Near the end of ACIM Lesson 108, the course proposes an interesting equation: the measure of joy, peace and love that we receive is equal to the measure of joy, peace and love we give.
On that view, the cause of our unhappiness or discontent is our unwillingness to extend happiness and contentment to others.
Another way of saying this is that if we view the world in terms of what it can give us – if other people, places and things are valuable only in terms of what we can get – then our unhappiness is guaranteed.
This happen when we separate giving from receiving. Rather than see them as one movement (which they are), we set them up as discrete actions in both time and place. Giving precedes getting. And, because they are now separate, we can judge them as good or bad, preferable or or not preferable.
Lesson 108 intimates that if we want to be happy, then we need to realize that giving and receiving are the same and cannot be separated in terms of cause and effect or preferred and not-preferred. When this is clear, our only objective will be give love, because love is all that we want to receive.
The sameness of giving and receiving is not obvious at the level of the body. At that level, they are obviously different. To get a slice of pie is not the same as to receive a slice of pie. Loss and gain are meaningful to bodies. Sacrifice means something.
Yet it is possible to see that the happiness we feel at receiving a slice of pie and the happiness we feel at giving someone a slice of pie are the same. And that sameness is a clue; it points to something that is worth learning.
There is a light in which all things are seen as equal, and attention to this light allows us to pass quickly through the many forms of differentiation in order to arrive at what A Course in Miracles calls the “One thought, completely unified” that serves “to unify all thought” (W-pI.108.5:1). This is not a mystical process but a pragmatic healing.
This is the same as saying one correction will suffice for all correction, or that to forgive one brother wholly is enough to bring salvation to all minds. For these are but some special cases of one law which holds for every kind of learning, if it be directed by the One Who knows the truth (W-pI.108.5:2-3).
The idea here is that there is a light in which it is clear that giving and receiving are the same. Our work is to perceive the light rather than to work out an intellectual understanding of how giving and receiving are one movement. I mean, we can work that out in that way, but intellectual understanding doesn’t readily generalize. It’s a relatively narrow and constrained form of healing. And effective generalization is a critical aspect of the healing contemplated by A Course in Miracles.
. . . when this special case has proved it always works, in every circumstance where it is tried, the thought behind it can be generalized to other areas of doubt and double vision. And from there it will extend, and finally arrive at the one Thought which underlies them all (W-pI.108.6:2-3).
When we see that giving and receiving are one, then we can use that vision to undo other apparent splits.
So Lesson 108 invites us to close our eyes and practice giving what we would like to receive: love, peace, patience, kindness, joy, laughter, gratitude . . .
What happens? This is where the lesson has some special value, in my experience. In the actual application of the lesson, do we experience love and joy and peace to the degree that we want? Not the idea of love, joy and peace but actual love, joy and peace?
I think most of us, if we are honest, will confess that while we are perhaps getting a whiff or joy or a hint of peace or a trickle of love, we are not awash in the eternal and infinite flow of them.
If we can say that, then we can take the next step and see that this is because we are not giving the eternal and infinite flow of love, joy and peace. And so we remain stuck – in ways that are perhaps subtle and hard-to-see – in the kind of seeing that insists giving and receiving are separate.
This is a valuable insight! Properly accepted, it leads to humility, and in humility our practice begins in earnest because it becomes fundamentally honest about its shortcomings. Of our own we can do nothing. We can’t even see the problem clearly, let alone solve it.
Thus we become students whose posture of learning is most amenable to the Holy Spirit’s instructive intervention. We become faithful because there is no other option that we can see. We are not spiritual experts but beginners.
And yet our beginning is also our end, for in it we are joined with out Teacher and with all our brothers and sisters. Our shared “classroom” is transformed into a manifestation of the One Love which is our shared identity. What we learn is what we are because just as giving and receiving are one, so are having and being. Thus we relax in “the perfect safety of God,” where “inclusion is total and creation is without limit” (T-6.V.C.10:9-10).