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Why should I tolerate insane thinking?

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

Yesterday I was researching for my January A Better Way article, which is going to be about the role of behavior in the Course (I’m really tired of hearing that the Course doesn’t care about our behavior). While doing so I came across this Urtext passage (which in edited form can be found in T-2.VI.2):

You would not tolerate insane behavior on your part, and would hardly advance the excuse that you could not help it. Why should you tolerate insane thinking? There is a fallacy here you would do well to look at clearly.

You both believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.

Of course, I’ve read this many, many times before. But once again, as if it was the first time I’d read it, it really hit me. Jesus is turning upside down a core experience of mine—that it is far easier to control my behavior than to control my thinking.

Maybe I do have the occasional impulse to do some crazy, antisocial, destructive thing (“What if I just threw this object through that big window?” “What if I just drove this car off this cliff?”). But of course I don’t do them. I’m in control of what I do.

But changing my thinking seems like a whole different matter. The simple fact is that my thinking appears to be constrained by what is. If someone really is an inconsiderate opportunist, how can I think differently about that person? Doesn’t that mean willfully engaging in denial? Doesn’t that turn me into a happy airhead?

So, whereas my behavior seems at least somewhat under my control, my thinking does not. It seems controlled by the simple fact of what’s out there. If I’m a painter with a bowl of fruit in front of me, I can hardly paint a seascape.

What makes this passage so powerful is that it so directly turns this upside down: It’s a fallacy to think I can’t change my thinking. I am responsible for it, every bit of it. I do have a choice about what I think. Indeed, that’s the only choice I have, since once I choose what I think, I have chosen what I do, in the sense of determining the essential content of what I do. Maybe, then, I’ve just been under this delusion that says, “I can’t help what I think.” Maybe I’ve been in complete control all along while convincing myself I’m not.

So I chose as my lesson, “I will there be light” (Lesson 73). I used variations on it: “I will to acknowledge the light in you,” “I will that I see the light,” “I will that there be light here.” But the main idea was I can simply choose to be in the light, just as I can choose to not drive the car off that 300-foot cliff.

What I found was that, yes, it is within my power to be in the light. As I sat and interacted with people, just repeating that short line (with the meaning added by the above passage) really brought a sense of light that I could feel. As a result, it felt as if I am constantly under-choosing, falling purposefully short of my ability to choose the light, all the while telling myself I just can’t help it. It’s as if I am sitting on this tremendous power to change everything, but I have unplugged it, so that it sits there lifeless. So today I’m going to continue this focus, in the form of repeating “I am responsible for what I think.” If we could only unleash this power, rather than keep it locked up, what might be possible?