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Excerpt and Audio: Commentary on “we are not entitled therefore to our bitterness” (W-pI.195.9:3), and the importance of not justifying our anger
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Student: Excuse me. You said earlier: “Progress is saying ‘no’ to what hinders our progress,” earlier?
Kenneth: Yes, I said that.
S: And then here you’ve just read and shared with us, “we are not entitled therefore to our bitterness,” So when I’m in that place where I’m aware of an anger, or guilt, or shame, are you then–I think what you’re saying is my practice is not to stop that feeling from being–given acknowledgement, but to say, “Oh, anger,” or “oh, this; oh, that.” But then forgive the self.
K: Yes, and not to justify it.
K: I frequently quote William Blake’s line, “Don’t believe the lie,” and he said it a little nicer than that. Don’t believe the lie. The lie is I’m justified in my bitterness. It’s very important that you do exactly what you said, that you recognize your anger, your bitterness, your feeling unfairly treated; that you don’t deny it, but that you don’t justify it. I frequently refer to the line in Chapter 27 that says that there is a way to escape from suffering, and the way to escape from suffering is to “look at the problem as it is, not the way you have set it up,” (T-27.VII.2:2). Period; that’s all it says: look at the problem as it is; not the way you’ve set it up. The way you’ve set it up—the way we all set it up—is the problem is out there, and then I justify it. To look at the problem as it is, is the problem is that I chose my ego; that’s all you do. So be aware if I’m angry, if I’m guilty, if I’m depressed, if I’m enraged, if I’m bitter, that’s my choice and where I am right now is I don’t want to let it go. I’m too afraid of who I would be to be right-minded all the time. Who would I be without my anger and my bitterness? but at least I know that’s the thing. So again, that’s the point of that lesson—I’ll just read you again:
(W-pI.195.9:2-3) We have been given everything. If we refuse to recognize it, we are not entitled therefore to our bitterness.
So I realize I am actively choosing not to recognize my wholeness; that’s why I’m feeling needy, that’s why I’m feeling angry, etcetera; that’s all I have to do. That’s the little willingness the Course talks about. I’m not asked to do anything else. But at least be honest. Early in the text Jesus says, “Be honest with [me]; we must hide nothing from each other,” (T-4.III.8:2). So being honest with him means I say, “I still like my ego more than you. I still like special love more than your love, and that’s why I’m feeling the effects of that.” That’s honest; that’s all you have to do, and then at some point the pain of that will become more and more excruciating, and then I’ll say, “I don’t want to do this anymore;” then I’ll let it go. But what keeps the door open is not justifying the anger, not believing the ego’s lies. That’s the most important thing.
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Excerpted from The Quality of Mercy
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Excerpted from The Inheritance of God’s Son
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Excerpted from Justice Returned to Love
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Just let me read to you a little. This is from the beginning of “Self-Concept versus Self.” This is on page 656. Page 656 in the text, paragraph 2. Now as I read this to you, realize that Jesus is describing not some people, he’s describing everyone. Everyone believes what I’m going to read to you.
(T-31.V.2:1-5) A concept of the self is made by you. It bears no likeness to yourself at all. [Really, to our true self] It is an idol, made to take the place of your reality as Son of God. The concept of the self the world would teach is not the thing that it appears to be. For it is made to serve two purposes, but one of which the mind can recognize.
Now he’s setting up now two faces, or as we saw the other day, two dreams—the mind’s dream and the world’s dream. Here the world’s dream is what the world appears to do. “The concept of the self the world would teach is not the thing that it appears to be.” What it appears to be, the concept of the self, is the face of innocence.
(T-31.V.2:6) The first [this is the first face now—The first] presents [which is the first purpose of the world] The first presents the face of innocence, the aspect acted on.
I am the effect; the world is the cause. I’m innocent. I’m innocent of my birth. I’m innocent of my genetic structure. I’m innocent of what my face looks like. I’m innocent of my gender. I’m innocent of everything. It was done to me. I am the aspect acted on.
(T-31.V.2:7-9) It is this face that smiles and charms and even seems to love. It searches for companions and it looks, at times with pity, on the suffering, and sometimes offers solace. It believes that it is good within an evil world.
Even people we call evil think they’re good, because they believe that evil turned them into what they have become. So when people are motivated by hate and they kill and they maim and they torture, they believe they’re good, because evil made them that way and they had no other recourse, as we’re going to see in a moment.
