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“BE KIND, FOR EVERYONE YOU MEET IS FIGHTING A HARD

BATTLE”
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Earlier this year the Foundation conducted a three-day Academy class on this topic, and
since kindness is such an important aspect of our Atonement path it warrants another
presentation. While it is not one of the ten characteristics of God's advanced teachers
(M-4), kindness nonetheless is a principal attribute of those who have journeyed past
most of the ego's specialness. It is congruent with other characteristics discussed in the
teacher's manual, such as tolerance (the absence of judgment), gentleness (the absence
of harm), and generosity (the absence of selfishness), all of which are based on Christ's
vision of the common need and purpose shared by every seemingly fragmented member
of the Sonship. As we read in the early pages of the manual for teachers:

His [God's teacher's] qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has
made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone
else's (M-1.1:2).
This qualification of perceiving shared interests instead of separate interests, the ego's
bread and butter, is at the heart of our daily practice of forgiveness. Jesus teaches us to
see people as he sees them: all alike, for everyone shares the same split mind: wrong
mind, right mind, decision maker -- no exceptions. This is clearly expressed in our title,
and everyone is the key word in the quotation, which, incidentally, is either from Plato
or Philo, the first century Platonist; history has never determined the exact source. We
are to be kind to all people, for everyone here fights the same hard battle of trying to
cope with the ego and its world. That is our shared problem, and together we must find
our shared answer or else none of us finds it-the Holy Spirit's principle of together, or
not at all (T-19.IV-D.12:8).

As with everything in A Course in Miracles, we need to return to its metaphysical


premises for a framework in which to place its teachings on forgiveness and the miracle,
and their kind application in our lives.

Three Metaphysical Principles for


Learning to Be Kind
The key to understanding the Course's view of kindness lies in seeing it within the
context of the original perceived unkindness to God, reinforced by our belief in the
reality of sin and guilt. Since we are taught in A Course in Miracles that ideas leave not
their source, projection makes perception, and time lasted but an instant, the original
self-centered thought of unkindness is always with us. Yet this also means that the
correction of kindness is with us as well.

Ideas leave not their source

The heart of this teaching, from the perspective of the post-separation state, is that the
mind's thoughts remain in the mind, despite the ego's attempts to get rid of them through
projection. This means that the projection of the mind's thought system of guilt-
containing its wish to be a separate individual-never leaves its source, and thus there is
in truth no world or body outside our minds:
There is no world apart from what you wish…. Ideas leave not their source. This central
theme is often stated in the text….There is no world! This is the central thought the
course attempts to teach (W-pI.132. 5:1,3-4; 6:2-3).
The direct implication of this principle is that the problem and its answer are in the
mind, explicitly refuting everything the world has taught about the relationship between
the body and suffering. Our next principle specifically addresses this issue of cause and
effect.

Projection makes perception

Following the ego's guidance, we project, but the veil of forgetfulness that falls across
our minds prevents us from remembering we have done so. We therefore believe that
what we perceive as external to us is truly there and independent of the mind, which is
now totally out of awareness. Yet the fact remains that what we believe we see outside
(the body: “the outside picture”) is nothing more than what we first perceived to be real
inside (the mind: “an inward condition”):

Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than
that.…It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition
(T-21.in.1:1-2,5).
Reminding us of this principle is the purpose of the miracle, which recalls to us the fact
that we (the decision- making mind) are the dreamer of the dream, not a dream figure.
And so our attention is brought back to the mind from the world and body; from the
effect that is our suffering to the cause that is the mind's decision for the ego. This
decision to fall asleep was made but once, but is continually reinforced or undone, as we
so choose. Thus our third principle:

Time lasted but an instant

Linear time-past, present, and future-is part of the ego's strategy to convince us that our
bodies are real and come into a world of time and space that pre-exists our lives, and
will continue on after we die. And so all of time occurred in that single instant, and
remains within the mind that thought it:

