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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship

IV. The Two Pictures 1-8

1. God established His relationship with you to make you happy, and nothing you do that does not share His purpose can be real.  The purpose God ascribed to anything is its only function.  Because of His reason for creating His relationship with you, the function of the relationships became forever “to make happy.”  And nothing else.  To fulfill this function you relate to your creations as God to His.  For nothing God created is apart from happiness, and nothing God created but would extend happiness as its Creator did.  Whatever does not fulfill this function cannot be real.

2. In this world it is impossible to create.  Yet it is possible to make happy.  I have said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships but would transform them.  And all that is meant by that is that He will restore to them the function given them by God.  The function you have given them is clearly not to make happy.  But the holy relationship shares God’s purpose, rather than aiming to make a substitute for it.  Every special relationship you have made is a substitute for God’s Will and glorifies yours instead of His because of the illusion that they are different. 

3. You have made very real relationships even in this world.  Yet you do not recognize them because you have raised their substitutes to such predominance that, when truth calls to you, as it does constantly, you answer with a substitute.  Every special relationship you have made has, as its fundamental purpose, the aim of occupying your mind so completely that you will not hear the call of truth.

4. In a sense, the special relationship was the ego’s answer to the creation of the Holy Spirit, who was God’s answer to the separation. For although the ego did not understand what had been created it was aware of threat. The whole defense system the ego evolved to protect the separation from the Holy Spirit was in response to the gift with which God blessed it, and by His blessing enabled it to be healed. This blessing holds within itself the truth about everything. And the truth is that the Holy Spirit is in close relationship with you, because in Him is your relationship with God restored to you. The relationship with Him has never been broken because the Holy Spirit has not been separate from anyone since the separation. And through Him have all your holy relationships been carefully preserved, to serve God’s purpose for you.

5. The ego is always alert to threat, and the part of your mind into which the ego was accepted is very anxious to preserve its reason, as it sees it. It does not realize that it is totally insane. And you must realize just what this means if you would be restored to sanity. The insane protect their thought systems, but they do so insanely. And all their defenses are as insane as what they are supposed to protect. The separation has nothing in it, no part, no “reason,” and no attribute that is not insane. And its “protection” is part of it, as insane as the whole. The special relationship, which is its chief defense, must therefore be insane.

6. You have but little difficulty now in realizing that the thought system the special relationship protects is but a system of delusions. You recognize, at least in general terms, that the ego is insane. Yet the special relationship still seems to you somehow to be “different.” Yet we have looked at it far closer than we have at many other aspects of the ego’s thought system that you have been more willing to let go. While this one remains, you will not let the others go. For this one is not different. Retain this one, and you have retained the whole.

7. It is essential to realize that all defenses do what they would defend. The underlying basis for their effectiveness is that they offer what they defend. What they defend is placed in them for safekeeping, and as they operate, they bring it to you. Every defense operates by giving gifts, and the gift is always a miniature of the thought system the defense protects set in a golden frame. The frame is very elaborate, all set with jewels, and deeply carved and polished. Its purpose is to be a value in itself, and to divert your attention from what it encloses. But the frame without the picture you cannot have. Defenses operate to make you think you can.

8. The special relationship has the most imposing and deceptive frame of all the defenses the ego uses. Its thought system is offered here, surrounded by a frame so heavy and so elaborate that the picture is almost obliterated by its imposing structure. Into the frame are woven all sorts of fanciful and fragmented illusions of love, set with dreams of sacrifice and self-aggrandizement, and interlaced with gilded threads of self-destruction. The glitter of blood shines like rubies, and the tears are faceted like diamonds and gleam in the dim light in which the offering is made.

9. Look at the picture. Do not let the frame distract you. This gift is given you for your damnation, and if you take it you will believe that you are damned. You cannot have the frame without the picture. What you value is the frame, for there you see no conflict. Yet the frame is only the wrapping for the gift of conflict. The frame is not the gift. Be not deceived by the most superficial aspects of this thought system, for these aspects enclose the whole, complete in every aspect. Death lies in this glittering gift. Let not your gaze dwell on the hypnotic gleaming of the frame.  Look at the picture and realize that death is offered you.