(T-31.V.3:1-2) This aspect [this face of innocence, which is everyone, beginning when we’re born, beginning when we’re conceived. We were conceived. We’re passive. The phrase “we are conceived” is passive. Something was done to us, something made us. Again, the sperm and an egg joined and we are the result. I didn’t choose it. It was done and I am the result. That’s the face of innocence.] This aspect can grow angry, for the world is wicked and unable to provide the love and shelter innocence deserves. And so this face is often wet with tears at the injustices the world accords to those who would be generous and good.
It’s not my fault. I have the milk of human kindness in me. I’m a kind, loving, gentle, caring soul. But look what the world did to me. It abused me. It betrayed me. It abandoned me and neglected me, treated me unfairly, and I have no choice.
(T-31.V.3:3-4) This aspect never makes the first attack. But every day a hundred little things make small assaults upon its innocence, provoking it to irritation, and at last to open insult and abuse.
This is everyone. The world made me this way. This explains the violence of any minority group, of any oppressed people. We weren’t born killers. We weren’t born hate mongers. Look how society treated us or mistreated us. They made us this way. My parents made me this way. Everybody walking the face of this earth believes that, and so we’re justified in walking around with our bag of grievances. And the purpose of this face is to conceal the underlying face. Skip down to paragraph 5.
(T-31.V.5:1-2) Beneath the face of innocence there is a lesson that the concept of the self was made to teach. It is a lesson in a terrible displacement, [another word for “projection”] and a fear so devastating that the face that smiles above it must forever look away, lest it perceive the treachery it hides.
I am the killer. I am the betrayer. I am the one who abandoned love. I am the one who coldly and cruelly crucified God’s Son. I am the one. That’s the treachery. And so what is the lesson that this face of innocence teaches? This:
(T-31.V.5:3) “I am the thing you made of me, and as you look on me, [as you look on my scars, as you look on my suffering, as you look on my tears] you stand condemned because of what I am.”
The entire Course is pointing toward this section, which comes right at the end of the text. This is very hard stuff, because Jesus is talking about everybody. “I am the thing you made of me, and as you look at me, you stand condemned because of what I am.” Every time an infant cries, it is damning its parents. Why aren’t you there for me? Every time we get angry at anybody at any age in our life, we are pointing an accusing finger at someone that says, my anger is showing you what you did to me. Look at me. And you’re condemned because of how I’m suffering. Everyone does this. Everyone is fighting the same hard battle of trying to deny this is what we are—this face of treachery.
That’s why Jesus tells us, this is not a Course that teaches love. This teaches hate. This teaches guilt—not that it promotes it. It’s saying that’s what we are. We are children of guilt and hate. And if you don’t look at it, you will never be able to let it go and choose differently. This is why when we made the world and made our dream and specifically made our lives as homo sapiens, we made us to be so vulnerable and so easily hurt, because we want to say to everybody, look at me—“I am the thing you made of me, and as you look on me, you stand condemned because of what I am.” In other words, “Behold me, brother, at your hand I die.” Everyone does this. Everyone’s fighting the same hard battle, again, of trying to deny this is who I am. And we put on the face of innocence. I want to maintain and get everybody to believe that you did this to me, to hide my secret guilt. The Course talks about the secret sins and hidden hate—to hide my secret guilt that I did this.
The ego and its world are not pretty pictures, but if we don’t look at the picture, then we can never be kind to anyone. Kindness, if it’s kindness, must be universal. It can’t be just that some people are fighting a hard battle; everyone is fighting a hard battle. And if you don’t see everyone as fighting a hard battle, dealing with their egos and their tremendous sense of guilt—if you do not see that, there can be no compassion in you. Because compassion, like kindness, must be universal. The word “compassion” literally means “to suffer with.” “Com” means “with” and “passion” means “suffering.” That’s why people talk about the Passion of Jesus. It’s not passion as you usually think of it—sexual passion or love, etc. It’s suffering. That’s what passion means: suffering. Compassion means you suffer with. Well, the world’s notion of compassion is, you suffer with some people; namely, the innocent ones who are suffering. You do not suffer for the torturers. How many people feel sorry for the torturers?
