, in fact, become a scourge; a curse where it was meant to bless, a cruel mockery of grace, a parody upon the holy peace of God.

(S9; S-2.I.1:1-2)

The Song of Prayer pamphlet describes a number of false con█cepts about forgiveness which are called'forgiveness-to-destroy'. (S11f; S-2.IIf) Firstly, there is what might be called the'holier than thou' form of forgiveness. In this, the offended person adopts a posture of spiritual superiority and seeming charity and decides to'forgive' the inferior individual who has offended him. The person is effectively saying,'Out of the kindness of my heart I forgive you for what you have done to me, but don't do it again.' With this form of forgiveness the'forgiver' does not see the problem is within him and loses an opportunity to heal himself of what the other person is mirroring to him.

Forgiveness-to-destroy has many forms, being a weapon of the world of form. Not all of them are obvious, and some are carefully concealed beneath what seems like charity.

(S11; S-2.II.1:1-2)

Another form of false forgiveness can be described as that of the'martyred saint'. In this form, a person believes he is a sinner and deserves God's punishment, which he accepts with apparent humility and lack of defence. However, this is a statement of belief in the ego and not in God, for only the ego counsels us we have sinned. We may actively seek to be martyred so we can display our'saintliness' to others. However, behind an exterior of smiling acceptance lies the anger and bitterness we feel towards the other person. Thus the ego uses false forgiveness to reinforce our belief in it.

A further form of'forgiveness-to-destroy' is based on bargaining and compromise. As long as another person is meeting most of our ego needs, we are willing to forgive their transgressions against us. When our needs are no lon█ger met, there is no reason left to forgive them and our denied hate now rises to the surface in the form of an attack.

Holy Relationships

As you come closer to a brother you approach me, and as you withdraw from him I become distant to you. Salvation is a collaborative venture. It cannot be undertaken successfully by those who disengage themselves from the Sonship, because they are disengaging themselves from me. God will come to you only as you will give Him to your brothers.

(T63; T-4.VI.8:1-4)

Relationships are necessary to show us what needs healing under our barriers of denial. This is true for all forms of relationship. Every time we come into contact with another person we have an opportunity to look within and forgive the illusions we hold about ourselves. Without the mirroring of others, it would be impossible to find all the guilt we have denied. This guilt which we all carry is buried deeply within our mind and protected by a wall of denial. As a further defence we project what we deny onto the world and especially onto other people.

The ego tells us that it is not we who have a problem but the people with whom we enter into some form of relationship. However, in the eyes of the Holy Spirit these very same people are our teachers, for without them it would be impossible to see what we have denied. We need something outside our closed mind to show us what is really inside it. When we are shown something we do not like about ourselves, our ego tells us to attack the other person. This is the same as throwing a brick at a mirror because we do not like the reflection we see.

In earlier times, messengers were used to convey important news to heads of government. It was not uncommon for the messenger to be executed if he brought news which was upsetting. Not wishing to take responsibility for the effects of the message upon themselves, the rulers projected the cause of their pain as an attack by the messenger. In the same way, our friends, enemies, parents, lovers, employers or children will continuously bring us messages about what we have denied about ourselves and have blamed on them instead.

Any time we feel even the slightest irritation in someone's presence, our hidden guilt is being triggered. If at that moment, instead of attacking the other person, we asked the Holy Spirit to help us find peace again, we would, in that instant, undo the ego's thought system. There would be a shift from desiring a special hate relationship to desiring a holy relationship. The other person has now become our teacher and no longer our enemy.

Without other people acting as mirrors to what is locked away in our unconscious mind, we would find it very difficult to uncover all that needs forgiving in ourselves. As we take responsibility for our own feelings, we begin to see, with the Holy Spirit's help, that what disturbs us in the world is nothing but a reflection of what disturbs us about ourself.

If our attitude to another person can be one of self-responsibility, truth, forgiveness, joining, defencelessness and shared interest (i.e. awaking from the dream of separation), then we have created what the Course calls a holy relationship. We have invited the Holy Spirit into our relationship. This is a very difficult attitude to maintain, for it is opposite to that advised by the ego. However, we can have the goal of a holy relationship, accepting that many times we will take our ego's advice and attack again.

