III. Perception Versus Knowledge, P 7
7 If you attack error in another, you will hurt yourself. You cannot know your brother when you attack him. Attack is always made upon a stranger. You are making him a stranger by misperceiving him, and so you cannot know him. It is because you have made him a stranger that you are afraid of him. Perceive him correctly so that you can know him. There are no strangers in God’s creation. To create as He created you can create only what you know, and therefore accept as yours. God knows His children with perfect certainty. He created them by knowing them. He recognizes them perfectly. When they do not recognize each other, they do not recognize Him.
Sometimes I deny a brother in a very obvious way. I read in the paper about someone abusing a child and I cannot understand this kind of cruel behavior. I find that person guilty. Now I do not know him, and because I do not know him I do not know myself who is one with him, nor do I know God because He is Creator of us both. Now that I have misperceived my brother and no longer know him for who he is, I am afraid of him and of myself and God, too.
When I see this brother as cruel and vicious and an abuser, I see those things in myself as well. Perhaps they did not show up in the same way, but I can find cruelty in me. It was cruel of me to judge and attack my brother. I can find viciousness. I feel hatred and want vengeance the moment I judge and condemn this person in my mind. I can find the abuser in me in many little ways. Perhaps I hate this person for showing me the hidden ugliness in my mind.
All of this came about as a result of misperceiving my brother and seeing him through the filter of my confused and frightened mind. I misperceived him and so no longer know him. Not knowing him I am afraid of him. In my fear I condemn him and feel vindicated in attacking him. It could be a single brother I have gone to war with, or it could be an entire nation, such as happened with so many people with 9-11. All forms of rejection and attack occur when we fail to recognize our brother.
When my brother lashes out it is because he has forgotten who he is and is afraid. He has misperceived us and thinks we are the enemy he must destroy to remain safe. He is afraid of us and afraid of himself and afraid of God. He is not really attacking us; he is attacking the fear in his mind which he has projected outward.
While my mind is clear I can see my brother as the Holy Son of God that he is and the lashing out as some shadowy aspect of a story. But I am still dealing with perception which is slippery and hard to hold onto. The closer the tragedy gets to me personally, the harder it is to recognize my confused brother, and I forget who he really is. If the six year old child killed at the Boston Marathon was my precious little grandchild would I be able to hold to my healed perception, or would I see the shadowy story as the truth and the idea of the one Son of God as a shadowy and unlikely concept?
That slipperiness is the difference between perception and knowledge. I think (perceive) and the thinking changes with the circumstances. With knowledge the truth is true always and nothing changes it. Right now I deal with perception and I try to remain vigilant for perception that is wrong so that I can allow the Holy Spirit to heal that perception for me.
I am not guilty when the truth slips away from me, because by definition perception changes, but through my vigilance I choose the truth over and over until I learn that the truth is all I want. I use it all for practice. I use the more subtle everyday rejections, such as when I make my fellow driver a stranger to me, or my angry boss a stranger, or maybe even my child becomes a stranger to me when I see the error as real.
The “big” stuff makes good practice because it is easy to catch, but also because it can seem so real. Having so many people agreeing that it is real, and agreeing that this perpetrator is a stranger to the rest of us makes it feel real. I am used to going along with the crowd and it is easy to fall back into that as if reality is determined by the number of people who believe it, or how showy the insult.
Right now, I work with perception. Everything is grist for the mill. I watch my thoughts. I give my willingness to be healed. I accept the Atonement in this situation, too. Slowly my thinking shifts as my perception is corrected. When my perception is made true and stabilizes, God will grace me with Knowledge.