[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
I recently taught Lesson 298, which begins with the line “My gratitude permits my love to be accepted without fear,” and ends with “And I am grateful for…escape from everything that would obscure my love….” The picture I got from these two lines was that I have this deep well of love inside, but that I had obscured it because I was somehow afraid of it.
This got me to thinking. Do I have this great reservoir of love inside but am afraid to let it surface? I had to conclude that I probably do. More than once I have noticed that when someone dies, I am suddenly in touch with all this love I have for that person, yet which I was not particularly in touch with while they lived. What is going on there? It seems like such a backward situation.
So why am I afraid to let this love come out? I think one reason is that I’ll find myself loving something that is actually unworthy of being loved. I’ll have invested myself in something worthless, which seems to diminish my own worth. I think another reason is that loving someone takes down the barriers between me and that person, and without those barriers I feel exposed and fear injury. I think this is more along the lines of what the Course has in mind here-that we are afraid to let out our love for God, because that would take away our defenses and expose us to a dangerous and untrustworthy deity.
So I think there really is a great deal of caution around loving. Yet the Course sees this as having devastating consequences. One is that our sense of worth is largely tied to our capacity to love. Second by second we are judging ourselves because we see ourselves as lacking (or not exercising) the capacity to love. The Course at one point lists a series of names we call ourselves: “supercilious, unbelieving, ‘lighthearted,’ distant, emotionally shallow, callous, uninvolved” (T-11.V.9:1). First, don’t we call ourselves these things? I know I do. Second, don’t all these names boil down to a picture of us as inappropriately standing apart? And doesn’t that mean inappropriately holding back on our love?
If our answer to those questions is yes, then we are indeed judging ourselves all the time for holding ourselves apart, for failing to really love.
The other consequence of being cautious around loving is that, according to the Course, not loving means not being ourselves. It means stuffing down our real nature, including all our truly natural impulses. We are like a bird trying to stuff down all of its bird impulses and behave instead like a snake.
Anyway, this whole line of thought reframed things significantly. Rather than “How can I love all these unlovable people?” the question became “How can I stop being afraid of the love I already have?”
So based on that I chose a slight rewording of Lesson 282 as my focus for that day. Lesson 282 is “I will not be afraid of love today.” I just added one word to this: “I will not be afraid of my love today.” It made for an interesting and very thought-provoking day of practice. I hope to keep returning to this theme.