When you see all these awful pictures in Iraq that come out of the prisons and Guantanamo Bay. How many people feel sorry for the torturers? And the torturers justify what they’re doing: they did it first. It’s perfect. This section is perfect. Well, those people who are torturing are as deluded and insane and in pain as the people they’re inflicting the torture upon, and if you do not see that, you cannot love the way Jesus loves. And if you cannot love the way Jesus loves, why do you want to bother at all? Because that’s the only love that there is. His love does not make exceptions. His love embraces everyone—the torturers and the tortured, the oppressor and the oppressed, the child abuser and the child who’s been abused, the rapist and the women who are raped. Everyone has to be seen as fighting a hard battle, which again, as I’ve been saying this week, you cannot do that as long as you think this world is real and the body is real. That’s why the metaphysics of this Course is so important. Because you cannot believe what I just said if you think bodies are real. Bodies suffer. And the bodies of those who inflict the suffering don’t seem to suffer. In fact, a lot of times they seem to be having a good time. Again, just look at those Abu Ghraib pictures. So you can’t do this within an earthly frame, because then you’re only going to deny, and denial is not a spiritual practice. Because if you try and practice these principles on the level of the body, you’re going to have to deny like crazy, because you’re going to have to deny your anger, when you or people you identify with are attacked; you’ll have to deny your special love and special compassion and special kindness when your heart goes out to certain groups of people who are suffering, including yourself. You’ll have to deny all that and make believe that’s not true because after all, the Course says you have to forgive everyone.
So before you practice being kind and practice being compassionate, ask Jesus to help you realize that you are not a body and you are a mind, and everyone is in the same mind you are. That statement of Plato or Philo, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” has no meaning in a world of bodies, because it just doesn’t seem that way, and nobody believes it. It only has meaning when you recognize that the differences in the world reflect the differentiation of the ego’s belief in separation. God and His Son are different. That’s the disease. That’s the source of guilt—that belief—and that’s the source of projection and therefore, pain.
Student: Did you just say that as long as I believe I’m a body, I can’t be kind? I’m not sure if I heard that.
Kenneth: I think I said that.
S: Well, geez.
K: I don’t know if I meant that but yeah, I did say it.
S: Now I feel like it’s…
S: I had a little hope earlier, but now it’s –
K: It has to be like this. But the hope lies in, you don’t have to be able to forgive perfectly. You don’t have to embrace kindness because you know you’re not a body. All you have to know is that I can’t be kind because I still think I’m a body. That’s all you have to do.
S: Just be kind to yourself.
K: Yes. And so you practice kindness by being kind to yourself for still being—having such unkind thoughts of thinking you’re a body trying to be kind to another body. You know, remember, the purpose of this Course is not to get us on the second rung of the ladder, but to get us all the way up, and home. The purpose of this Course is not to have us live more happily within the dream, but to awaken us from the dream. And the big handicap is believing the ego thought system is true. And what protects that belief that the ego thought system is true is believing the body is true, and the body is real. That’s the double shield of oblivion that the workbook talks about. The outer shield is the body and the world, and the inner shield is the ego thought system. The world protects the ego thought system, and the ego thought system keeps us from choosing the love. So this doesn’t mean you should feel guilty because you still think you’re a body. It means realize what my goal is. My goal is to learn I’m not a body, and to make my way up the ladder, and to realize that I’m a mind. And then to forgive yourself and be kind to yourself because the fear is so great that you still hold onto the body and you still stubbornly insist Jesus is talking to you in this Course as a body. And you say, obviously, I realize that’s not what he’s saying, but I’m not ready to hear that yet. That’s a very kind—that’s an honest statement. That’s all you have to say. You don’t have to impose anything on yourself. He’s not reprimanding you. He’s simply pointing out that this is a long journey—not long because he wants it to be long—long because we are so fearful. And our bodily identification is so strong because our fear of getting back to the mind is even stronger. And so it’s helpful just to know that. At least now I know what the battle is. I know the hard battle I’m fighting and everybody else is fighting.
So are we still friends?
S: Yeah cause, that little part there at the end about—you know, if I’m being kind to myself by—whatever—that was helpful.
S: Whatever you said.
K: Right, right.
Excerpted from Be Kind for Everyone is Fighting a Hard Battle
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Excerpted from Cast No One Out: Part 4, “Into Christ’s Presence”
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