What about their part?

The other day I was mulling over the age-old issue of “what’s my part and what about the other person’s part?” I’m sure you know the issue: You know you have your part, but then the other person has their part, too. And if you just do your part, which seems like the spiritual thing, doesn’t that leave out their part, or even encourage them to not do their part?

Another aspect of this dilemma is that in our minds we often think: “My part is the only part I’m responsible for. That’s what the Course is telling me. I’ll just do my part and forget about theirs.” But then when we actually interact with the other person, all we do is try to get them to face up to and do their part, while acting like ours is non-existent.

What I was thinking was: I know the answer to this intellectually. It’s not that hard to understand, really. (I forget what exactly I was thinking the answer was.) It’s just hard to understand in practice.

Then the next morning I read this from personal guidance to Helen and Bill:

I do not yet know what decisions those who are involved in [what is] happening later today will make, but I assure you with a confidence I urge you to share that whatever they may be can be utilized for good if you will let them be. Why not unburden yourselves of the kind of responsibility which you cannot meet, and devote yourselves in peace to the many others which you can discharge without strain?

My first question is: What is “the kind of responsibility which you cannot meet”? It seems to me it has something to do with the decisions that other people will make later today. Jesus is saying that “whatever they may be can be utilized for good.” So I suspect the “responsibility which you cannot meet” is one that would limit or control or be upset about what those decisions will be.

I think he’s saying, in other words, “Why worry about what they are going to do? After all, whatever they do can be used for good, if you will let it be. Letting it be is a responsibility you can meet, and meet in peace. In contrast, trying to control their actions is a burdensome responsibility you can never meet.”

It is your responsibility to recognize the difference. Any confusion in this respect is arrogance. Note also that I specifically told you, in answer to your own question of this morning, that miracles should be offered both to Art [a colleague, who couldn’t stand Helen and pressured Bill to fire her] and to your brother [Helen’s brother Adolph]. They are urgently needed for you, although this is not the spirit in which you must undertake them. You have hurt yourselves and need healing. It does not matter whether the people you think have hurt you have really thought hurtfully. You have. You must undo this, and your attempts will surely be blessed.

To understand this, I think we need to reorder it a bit. Helen has thought hurtfully about others. This has hurt her. Now she needs to give miracles to them. In giving these, she needs to focus on their need, not hers. This is how she will undo the hurtfulness she has harbored toward them and thus heal the hurt she has done to herself.

Notice that in this paragraph, there is no real acknowledgment at all of their part. All he will say is: “It does not matter whether the people you think have hurt you have really thought hurtfully. You have.” That’s what really hit me. They may have thought hurtfully. They may not have. Which one is it? It doesn’t matter.

This is a lot like the line from the previous  paragraph: “I do not yet know what decisions those who are involved in [what is] happening later today will make, but I assure you with a confidence I urge you to share that whatever they may be can be utilized for good if you will let them be.”

Both basically say the same thing: It’s not relevant whether they were/will be hurtful or not. What’s relevant is your contribution.

OK, now I’m getting the whole picture. There is a responsibility we burden ourselves with, a responsibility we can never meet, and that is trying to figure out, anticipate, and control their part. Why not unburden ourselves of this? And there is a responsibility that we can meet, and meet without strain. That responsibility equals taking care of our own contribution, turning our hurtfulness into helpfulness, our hate into love. This is a responsibility we can meet without strain. And if we do that, we can bless them with a miracle. Even more, we can actually let whatever they do be utilized for good. And finally, we can heal the wounds that our hurtfulness has caused us.

I know this is basic. I know this is really Course 101. But in a world where what others do seems highly relevant, we can never remind ourselves of these basic truths too often. I know I need the reminders.

Anyway, it really hit me when I read it. “Of course!” I thought. “How could I have forgotten that?” And now that I’ve written it out and feel I grasp his message better, I’m having that same feeling all over again.