“It is not this that I would look upon”

The day before yesterday I was practicing Lesson 181, “I trust my brothers who are one with me.” Undergirding that lesson is the idea that whatever you focus on becomes real to you and defines your reality. A challenging point, but one that I think we all can see in our experience.

Then the lesson applies this to focusing on the errors of our brothers. If we focus on someone’s errors, then those errors are made real and now appear to be sins. And those sins then define that person for us. The person becomes in our eyes little more than a bag full of sins (reminiscent of the “Bag O’ Glass” once advertised for kids in a Saturday Night Live skit).

So when we focus on someone’s errors, we are meant to say, “It is not this that I would like upon. I trust my brothers, who are one with me.” That doesn’t mean I trust them to do the right thing. It means I trust the essential goodness of their nature, in spite of mistakes.

What I found most interesting, however, was the motivation for this. The idea is that whatever I focus on in my brother I will focus on in me. “And if a brother’s sins occur to us, our narrowed focus will restrict our sight,and turn our eyes upon our own mistakes, which we will magnify and call our ‘sins'” (6:2).

What is the principle here? It’s a principle that is implicit throughout the Course. It is basically this: The rules we apply to others we will also apply to ourselves. No matter how severe our double standards, on some crucial level of our minds, they disappear. On that level, we recognize that we are all in the same category. Thus, by applying certain rules to you, I am automatically choosing the rules I’ll apply to all the members of the category. Including me.

Thus, if I focus on your mistakes, I’ll focus on mine. If I see yours blown up into sins, I’ll see mine blown up into sins. And if I see you as defined by your sins, I’ll see me as defined by my sins.

That, says the Course is exactly what has happened. And that is why we don’t like ourselves.