It can be but my gratitude I earn.
A Course in Miracles makes an interesting point in this lesson. It notes that we have good intentions, that we are perfectly willing to be kind and generous and merciful, but that our efforts are always conditional upon receiving praise and honor in return.
We’re happy to give, we just want to be sure that we get something in return – we want our ego stroked.
And inevitably – because the outside world is the picture of an inside condition (T-21.in.1:5), and because we conceive of God as external to us – this becomes our model of God: a giver whose gifts always come with strings.
No wonder we are unhappy. No wonder the world is full of suffering. It is very hard to be happy and at peace, when everything we have and everything we give is yoked to conditions with which we may or may not agree and to which we may or may not have given assent.
Ultimately, this reflects the confusion of associating guilt with God, because we do not recognize the power of our thinking. If our giving is conditioned on receiving something of equal or greater value, then we are not actually giving. We are taking. We are not realizing that our actions – which make us and others unhappy – are guided by our thoughts, which are under our control. God has nothing to do with it.
Why do we take? Why do we make giving conditional upon what we can get? The answer is, because we believe in the scarcity principle, which is the hallmark of all bodies. There are limited resources (water, food, shelter, companions, et cetera, we are in competition with one another for those scarce resources, and what I gain you must lose, and vice-versa.
But why do we believe this? Why do we accept such a grim and unhappy picture?
Because we believe we are guilty, and do not merit anything better.
And this is an error.
God blesses every gift you give to Him, and every gift is given Him, because it can be given only to yourself. And what belongs to God must be His own (W-pI.197.5:1-2).
But in order to know this, we have to be kind and generous without any thought of return. We have to decline to attack and instead commit to cooperating with our brothers and sisters. Not upon expectation of some return or some other form of bargaining. Just because we are ready to accept on faith that love – inclusion without exception, giving without condition – reflects what we are in truth. Only then will we remember the “never-ending joy” that is our inheritance as God’s children (W-pI.197.5:3).
No suggestion is made that this is easy; on the contrary, the reason the Course exists and is in our lives is because it is not easy.
So the work is to be grateful and to serve others and, when we notice that we are doing this because we want praise or social status or some other benefit, then we just shrug and say, “there goes ego again.”
It’s not a big deal. In fact, just noticing it as it happens is restorative. Noticing it means noticing its effects, and noticing its effects means noticing we don’t want those effects. It is at that juncture that we take the Thetfordian step – there must be another way.
And, indeed, that way is inevitable.
To everyone who lives will Christ yet come, for everyone must live and move in Him. His Being in His Father is secure, because Their Will is One. Their gratitude to all They have created has no end, for gratitude remains a part of love (W-pI.197.7:3-5).
Do not judge against yourself because ego still has a place in your thoughts, and its effects are still rampant in the world. Rather, be grateful when you can for whatever you can be grateful for – a flower, a friendship, a moment of quiet. When you exclude someone from love, gently remind yourself that this is not how Christ thinks, and then do better, even a little.
As we practice gratefulness, we begin to perceive a new world, one in which we are not pitched against each other in competition, but rather learning together that we are one, and that Love holds everything.
In that world, we begin to sense a new God, and we sense, too, that every act of kindness – however small, however grudgingly we extend it, is given to God Himself and received by God Himself, Who is not separate from us, and the effect is joy. The effect is peace.
We begin to perceive God everything and in all things, even those that challenge and haunt us. Everything becomes an opportunity to bless our own self, and in that blessing, to become yet more grateful.