“Although this is not the spirit in which you must undertake them”

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a particular passage in Helen’s shorthand notebooks. Since then I’ve been reading that passage more, and want to say a bit more about it. Here is the full passage I want to comment on:

Note also that I specifically told you, in answer to your own question of this morning, that miracles should be offered both to Art and to your brother. 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.

So Helen has asked who she should give miracles to that particular day. The answer was Art, a colleague who had urged Bill to fire her(!), and her brother, Adolph. That much is clear. But the rest seemed slightly contradictory to me. First, Jesus says that miracles “are urgently needed for you, although this is not the spirit in which you must undertake them.” But having said that she shouldn’t offer the miracles in that spirit, the rest of the paragraph is precisely about that. It’s all about how she needs healing. The message seemed to be “Give miracles because you need healing yourself, but don’t give them for that reason.” Huh?

As I reread the passage, though, the picture slowly became clear. Helen has been damaged by her own hurtfulness. That is why she needs healing. Her own hurtful intent (and behavior) has hurt her. If that is the problem, the solution is obvious: She must replace her harmful intent with a genuinely helpful and caring intent. That is the only thing that can heal her.

I think there is a fine, but significant, line between “I will help you, but only so that I can get miracles myself,” and “I genuinely want to help you, for only that is the reversal of my harmful intent, which has done so much harm to me.” In the first, the wish to help isn’t really genuine. It’s all about me. You are just a means to my end. In the second, though, I realize that the only thing that can help me is a true wish to help you. My desire to benefit another has to be absolutely real, for only that is the reversal of the spitefulness that has injured me.

This teaching, of course, is in no way confined to Helen for that point in time. It is for all of us for all time. If the single thing that has hurt us is our own hurtfulness toward others, then there is only one solution. We have to truly want the best for others. We have to genuinely want to contribute to their welfare. We have to regard them as true ends in themselves, rather than just means to our ends, pawns in our chess game. Only in that way can we serve ourselves.

It’s a paradox. But I have the feeling that until we can wrap our heads—and our hearts—around that paradox, until it seems like the most natural and obvious thing in the world, we will simply go on repeating the things that caused our problems in the first place.