If I defend myself I am attacked.
I am quite sure that the first time I encountered this lesson I glossed over it. It was one of those “whatever you say, Jesus” type of moments. Some lessons are like that. We aren’t ready for them or they aren’t right for us for some reason. It’s okay. You do the best you can – I’m sure I did – and you move on.
Then a year or two or more later, you come up on it again and it bowls you over. It just lays you out flat. You read the lesson and it’s as if the entire course is packed into a dozen paragraphs. If you can get this, you’ve got it. How did I miss it?
We have to vigilant for those moments when we are defensive. It’s tough because in the moment we don’t want to notice – we are too busy actively defending ourselves. And often, the defensiveness doesn’t reside just because the circumstances that gave rise to it has passed. We can get defensive about things that happened years ago. There are plenty of old battles that we are still fighting.
But those are are helpful! Because they aren’t so intense, we can perhaps see them with a bit more clarity. We can see that we are reacting – we are defending. And maybe our first response is, “well, sure I’m defending myself. That person was being incredibly mean and insensitive. They were criticizing me where I’m most vulnerable.” Or whatever. You know, we are always able to justify. It is itself a form of defense!
But you see, if we can break through that a little, then we can at least admit that our defense mechanisms in that instance did not bring us peace. We can even stipulate for a moment that they were justified. But at least we can say that they failed to bring us any peace.
And maybe – seeing that much – we can ask: what was I defending?
A Course in Miracles is about new ways of thinking. We are getting in touch with new modes of thought, moving beyond the survival-oriented brain. Asking questions is important because it helps crack the veneer. And when we get around to looking at what we’re defending . . . a little air goes out of us, doesn’t it?
Defense is attack because its premise is that we’re bodies. We are bodies in a world of bodies and we are being assaulted by those other bodies. Defense is the natural child of separation. Once we’re alone we’re vulnerable. Once we’re vulnerable we need protection. And since God can’t do the job, we’ve got to do it.
We are defending an illusion. More than that, we are attacking our true self by confusing it with that illusion. And we’re doing the same thing to our brother or sister because we’re conflating them with a body, too.
Defense seems protective, maybe even nurturing, but it’s actually quite chaotic. It induces more guilt and fear, necessitating more attack through defense.
Seeing it that way enables us to ask for help. But first – and this is what the lesson is all about – we have to see it that way. We have to be able to see how defensive we are, see that what we are “defending” is in fact an illusion, and therefore the act of defending is in fact a vicious attack on ourself and our brothers and sisters.
All this lesson wants us to do is see this. Seeing it clearly enables us to reach for help. But we have to get to that place where we can see. And that can take years. We have to be patient and disciplined. We have to work it.