The Perils of Good Intentions

We all know the popular injunction: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And A Course in Miracles, while not so caustic, does advise us not to put any faith in our good intentions (T-IV.2:1).

At a very shallow – and thus not particularly helpful – level, our good intentions are symbols of our willingness to be healed. If we can conceive of love and kindness, if can envision an end to guilt and fear, and if we can aspire to those conditions, then we are indeed witnessing the faintest light of hope.

The problem with good intentions, however, is that they are an effort to bring both time and the ego to salvation. That is why they are ultimately untrustworthy. Seeing this, there is only one thing to do: gently lay our good intentions aside and wait patiently on the Holy Spirit to accomplish what we on our own cannot.

Intentions bring time to salvation because they affirm two mistaken beliefs: the first is that salvation is not now and the second is that it’s not now but it will happen in the future. Thus, when we become self-congratulatory because we really want to wake up and as soon as we finish this delicious hoagie or take this nap we’re going to get right to it, we need to recognize that we have projected salvation into the future. We have made it subject to time.

Salvation is not contingent on time: everything that God has given you, and thus everything you need to wake up to the peace that surpasses understanding, has already been given to you. You have it. Hours and minutes are beyond unnecessary; they are affirmatively unhelpful. They are your active refusal to accept the reality of God’s Love as it is right here, right now.

Good intentions are a delay tactic. When we accept them as meaningful or helpful in any way, we postpone salvation.

Why would we do this? Why would we put off awakening?

We wouldn’t. But the ego would. Indeed, its survival is contingent on our not awakening. And one of the best weapons in its arsenal is our good intentions.

Under the ego’s influence, good intentions serve two functions. The first we’ve already looked at – they delay salvation by bringing it to the level of time. So long as it’s in the future, it will never happen. But if we saw that fact clearly we wouldn’t stand for it and so the ego needs another trick. By emphasizing our goodness, it tries to substitute our good intentions for true salvation.

In other words, we like our good intentions because they make us look good. They make us look holy. And we settle into that – an image of our holiness rather an actual holiness. Thus, rather than truly embrace the Love of God, we simply accept a pale substitute. And the ego lives to fight another day. We continue to struggle with guilt and fear.

What, then, can we do with our good intentions?

I think it is important to see them clearly: to first recognize the specific degree to which we are allowing our awakening to be subject to time and second to be clear whose purpose that delay serves.

And then simply hold in mind that this┬ádelay is neither God’s will nor in truth our own. No more is required. When we refuse to the best of our admittedly limited ability to indulge the ego’s trickery, we are effectively asking God for help. We are opening the way.

You merely ask the question. The answer is given. Seek not to answer, but merely to receive the answer as it is given . . . Atonement cannot come to those who think that they must first atone, but only to those who offer it nothing more than simple willingness to make way for it (T-18.IV.5:1-4, 6).

In the end, good intentions imply that awakening is something we do or control on our own. In truth, it is simply a refusal to give space and attention to the “One Who knows” (T-18.IV.8:2). This appears to the ego as disempowerment, a denigration of our strength and importance. But the Holy Spirit knows it as our readiness to be reminded that we are joined in eternity to a mighty Light in the radiance of which separation and differentiation are impossible.

Our good intentions flatter ourselves for our potential to be restored to the knowledge of God. But we already are that knowledge: it is already done. You don’t pull out a hammer and nails when the house is finished. You don’t speculate how many rooms it will have. You live in it. You are home.

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