10. That is why the holy instant is so important in the defense of truth. The truth itself needs no defense, but you do need defense against your acceptance of the gift of death. When you who are truth accept an idea so dangerous to truth, you threaten truth with destruction. And your defense must now be undertaken, to keep truth whole.   The power of Heaven, the love of God, the tears of Christ, and the joy of His eternal spirit are marshaled to defend you from your own attack. For you attack Them, being part of Them, and They must save you, for They love Themselves.[1]

God made us in happiness and for happiness.  Any other purpose we come up in our relationship to God and with each other cannot be real in the eternal sense of the word.  Forever, we are to be happy with God and with each other.  Nothing else means a thing.  Jesus tells us to relate to what we have made as God relates to us – in happiness and the desire to make happy. 

We cannot create anything that lasts forever in a world of flesh, but we can make happy.  Holy Spirit does not take our special relationships away from us, but He does make them happy for happiness is the function given to relationship by God.  As we take a long close look at the relationships we have made, it will become clear that “to make happy” is not the only function if it is a function at all!  It would be easy to say, Oh well this relationship is not making me happy, so I am going to give it up and go seek happiness with another person, but here’s the clincher – this is not God’s purpose that we throw our relationships away and make ourselves cavalier in regard to them.  This kind of attitude destroys any hope of healing and holiness for as long as you would embrace it.   For God’s purpose is not to throw away but to heal and to restore.

Relationships are not meant to be such hard work.  Happiness is a natural by-product of the liberty and freedom found in Love.  We do not realize how real our relationships are in this world because we put too much work into them.  Instead of loving and trusting and being godly in our relationships we make them about money, we make them about sex, we make them about obligation and martyrdom and specialness.  The aim of all special relationships is to occupy our minds so much that we will not recognize the call of Love.  They will stress us and drive us crazy rather than make us happy.  Ego is always suspicious and irritated by happiness because it does not understand it and in specialness we learn to begrudge happiness.    

Our happiness is our holiness, and our holiness is our happiness.  Happiness is a terrible threat to the ego, for when we are happy we are whole; we seek union; we accept our mutuality; we are serving the purpose of God and not opposing it.  Opposing the purpose of God is insane.  God cannot be opposed. The insane go to great lengths to protect their right to be unhappy, to be afraid, to seek vengeance and spite instead of forgiveness and happiness.  To separate from Love, to sneer at communication and communion, to tell lies and deceive rather than be honest and forthright provides no real help, does not heal, and makes no sense.  And yet these are the attributes of the special relationship which the ego substitutes for the happiness of God.

Most of us have been bitterly disappointed and aggrieved by special relationships.  We understand through personal experience that such relationships do not live up to their promise! And yet we may still be attracted to special relationships and try to find happiness in them.  After all most if not all the religions and spiritual paths in the world promote specialness, favoritism, marriage, and patriotism.  But Jesus tells us that special relationships of any kind are no different from all the other insane aspects of the ego’s thought system.  Therefore, when we hold on to the idea of specialness in any form, we make the ego holy in our mind. 

Read paragraph seven and ask Holy Spirit to illuminate its meaning to you.  When we defend specialness, when we try to find holiness in special relationships, we are given the gift of specialness.  We are given a little sample in miniature of the whole thought system in which specialness occurs.  Jesus tells us that this is set in an elaborate, jewel-studded, ornate, and highly polished frame.  The frame itself is the thing of value and not what it encloses.  He uses this illustration to show us that the form diverts our attention from what it holds.  But we can’t have the frame without the picture – even though our defenses operate to make us think that for us it will work, this time it will be different, our sort of specialness is not as special as that kind of specialness. 

When we look at the special relationship as a defense of ego, we can see a frame that Jesus calls the most imposing and deceptive of all.  A frame so heavy and elaborate that the picture is nearly obliterated by its structure.  Into the frame that encloses the special relationship are woven all sorts of fantasies and fragmented illusions of love, studded with insane ideas of the rewards of martyrdom, the fulfillment of self in self-destruction.  The glitter of sacrificial blood shines like rubies!  Tears of anguish are made to look like diamonds, sparkling and offering light.  

