Saying no

One of the major challenges students of A Course in Miracles face is that of seemingly facing a conflict while still remaining spiritually-minded. In an ego-driven world, people take advantage of others. Chances are that sooner or later you are confronted with such behavior. It may be someone who tries to prevent you from getting a promotion. It may be someone who is secretly embezzling money from your company. The forms are endless. From a spiritual frame of mind, I can see such events as “lessons of love” offered by the Holy Spirit. I can tell myself they provide me with a chance to “meet attack without attack” (P-2.IV.10); an opportunity to make a better choice – a choice for the Vision of Oneness, where before I chose condemnation.

These are typically situations where my own ego exercises its strength. You wouldn’t suspect it, but the ego loves to quote from A Course in Miracles in such circumstances. For example, “The ego analyzes; the Holy Spirit accepts” (T-11.V.13) is a favorite one. “Ha! Just see what happens if you don’t seriously analyze and act, but just accept you are being walked over on. What a wonderful Course,” the ego counsels us with scorn. And how about this one: “If your brothers ask you for something outrageous, do it because it does not matter.” (T.12.III.4) Again, the ego laughs cynically, asking me how much the curriculum of this Jesus guy will really bring me if I think and live this way. Even Jesus’ quote four chapters later: “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.” (T.16.I.6) has an ego interpretation. “See?” so the ego counsels us, “Even Jesus wants you to act if you’re about to be victimized. You’ve got to stand up for yourself if people are taking advantage of you. It’s in the best interest of all. Don’t be a doormat; take action and fight for your right!”

Too many students struggle to remain spiritually-minded at all cost when they are confronted with unfair behavior. Affirming to themselves they should always forego judgment, they end up being walked over. A deep sense of unfair sacrifice and being victimized is what remains. These are unfortunate cases of what Kenneth Wapnick calls “level confusion”. Remember, A Course in Miracles describes its curriculum on two levels. Level I is the nondualistic, metaphysical level of God and the extension of Love. On this level, there is no such thing as a world. Level II, on the other hand, is the level of the dream world in which we are convinced we are making a living. It’s trying to apply the metaphysical principles in a threatening dream world that we feel we have to live and act in that’s causing the real difficulty. It’s making the error of separation real, hoping against hope that by practicing spiritual principles, I as an individual will be better off in this world. That, of course, is a paradox that will never work.

The key to handling such situations is not to “spiritually forego any judgment”, but to get your little self out of the way and ask the Holy Spirit what to do. Yes, the Holy Spirit most definitely accepts, but that’s on the level I of everyone being a Son of God. On the worldly level II of time, space, and perception, the Holy Spirit offers you practical advice on how to handle a conflict situation in a way that results in the best outcome for all involved. This may involve sternness, “keeping your own ground”, and plainly saying: “No, I will not accept this.” Such refusal of acceptance pertains to the form, the situation at hand. So it’s quite possible, even advisable, to on the one hand fully accept a person (on level I) as a guiltless Son of God, while at the same time not accepting the person’s behavior (on level II) as this would lead to further attack, separation, defenses, you name it. As with so many places in A Course in Miracles, the distinction between form and content, between level I and II, is crucial. In some situations, this isn’t difficult. For example, if you have or have had little children, you probably remember being very stern in taking sharp objects such as scissors and knives from their hands. To the child, the behavior may seem unkind at first, but you are acting in everybody’s best interest.

Conflict situations are usually harder to handle this way. The difficult thing is to realize your investment in assuming you can and should handle such situations on your own. But that’s another way of trying to handle it “with the ego as teacher”. This is where we mess up. Any situation in which conflict or potential attack is involved can be handled perfectly by the Holy Spirit if only you invite Him in. As Ken Wapnick often loved to quote the combination of two separate phrases: “Resign now as your own teacher… for you were badly taught” (T-12.V.8:3; T-28.I.7:1). You’ll be amazed to notice how practical the advice of the Holy Spirit can be if you are confronted with an ego-driven conflict situation and you simply ask Him for help. If you learn to practice that for a while, you’ll be surprised to see how often the situation turned out to be more peaceful than you would have thought possible. As quoted before, Ken Wapnick has experienced this himself when we was confronted with a burglar in his house. Having found the courage to follow the Holy Spirit’s advice, the end of the story was that the burglar peacefully left his apartment, with the heart-piercing request “Pray for me…”

So why not try it in the days to come? If you feel you are entering into a situation in which you are being taken advantage of, and you feel the ego urge to act (to defend yourself, to become angry), try to step back and inspect your mind for what’s happening. Most people have no problem realizing the ego has entered the stage. The difficult challenge is to see the rapidity with which we then proceed to act and live it out. If you can train your mind to just stop, look at what’s going on in your mind, and then simply say to yourself: “I do not want to be taught badly again. Dear Holy Spirit, I would choose your guidance. Please, please tell me what to do,” you are taking a giant step in practical spiritual growth. You will still accept the person as a Son of God, but will not accept the possible outcome of the behavior or conflict. This is, by the way, also the reason that we have courts and judges. Jesus nowhere implies we should close all courthouses and prisons. We should simply practice in choosing a better teacher in this dream world, and realize it can indeed to be re-interpreted as a classroom to truly learn how to attain inner peace.

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


5 thoughts on “Saying no

  1. Yes, only for me to resign as my own teacher involves taking the main focus of the form in which the problem seems to appear and bringing the focus back to the mind, to the source where the cause is, and then asking HS/J to ‘see’ this differently. For me asking HS/J for guidance and ‘please tell me what to do’, brings the focus back to ‘what to do’ in some kind of form, instead of changing the mind, by focusing on the mind. It is very difficult to go back to and stay in the mind, meaning ‘with HS/J’, and then just trust that what has to be done in any form will just follow natural…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. On the level of content I think we’re saying the same thing. If you ask to see “this” differently, then “this” is still some perception in the dream world. Seeing it differently, meaning a re-interpretation free of judgment, *is* the invitation for the Holy Spirit. Anything you then think, say or do will be guided by this Teacher.

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