Time lasted but an instant in your mind, with no effect upon eternity. And so is all time
past, and everything exactly as it was before the way to nothingness was made. The tiny
tick of time in which the first mistake was made, and all of them within that one
mistake, held also the Correction for that one, and all of them that came within the first
(T-26.V.3:3-5; italics mine).
This, then, means that each and every experience we seem to have now is but a
fragmentary shadow of the ontological instant:
Each day, and every minute in each day, and every instant that each minute holds, you
but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love.…[Our lives
are] a repetition of an instant gone by long ago that cannot be relived. And all of time is
but the mad belief that what is over is still here and now (T-26.V.13:1,3-4).
And yet, in each and every experience we seem to have, we can also choose the Holy
Spirit's reflected correction, and thus relive the single instant when the time of love took
the place of terror. The choice is ours: the ego's unkindness or the Holy Spirit's
kindness.
In summary, the source of time's linearity is found in the mind's decision for the ego's
unholy trinity of sin, guilt, and fear-the first (and only!) mistake. Projected out and
making a world of time and space, sin becomes the past, guilt the present, and fear the
future. Since ideas leave not their source and projection makes perception, the world of
time that we perceive remains as it truly is in the mind: the ego's thought system of
separation that antedates the temporal and spatial universe, and which lasted but an
instant. Understanding that these three principles are the foundation for our daily
practice, we are better able to proceed with the Holy Spirit's kind lessons of forgiveness,
learning to understand our brothers with Him instead of judging them with the ego.

Understanding versus Judgment:


Simple Acts of Kindness

Without the above metaphysical underpinning, the following passage near the beginning
of the manual for teachers would be irrelevant at best, and nonsense at worst:

The simplest level of teaching appears to be quite superficial. It consists of what seem
to be very casual encounters; a “chance” meeting of two apparent strangers in an
elevator, a child who is not looking where he is going running into an adult “by
chance,” two students “happening” to walk home together.… 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 (M-
3.2:1-2,5-8).
And from the workbook:
One brother is all brothers. Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such
is the truth. Yet do these thoughts make clear the meaning of creation? Do these words
bring perfect clarity with them to you? What can they seem to be but empty sounds;
pretty, perhaps, correct in sentiment, yet fundamentally not understood nor
understandable. The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp
abstraction in the sense that it is all-encompassing (W-pI.161.4:1-7).
Since our brains are merely specific shadows of the ego's thought system of separation
and fragmentation, they cannot possibly understand the abstract truth -- “a oneness
joined as one” (T-25.I.7:1)-they were made not to understand. Yet truth remains,
regardless of our thinking, and so a simple act of kindness to a child running into us
carries within it salvation's message of shared interests. Acting kindly and with
understanding to people having a bad day undoes the guilt associated with our original
“bad day” of believing we wanted to be separate from our Source, and could even
achieve this impossible thought of making a self and world that are the opposite to
Heaven's living and loving oneness.

The beauty of this lesson's simplicity is that we can practice it all day long, every day of
our lives. For example, we are on our way to work and a motorist drives recklessly and
with no thought of us or others; someone cuts in front of the line while we impatiently
wait to buy our morning coffee. Rather than take such behavior personally, putting our
notions for what is best for us ahead of the peace of God, we recognize that these
“insensitive” people are part of the same Sonship we are, and their bad day (if indeed
that is what it is) does not deserve the judgment of sin. In another example, we are in
our favorite restaurant and the waitress forgets our order, or is snippy in serving it. We
can punish her by leaving a small tip, or through sarcastic comments seek to make her
guilty. On the other hand, a simple response of kindness can remind her, and ourselves,
that mistakes call for correction and not vengeance: “That moment will be enough.
Salvation has come.”

In other words, when we are able to set aside our need to judge -- reflecting the ego's
dual wish of preserving its separation and making others responsible for it through
judgment: they are guilty while we are guiltless -- we are able to understand that only
fear-driven people, obsessed with their own guilt, could act unkindly towards others.
Armed with this understanding, how could we not respond with kindness to another's
call for kindness, for attack is nothing more or less than a call for the kindness that is
not believed to be deserved?

It is a psychological axiom that we cannot understand someone we have judged against


or accused of sin. When, again, we are able to set aside our judgments, we recognize
that “frightened people can be vicious” (T-3.I.4:2) and, indeed, all who come here are
fearful for only guilt-ridden minds, governed by fear and pain, would choose to live in a
world of bodies. Moreover, listening to the pain beneath their aggression, we recognize
it is our own as well:

To accuse is not to understand. The happy learners of the Atonement become the
teachers of the innocence that is the right of all that God created. Deny them not what is
their due, for you will not withhold it from them alone (T-14.V.3:6-8).
Our giving up judgment reflects our own choice for Atonement instead of separation;
the right-minded decision to forgive that corrects the wrong-minded one to accuse or
condemn.

A Course in Miracles offers us a model to emulate when we are tempted to respond to


attack with attack. Recognizing the cost -- to us -- of our reaction, we ask for help to
shift our perceptions from attack to fear. This means not taking the “attack” personally
so we can see it as the call for help that it is, the desire -- albeit unconscious -- to
awaken from the ego's nightmare of suffering and death. Speaking of the Holy Spirit,
Jesus says:

How can you wake children in a more kindly way than by a gentle Voice that will not
frighten them, but will merely remind them that the night is over and the light has
come?…Children do confuse fantasy and reality, and they are frightened because they
do not recognize the difference. The Holy Spirit makes no distinction among dreams.
He merely shines them away. His light is always the Call to awaken, whatever you have
been dreaming (T-6.V.2:1; 4:3-6).
The Course teaches us that the miracle establishes that we dream a dream, and what we
are dreaming is not true (T-28.II.7:1). This is another way of saying that the miracle
reverses the ego's projection of guilt, going the other way as it were. Where projection
takes us from the mind to the body, the dreamer to the dream figure, the miracle returns
the dream to its source in the mind, which it never really left. We can therefore see that
the purpose of A Course in Miracles, and of Jesus as our teacher, is to provide a
reversed perspective of the world. Instead of seeing the world as determining our
feelings, reactions, and behaviors, being our cause, we recognize that our minds are the
cause of everything we experience. This does not make us responsible for what other
egos do, but it does make us responsible for our response to what they do. The direct
implication is that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- has the power to make us happy or
sad, joyful or depressed:
The seeming cost of accepting today's idea [“My salvation comes from me.”] is this: It
means that nothing outside yourself can save you; nothing outside yourself can give you
peace. But it also means that nothing outside yourself can hurt you, or disturb your
peace or upset you in any way (W-pI.70.2:1-2).
This explains why we are never upset (or unkind) for the reasons we think (W-pI.5). It
is never the world or people that cause our distress or happiness, but only the wrong
mind's secret wish to perpetuate its separated self and assume no responsibility for what
it does, feels, or thinks. Therefore, all events, situations, or relationships are the same
because none of them can affect us. This is why the Holy Spirit “makes no distinction
among dreams,” as we read in another passage from the text:
To judge them [our senseless substitutions for love] individually is pointless. Their tiny
differences in form are no real differences at all. None of them matters. That they have
in common and nothing else. Yet what else is necessary to make them all the same? (T-
18.I.7:8-12)
Consider the following situation, which in its content would not be unfamiliar to us: We
are driving on a busy thoroughfare, anxious to reach our destination. The traffic keeps
bunching up, causing us to miss still another green light. Finally our turn seems to
come, for there are only a few cars ahead of us in our lane. The light turns green and the
cars begin to move, except for the one directly in front of us. The driver does not appear
to be looking at the road and our already-worn patience quickly gives way to rage. We
pound on the horn, and our fury seems to know no bounds as we explode with one
expletive after another about certain kinds of drivers who are of a certain gender, race,
geographical location, etc. And we feel more than justified in our response. However, at
some point we recognize that the accused driver is not inattentive to the road but is
slumped over the wheel. Our rage suddenly disappears as we rush kindly to the
motorist's aid in what we now recognize to be a medical emergency.

The external situation had not changed in terms of our need to get where we wished to
go-we were still thwarted in achieving that goal-but our reaction certainly shifted.
Recognizing that the delay was not the other person's “fault,” and so we did not have to
take it personally, our perception changed and unkindness shifted to kindness. We no
longer could justify the perception that the motorist was doing this to us, and so there
was no need to be unkind and reinforce the ego-based belief that we are at “the mercy of
things beyond [us], forces [we] cannot control, and thoughts that come to [us] against
[our] will” (T-19. IV-D.7:4).

There is no reason that such a shift cannot occur regardless of the person, for everyone
fights the same hard battle of trying to survive in a world that is not home. Whether or
not people act in socially acceptable ways -- meaning, of course, that they act in a way
we find acceptable -- is irrelevant to our response. If there is no world out there, as the
Course's metaphysics sets forth, then how can anything not there affect us? Only in
dreams can hallucinations cause us to react in certain ways, the reason why Jesus often
uses psychiatric terminology to describe our condition here. And so the problem is not
the hallucinations themselves, but why we chose them in the first place.

Thus, our focus shifts from the external form to the internal content: the world to the
mind, effect to its cause. As we saw above, since projection makes perception, it is our
mind's decision for the ego that is the problem, not the form the projection takes. That is
why Jesus reminds us in the manual for teachers that we only get angry at an inter-
pretation of a fact, not the fact itself (M-17.4). Returning to our example, it was not the
fact of the driver not moving ahead on the green light that was the problem, but our
interpretation that gave rise to the rage. And this was motivated by our need to feel
unfairly treated, the innocent victim of another's sin. In this way we symbolically avoid
Heaven's punishment for our sin, which has now been projected and thus perceived in
someone else.

Once we choose the ego and its unkind thought system of guilt and attack, everything
we think, feel, and do is permeated with unkindness. Recall our three principles: ideas
leave not their source; projection makes perception; and time lasted but an instant.
Kindness, therefore, is always in the context of a correction for the ego's unkindness,
thus making room for love to dawn on our awareness. The form of unkindness does not
matter, for all responses-thought or behavior-are inherently unkind unless they come
from the Holy Spirit's vision of shared interests: God's Sons -- without exception --
share the right- minded need to awaken from the wrong-minded dream of attack and
death. And so a vicious personal attack on us or a loved one is no different from
someone accidentally bumping into us on the street or in a crowded bus; a public
official whose policies we disagree with is the same as the apparent victim of those
policies. An essential aspect to the truly radical nature of A Course in Miracles is its
absoluteness: we are all insane, or none of us is; similarly, we are all sane or none of us
is. The fragmented Son of God carries within him the whole of the ego's wrong-minded
system of guilt and hate, of the Holy Spirit's right-minded system of forgiveness and
love, and the decision-making power to choose between them. Thus are we all subject
to the unkindness and kindness that are inherent in the split mind. That is what Jesus
reminds us of in a moving passage early in the text, from which we cite two lines:

I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had. I have purified
them of the errors that hid their light, and kept them for you in their own perfect
radiance (T-5.IV.8:3-4).
We need only call on him and these kind thoughts are released, and as they are liberated
from the unkind chains of guilt, they embrace the world in their beneficence.
Understanding has replaced judgment, for we perceive the hard battle of life as an ego
that is common to all of us, without exception. No longer is the ego's thought system of
guilt and attack our model for learning, because Jesus, happily for us, has taken its
place.
Conclusion: Emulating Jesus' Kindness

Taking Jesus as the specific model for not itemizing the errors of another-not
categorizing them as deserving kindness or unkindness-who could not then emulate his
kindness? Do we really think he would punish evil doers, destroy nation states in
retribution for perceived crimes, criticize or insult people, or take personally calls for
help that masquerade as attacks? Of course not, and so our right-minded prayer would
be for Jesus to teach us to become like him, that when others are in our presence, or
even think of us, they would experience only him.(1) Needless to say, this is really a
prayer to ourselves; that our decision-making mind choose him as its only teacher, let-
ting the ego and its thought system of hate go forever.

With Jesus as our constant companion, we walk this earth as he did, gathering into our
arms those who “wander(s) in the world uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-
31.VIII.7:1). Simple acts of kindness provide the message of hope and forgiveness we
all yearn to hear, and to give this message is how to make it ours (T-31.VIII.8:6). For
our healing, therefore, Jesus asks us to deliver the message of kindness he has given us,
and he asks us to exclude no one from its gentle embrace. For such is the certain way of
salvation: one brother is all brothers, and to forgive one is to forgive them all; but to
withhold our kind forgiveness from one withholds it from all as well, including
ourselves.

The journey Jesus leads us on begins in the ego's desert of separation and separate
interests; a wasteland in which we live alone, even midst a world of multitudinous
bodies. He gently takes our hands, shifting our awareness from the body to the mind,
transforming our perception from the barren world of separate individuals to a little
garden -- “green and deep and quiet” (T-18.VIII.9:3) -- where we learn of our shared
home-away-from-home in the dream. From there it is but a quick step to remembering
our true home, where we and all God's children are one in His Love:

Give them a place of refuge, prepared by love for them where once a desert was. And
everyone you welcome will bring love with him from Heaven for you. They enter one
by one into this holy place, but they will not depart as they had come, alone. The love
they brought with them will stay with them, as it will stay with you. And under its
beneficence your little garden will expand, and reach out to everyone who thirsts for liv-
ing water, but has grown too weary to go on alone.

Go out and find them, for they bring your Self with them. And lead them gently to your
quiet garden, and receive their blessing there. So will it grow and stretch across the
desert, leaving no lonely little kingdoms locked away from love, and leaving you inside.
And you will recognize yourself, and see your little garden gently transformed into the
Kingdom of Heaven, with all the Love of its Creator shining upon it (T-18. VIII.9:4-
10:4).

FOOTNOTES:

1. Borrowed from Cardinal Newman, as in Helen Schucman’s poem, “A Jesus Prayer.”


The full stanza follows in which these lines appear:

A perfect picture of what I can be


You show to me, that I might help renew
Your brothers’ failing sight. As they look up
Let them not look on me, but only You.
(The Gifts of God, p. 83)