In paragraph nine Jesus tells us to look past the frame, to focus on the picture.  The special relationship is given to us for our damnation and if you accept it, you will believe that you are damned.  Your special relationship will be a sentence to you, it will entrap you, it will kill you and drag you back for round after round. You may value the framework of the special relationship.  The traditions, the ceremonies, the rites, rituals, and sacred vows that promote specialness may seem very beautiful and even practical to you.  You may say that in this world we need special relationships.  The fabric of our societies and civilizations rests on the premise of specialness.  And yet when we look at the picture we realize that it holds the death of happiness, for there is no freedom and there is no liberty. Because it does not serve the purpose of God, but rather to perpetuate separateness, it is a lie. 

When we accept specialness, we accept death.  For specialness if it were true, would destroy the happiness in our oneness with God and with each other.  Ego would keep us trapped in a world of us being more special than them, doling out scraps of splintered happiness, taxing every bit of pleasantness with grudging grief and cloying sentiment. 

We will end with paragraph ten today.  In your personal devotional practice ask God to show you the opposition to God’s purpose that you will find in each one of your special relationships.  Do not mistake the form for the content but rather look past the ornate frame and into what it really means to be human, to engage in relationships that breed and promote the illusion of specialness.  Look at the sacrifices that specialness calls forth. Do not discount the work involved, the meanness, the lack of appreciation, the lies we tell ourselves and each other.  Do not be afraid to examine the hypocrisy, the betrayals, the brutality, worries and fears. 

Let there be no mistake.  Specialness is an attack upon the Love of God.  We are to love one brother as all brothers: one part of Creation as all parts of Creation.  For we are part of Creation, not the best part nor the least part, but a mutual and equal part. In the deep sleep of nothingness, we would dream forever – lost in our fiction with no escape, but we are loved by All that is Love, and so we are saved.  Practice the holy instant for the moments we give to holiness protect us from the temptation of specialness, turn our special relationships into holy ones, and help us recognize the virtues of mutuality and equality.  We will cover the rest of this section in the next blog.  Thank you for joining me and have a blessed day. 


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the holy relationship. IV The two pictures 1-10. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).

For daily 2021 Workbook lessons visit www.i-choose-love.com courtesy of Linda R.

Audio credit: www.eckiefriar.com

Filed under: ACIM, Teaching and Learning

About the Author

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Coming up on sixty, my love for God, home and hearth, my husband and family fueled my decision to devote the rest of my life only to pursuits which brought love, joy, peace, and purpose. I am a writer, seeker, student, and teacher with experience professional and otherwise from waitressing to teaching the English language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. I hold a BA in Psychology from Bloomsburg University, which took nearly 30 years to attain while I squeezed courses in between raising my children, journaling, relationships, work, and an assortment of escapades, some of which I would rather forget! An ongoing passion for reading, writing, adventure, food, and fun, eventually led me to the love of my life, James, whom I met in 1996 and married in 1997. Our life together has been an exciting journey of work and travel, spiritual awakening, and domestic bliss ever since. Although we have experienced the tragic loss of family members and friends through death and estrangement, we have managed to turn our special relationship into a holy one by the grace of God and an acute and growing awareness of “there must be a better way!” In 2006, I published my first novel, Luella’s Calling, and am currently working on my second, Grover Good and the Stone Chateau. From 2013 through 2018, I worked as a Prevention Education Specialist for Transitions, a local domestic violence sexual abuse victim’s service agency. My work there, fueled by a lifelong enthusiasm for teaching, led me to obtain an MS in Education from Scranton University. In 2018, I resigned to accompany James on his work travels while focusing on my calling to study and teach A Course in Miracles. To that end, I dedicate the rest of my days to writing, sharing, and teaching the message of salvation found within the Course pages. Thank you for your interest in this blog. As I do not respond to comments on the posts, if you care to contact me, please email me at eckief@yahoo.com.

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