There is no cruelty in God and none in me.
1. No one attacks without intent to hurt. ²This can have no exception. ³When you think that you attack in self-defense, you mean that to be cruel is protection; you are safe because of cruelty. ⁴You mean that you believe to hurt another brings you freedom. ⁵And you mean that to attack is to exchange the state in which you are for something better, safer, more secure from dangerous invasion and from fear.
This seems so obvious to me now that I find it hard to believe that I used to think that attack was necessary and that I needed to defend myself. I attacked my husband with my words and my attitude when I felt that he was a threat to me with his words or behavior. It was war between us as he did the same thing until the battles escalated to the point that the only way to end the conflict was through divorce. At that time in my life, I couldn’t see any other way to live. Even after my mind began to heal through the practice of ACIM, it was still a long time before I was able to see my actions for what they were.
2. How thoroughly insane is the idea that to defend from fear is to attack! ²For here is fear begot and fed with blood, to make it grow and swell and rage. ³And thus is fear protected, not escaped. ⁴Today we learn a lesson which can save you more delay and needless misery than you can possibly imagine. ⁵It is this:
⁶You make what you defend against, and by your own defense against it is it real and inescapable. ⁷Lay down your arms, and only then do you perceive it false.
I did finally learn this lesson. I almost never attack now and when I do, I stop almost immediately because it seems insane to me. If I attack someone, I have just convinced myself that I am unsafe and in need of defense. Sometimes, on Facebook or in a face to face situation, someone will say I am wrong. Generally, this is not upsetting to me. I don’t need everyone to agree with me in order to feel safe. But every so often, I feel the need to explain myself or to convince someone that I am not wrong. It doesn’t last long because my one goal is the peace of God and I don’t get this through attack.
3. It seems to be the enemy without that you attack. ²Yet your defense sets up an enemy within; an alien thought at war with you, depriving you of peace, splitting your mind into two camps which seem wholly irreconcilable. ³For love now has an “enemy,” an opposite; and fear, the alien, now needs your defense against the threat of what you really are.
It might seem that I could feel attacked by a person, but it is actually a thought that is the perceived enemy. That thought isn’t out there, it is in me. No matter what it is that I think I am defending, I am actually setting up an internal war. I am love but this fear of threat insists that I am something else, that I am weak and vulnerable and in need of defense.
So, on the one side there is the Self that is perfect and perfectly safe and on the other is this image of a self in constant need of defense. In defending the self, I am actually defending against the idea that I could be the Self. I am saying that, no, I am not this ever safe Self. I am not that. I am the weak, fragile, and vulnerable image. In defense and attack, I am always insisting on being the ego-self.
4. If you consider carefully the means by which your fancied self-defense proceeds on its imagined way, you will perceive the premises on which the idea stands. ²First, it is obvious ideas must leave their source, for it is you who make attack, and must have first conceived of it. ³Yet you attack outside yourself, and separate your mind from him who is to be attacked, with perfect faith the split you made is real.
In order for this to work, this fancied self-defense, I must decide that ideas really do leave their source. I have an idea that I am not safe and that I need to defend myself. Then I see this idea as if it is in someone outside me, someone who I separated from and is now turning on me. At this point, the split is real to me. The idea of attack is now personified in the one I decided is outside me.
Here is how this might work. I post something on Facebook about the Course. Someone makes a disparaging comment about what I posted. If I am confused about who I am, I take this as an assault on that which is very important to me, my understanding of the Course, and my image as a Course teacher. I have been attacked and must defend myself so I argue that I am right and she is wrong. The longer this goes on, the weaker and more vulnerable I feel.
What has actually happened? I wrote something and they wrote something. That is all. The war that came after was an interpretation based on my fears and her fears. The person who commented was irrelevant to what was happening in my mind. Everything that I thought was based on my beliefs and my fears. Understanding this and recognizing the insanity of it, is why I stopped going to war within my mind and projecting it outward onto a brother.
5. Next, are the attributes of love bestowed upon its “enemy.” ²For fear becomes your safety and protector of your peace, to which you turn for solace and escape from doubts about your strength, and hope of rest in dreamless quiet. ³And as love is shorn of what belongs to it and it alone, love is endowed with attributes of fear. ⁴For love would ask you lay down all defense as merely foolish. ⁵And your arms indeed would crumble into dust. ⁶For such they are.
If this were to happen to me, I would begin to feel the lack of peace that comes with defense through attack strategies and the necessary separation that is necessary to see this unpleasant thought of fear as outside myself. With this lack of peace, and the desire to become peaceful, I would realize I had to forgive. With this realization, the thought that would come next is that I am being asked to sacrifice myself in the name of love.
6. With love as enemy, must cruelty become a god. ²And gods demand that those who worship them obey their dictates, and refuse to question them. ³Harsh punishment is meted out relentlessly to those who ask if the demands are sensible or even sane. ⁴It is their enemies who are unreasonable and insane, while they are always merciful and just.
In the scenario we are looking at, love has now become the enemy and cruelty becomes a god. If love wants me to sacrifice myself in its name, then I don’t want any part of it. Instead, I look to defensive postures as my salvation. I think of just the right words to cut her down and preserve my image. It seems obvious that this is right and necessary.
7. Today we look upon this cruel god dispassionately. ²And we note that though his lips are smeared with blood, and fire seems to flame from him, he is but made of stone. ³He can do nothing. ⁴We need not defy his power. ⁵He has none. ⁶And those who see in him their safety have no guardian, no strength to call upon in danger, and no mighty warrior to fight for them.
8. This moment can be terrible. ²But it can also be the time of your release from abject slavery. ³You make a choice, standing before this idol, seeing him exactly as he is. ⁴Will you restore to love what you have sought to wrest from it and lay before this mindless piece of stone? ⁵Or will you make another idol to replace it? ⁶For the god of cruelty takes many forms. ⁷Another can be found.
When we are convinced that we are right and the other wrong and that defense is necessary, it can be scary to let it all go. Fear tends to blind us to the obvious and drive our actions and reactions. But if we choose to remember the truth and remember that there is only love, really, then we can do this. We can turn from our idol and embrace the truth. We will then discover that our idol is made of sand and it crumbles as we brush it away. I used to fight this internal war often because I had so much fear. Now I hardly notice the ego desire to be right and when on occasion, I forget the truth, I quickly return to it because I value peace above all else, and therefore, I always eventually choose peace.
9. Yet do not think that fear is the escape from fear. ²Let us remember what the text has stressed about the obstacles to peace. ³The final one, the hardest to believe is nothing, and a seeming obstacle with the appearance of a solid block, impenetrable, fearful and beyond surmounting, is the fear of God Himself. ⁴Here is the basic premise which enthrones the thought of fear as god. ⁵For fear is loved by those who worship it, and love appears to be invested now with cruelty.
10. Where does the totally insane belief in gods of vengeance come from? ²Love has not confused its attributes with those of fear. ³Yet must the worshippers of fear perceive their own confusion in fear’s “enemy”; its cruelty as now a part of love. ⁴And what becomes more fearful than the Heart of Love Itself? ⁵The blood appears to be upon His Lips; the fire comes from Him. ⁶And He is terrible above all else, cruel beyond conception, striking down all who acknowledge Him to be their God.
In our fear, we thought that love was asking for sacrifice and so in our mind we made an enemy of God and a friend of fear. Our fear claims to protect us but it does not. It just makes everything worse and sets up a cycle of fear we don’t know how to get out of.
11. The choice you make today is certain. ²For you look for the last time upon this bit of carven stone you made, and call it god no longer. ³You have reached this place before, but you have chosen that this cruel god remain with you in still another form. ⁴And so the fear of God returned with you. ⁵This time you leave it there. ⁶And you return to a new world, unburdened by its weight; beheld not in its sightless eyes, but in the vision that your choice restored to you.
Every day and in every moment of the day we are making a choice between love and fear, a choice between the ego and the Holy Spirit. As the mind clears and becomes accustomed to choosing God over ego, the world starts to look different to us. It is no longer dark and no longer changeable. We can feel safe even here.
12. Now do your eyes belong to Christ, and He looks through them. ²Now your voice belongs to God and echoes His. ³And now your heart remains at peace forever. ⁴You have chosen Him in place of idols, and your attributes, given by your Creator, are restored to you at last. ⁵The Call for God is heard and answered. ⁶Now has fear made way for love, as God Himself replaces cruelty.
When we make room for grace, peace and joy are restored to our minds and there is no room for fear. ⁵The Call for God is heard and answered.
13. Father, we are like You. ²No cruelty abides in us, for there is none in You. ³Your peace is ours. ⁴And we bless the world with what we have received from You alone. ⁵We choose again, and make our choice for all our brothers, knowing they are one with us. ⁶We bring them Your salvation as we have received it now. ⁷And we give thanks for them who render us complete. ⁸In them we see Your glory, and in them we find our peace. ⁹Holy are we because Your Holiness has set us free. ¹⁰And we give thanks. ¹¹Amen.
Ultimately, no matter what nonsense we decide to believe, we are Love because we are like our Creator Who is Love. Nothing can change that. As we accept our true Identity, we bring it to our brothers knowing they are one with us.