This is especially true at the start of a holy relationship when the ego tries to convince us to return to the special relationship of love or hate that we once had. As the goal of our relationship begins to shift from special to holy, it will often feel that we have lost something important.'Where has the romance and passion gone?' a lover may exclaim. A son or daughter may say,'My parents were everything to me but now they no longer seem so special!' As our desire to have special people in our lives begins to disappear, the ego warns us to return to what once seemed to work for us.

The holy relationship, a major step toward the perception of the real world, is learned. It is the old, unholy relationship, transformed and seen anew . . . the only difficult phase is the beginning. For here, the goal of the relationship is abruptly shifted to the exact opposite of what it was . . . This is accomplished very rapidly, but it makes the relationship seem disturbed, disjunctive and even quite distressing . . . Many relationships have been broken off at this point, and the pursuit of the old goal re-established in another relationship . . . You will find many opportunities to blame your brother for the'failure' of your relationship, for it will seem at times to have no purpose. A sense of aimlessness will come to haunt you, and to remind you of all the ways you once sought for satisfaction and thought you found it. Forget not now the misery you really found, and do not breathe life into your failing ego. (T337f; T362f in 2nd ed.)

Kenneth Wapnick has stressed it is important to realise that as the holy relationship is an attitude we develop towards other people, it only takes one person to have a holy relationship. What helps me recognise the truth of his statement is to imagine myself trapped alone on a desert island. Would it be impossible for me to have a holy relationship as there are no other people around? Would this opportunity for growth now be lost to me? If I realise, how█ever, that what is important is my attitude of mind to the memories I hold about people, I realise that all the forgiveness I need to practise is still necessary. In the same way, if a person I hated suddenly died I could still achieve a holy relationship with that person if I learned to forgive myself.

Your partner may not share your spiritual path and may even be hostile towards you. However, you can still have a holy relationship with them. Learning to be at peace around an angry person will produce accelerated growth. This is not to say we must remain with anyone with whom it no longer feels right. The Holy Spirit has no concern for the form of the relationship, whether we stay together or part from each other, but is concerned with how we will best learn our lessons of forgiveness.

Jesus has a holy relationship with everyone, whether they have one with him or not. Because of this he was able to be at peace during his capture, trial and crucifixion. Even as the soldiers hammered nails into his body, he could only see sleeping Sons of God asking for his love. This he gave by not attacking them or defending himself. Knowing himself to be eternal, formless spirit and not the body, he knew he could not be attacked and therefore there was no need for defence. It is only when we identify with our body that we feel we need to defend ourself. As we come to realise our true reality and that'nothing real can be threatened' (Intro, Text), we will experience the peace that Jesus knows.

I was once told a story that illustrated in a powerful way what forgiveness and a holy relationship really is. During the liberation of a particular concentration camp at the end of the Second World War, the allies discovered a prisoner who seemed in particularly good shape considering the conditions he had lived under. They presumed he had lived in the camp only a short while. When he told them he had been there for four years, they suspected him of collaboration with the Germans. However, when they saw how the other inmates treated him with respect, they knew there must be another explanation. They asked him for his story and this is what he told them.

During the time of the uprising of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, he and his wife and children were captured. The soldiers shot his family in front of him but did not shoot him. He asked to be shot as well but they refused, saying he had language skills which they could use in the concentration camp. At that moment he knew that unless he forgave them, and therefore himself, he would become like Hitler. With this act of forgiveness, he could see the fear in the soldiers and saw it as an appeal for his love. He had accepted the judgement of the Holy Spirit. During his years in the camp, he perceived no difference between the victims and the victimisers. Both groups were in fear and thus were asking for his love. He did not take sides, seeing everyone as the same. This enabled him to retain his sense of inner peace and strength by maintaining a holy relationship with all whom he met. This story also illustrates how everything in this world is neither good nor bad but simply neutral. Everything can be used by the Holy Spirit as a classroom in which to learn forgiveness, peace and joy.

You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgement.
(T42; T-3.VI.3:1)

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