For many students of A Course in Miracles, the curriculum can at times seem like a hopeless task. After all, this is a mind training program that “…requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T-24.in.2:1). We learn about the laws of chaos that we unknowingly but purposefully live by. Even though we would maintain that we “…do not believe these senseless laws, nor act upon them.[…]”, Jesus assures us that “Brother, you do believe them.” (T-23.II.18:3) This is exemplified almost every day, when we realize we didn’t do the particular Workbook lesson for the day as perfectly as we had intended. Ouch! We may come to wonder how we are ever going to attain the complete thought reversal that the Course requires of us.
How refreshing, then, to see Jesus formulate our assignment in a much simpler way, stated early in the Textbook: “Your gratitude to your brother is the only gift I want. I will bring it to God for you, knowing that to know your brother is to know God. […] Through your gratitude you come to know your brother, and one moment of real recognition makes everyone your brother because each of them is of your Father.” (T-4.VI.7:2). Also in chapter 9: “If you would know your prayers are answered, never doubt a Son of God” (T-9.II.4:1). And, again in the Psychotherapy pamphlet: “Hear a brother call for help and answer him. It will be God to Whom you answer, for you called on Him. There is no other way to hear His Voice. There is no other way to seek His Son. There is no other way to find your Self.” (P-2.V.8).
So instead of laboring a lifetime on a complete reversal of all my (wrong-minded) thoughts, all my cherished values, all my conditioning and the projections that are in my most unforgiving mind, it suffices to give a heartfelt smile to my brother..? Well, yes; but to avoid level confusion, we should make sure we can mindfully distinguish between form and content. For one, Jesus does not ask us to deny wrong-minded behavior in this world where we are convinced we are making a living in. This is form. For example, Jesus does not ask of us to deny our feelings of distaste for certain people (you and I can probably name a few in our direct vicinity, as well as several people in the news!) A focus on content means: realizing that all behavior is either love or a distorted call for love. Only by focusing on that content can we learn to “meet attack without attack and therefore without defense.” (P-2.IV.10:1)
Learning to perceive the forms, such as verbal accusations or physical violence, but to subsequently act from a focus on content is beautifully described by Jesus in (T-9.III.2:5), whenever we feel attacked: “He may be making no sense at the time, and it is certain that, if he is speaking from the ego, he will not be making sense. But your task is still to tell him he is right. You do not tell him this verbally, if he is speaking foolishly. He needs correction at another level, because his error is at another level. He is still right, because he is a Son of God. His ego is always wrong, no matter what it says or does. If you point out the errors of your brother’s ego you must be seeing through yours, because the Holy Spirit does not perceive his errors.” That is content. You meet attack without attack.
In other words, I can afford to give Jesus the gift of gratitude to my brother, if I can master the distinction between form and content. In form, when I meet a brother (on the street, at work, in my home, you name it), he and I can discern all sorts of differences and things that we don’t like about each other. Since the ego was born as the idea of attack and separation, these elements will always seem to be there in some form. In content, though, since me and my brother are of the same Father, all seemingly separate interests are illusory. Every perceived attack can be right-mindedly reinterpreted as a distorted call for love. This doesn’t mean that I should allow any brother to use me as the proverbial doormat, but it does mean that I can choose a loving response to every situation. The Holy Spirit will guide me in this if I let Him.
So try a heartfelt smile today whenever you meet a brother! (Not the toothpaste smile which is of the ego, but a genuinely heartfelt smile; the difference is discernible in the eyes.) With the “love or distorted call for love” realization in mind, there’s no reason to not think and act lovingly, regardless of what happens. Each day offers us ample opportunities to learn (and teach) this. Jesus even presents us with some examples. Take the casual ‘chance encounters’ discussed in (M-3.2): “Perhaps the seeming strangers in the elevator will smile to one another; perhaps the adult will not scold the child for bumping into him; perhaps the students will become friends. Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment will be enough. Salvation has come.”
So every time you tend to feel dispirited because of the enormous mind-changing task that Jesus seems to ask of us, realize this is the ego at work. As always, the thing to do is to observe your thoughts “from above the battleground”, without condemnation, and then ask the Holy Spirit for help in what to think and do. With this invitation comes the realization that we really do not have separate interests at all, and that any attack is really a distorted call for love. Also, as I mentioned in my book “Miracles or murder” a few times, remember Philo’s famous notion to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. Why not offer a simple heartfelt smile? This is the gratitude that Jesus asks of us. It is God to whom we answer, acknowledging our Self.
Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com: