A Course in Miracles Text Made Simple

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Chapter 16: The Forgiveness of Illusions

Section I: True Empathy

Read ACIM Chapter 16, Section I (pages 330-32)

What is the ego’s idea of empathy?

In helping us look at the ego thought system with the Holy Spirit, one of the key sentences in this section is, “Having identified with what it thinks it understands, the ego sees itself and would increase itself by sharing what is like itself.” (2:4) That is the ego’s idea of empathy. Because the ego is the idea of being separate from Love, of course it relates to stories of suffering, sacrifice and deprivation. It loves these stories because they increase its sense of a separate ‘self.’ They increase its sense that it has really made its world of specialness, of individuality, real. If we consistently practiced seeing past these stories with the help of the Holy Spirit, the ego would disappear.

How do we empathize with strength instead of weakness?

Jesus tells us, “To empathize does not mean to join in suffering, for that is what you must refuse to understand. That is the ego’s interpretation of empathy, and is always used to form a special relationship in which the suffering is shared.” (1:1-2) This is like the saying that if someone has fallen down into a well, it is not helpful to him to jump down into the well with him. But it is helpful to hand him a rope so he has a means to get out of the well.

When we join with the Holy Spirit’s form of empathy, we do not decide on our own what true empathy means. Jesus tells us, “You are the learner; He the Teacher. Do not confuse your role with His, for this will never bring peace to anyone. Offer your empathy to Him for it is His perception and His strength that you would share. And let Him offer you His strength and His perception, to be shared through you.” (5:6-9)

It’s important to remember that the ego always wants to reinforce our belief in separation because that is what holds the ego in place. The Holy Spirit always returns us to the awareness of our unity. When we joined with the ego thought system, we believed we were a separate self identity which we thought was our “reality.” This is why we cannot know true empathy on our own. We need help from outside the ego thought system. This is why it is so important to learn “that to recognize and accept the fact that you do not know is to recognize and accept the fact that He does know.” (4:4)

Jesus tells us very specifically how to do this when he says, “If you will merely sit quietly by and let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathize with strength, and will gain in strength and not in weakness.” (2:7) To receive the Holy Spirit’s guidance we need to be in peace; we need to take time to quiet our minds and be receptive. The ego’s first impulse will always be to reinforce separation. Our vigilance to not follow this first impulse but to step back and open our minds to the Holy Spirit’s guidance allows us to be taught what true empathy is.

He tells us, “Focus your mind only on this: I am not alone, and I would not intrude the past upon my Guest. I have invited Him and He is here. I need do nothing except not to interfere.” (3:9-12) As we diligently practice this stepping back and not interfering, we will experience the Holy Spirit’s empathy through us and thus learn what it is. The form in which this empathy is expressed will vary according to each situation but the feeling of unity will be the same. As always the Holy Spirit will use every situation to teach us of the reality of oneness, if we let Him.

The ego thought system is belief in weakness — separation from the strength of Love. The ego uses relationships in order to reinforce belief in weakness and loss. But we are told here that the opposite is true. “The meaning of love is lost in any relationship that looks to weakness, and hopes to find love there. The power of love, which is its meaning, lies in the strength of God that hovers over it and blesses it silently by enveloping it in healing wings.” (6:1-2)

What is everyone’s true need?

In this world of separation, it appears that we have different needs. The truth is that we all have only one real need and that need is to return to remembering our one identity as one Self in the Mind of God. When our brother asks us to empathize with him by reinforcing his belief in weakness, he is asking a foolish thing, even though he does not realize its foolishness at the time. It is only the Holy Spirit in our mind that can recognize the difference between foolish needs and our only one real need, which is to wake up from the trap of belief in individuality. In our current state of mind we do not realize that our belief in weakness, lack or loss is inherently tied to our belief in specialness or individuality. That is why Jesus tells us, “No needs will long be left unmet if you leave them all to Him Whose function is to meet them. That is His function, and not yours.” (7:4-5)

What is Jesus’ advice regarding all our relationships?

The Holy Spirit remembers we are all one and that we all still remain the same as we were created by God. We could never be weak in truth and we could never get sick and die. As we learn to step back and not think we know anything on our own, we leave room for the Holy Spirit to work through us. That is why Jesus gives us this advice in reference to all of our relationships: “What you give through Him is for the whole Sonship, not for part of it. Leave Him His function, for He will fulfill it if you but ask Him to enter your relationships, and bless them for you.” (7:8-9)

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Reference Keys for
A Course in Miracles Quotes

How to Read References for Quotes from A Course in Miracles

Below are example references to specific sentences using the notation of the Second & Third Editions of A Course in Miracles published by the Foundation for Inner Peace:

T-26.IV.4:7 = Text, Chapt. 26, Section IV, paragraph 4, sentence 7.

W-pI.169.5:2 = Workbook, Part I, Lesson 169, paragraph 5, sentence 2.

M-13.3:2 = Manual for Teachers, Question 13, paragraph 3, sentence 2.

C-6.4:6 = Clarification of Terms, Term 6, paragraph 4, sentence 6

The above numbering system of the Second & Third Editions is © Copyright 1992, The Foundation for A Course in Miracles.

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