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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship

V. The Healed Relationship

1. The holy relationship is the expression of the holy instant in living in this world.  Like everything about salvation, the holy instant is a practical device, witnessed to by its results.  The holy instant never fails.  The experience of it is always felt.  Yet, without expression it is not remembered.  The holy relationship is a constant reminder of the experience in which the relationship became what it is.  And as the unholy relationship is a continuing hymn of hate in praise of its maker, so is the holy relationship a happy song of praise to the Redeemer of relationships.

2. The holy relationship, a major step toward the perception of the real world, is learned.  It is the old, unholy relationship, transformed and seen anew.  The holy relationship is a phenomenal teaching accomplishment.  In all its aspects, as it begins, develops, and becomes accomplished, it represents the reversal of the unholy relationship.  Be comforted in this; the only difficult phase is the beginning.  For here, the goal of the relationship is abruptly shifted to the exact opposite of what it was.  This is the first result of offering the relationship to the Holy Spirit, to use for His purpose. 

3. This invitation is accepted immediately, and the Holy Spirit wastes no time in introducing the practical results of asking Him to enter. At once His goal replaces yours. This is accomplished very rapidly, but it makes the relationship seemed disturbed, disjunctive, and even quite distressing. The reason is quite clear; for the relationship as it is is out of line with its own goal, and clearly unsuited to the purposes that has been accepted for it. In its unholy condition, your goal was all that seemed to give it meaning. Now it seems to make no sense. Many relationships have been broken off at this point, and the pursuit of the old goal reestablished in another relationship. For once the unholy relationship has accepted the goal of holiness, it can never again be what it was.

4. The temptation of the ego becomes extremely intense with this shift in goals. For the relationship has not as yet been changed sufficiently to make its former goal completely without attraction, and its structure is “threatened” by the recognition of its inappropriateness for meeting its new purpose. The conflict between the goal and the structure of the relationship is so apparent that they cannot coexist. Yet now the goal will not be changed. Set firmly in the unholy relationship, there is no course except to change the relationship to fit the goal. Until this happy solution is seen and accepted as the only way out of the conflict, the relationship may seem to be severely strained.

5. It would not be kinder to shift the goal more slowly, for the contrast would be obscured, and the ego given time to reinterpret each slow step according to its liking. Only a radical shift in purpose could induce a complete change of mind about what the whole relationship is for. As this change develops and is finally accomplished, it grows increasingly beneficent and joyous. But at the beginning, the situation is experienced as very precarious. A relationship, undertaken by two individuals for their unholy purposes, suddenly has holiness for its goal. As these two contemplate their relationship from the point of view of this new purpose, they are inevitably appalled. Their perception of the relationship may even become quite disorganized. And yet, the former organization of their perception no longer serves a purpose they have agreed to meet.

6. This is the time for faith. You let this goal be set for you. That was an act of faith. Do not abandon faith now that the rewards of faith are being introduced. If you believe the Holy Spirit was there to accept the relationship, why would you now not still believe that He is there to purify what He has taken under His guidance? Have faith in your brother in what but seems to be a trying time. The goal is set. And your relationship has sanity as its purpose. For now you find yourself in an insane relationship, recognized as such in the light of its goal.

7. Now the ego councils thus, substitute for this another relationship to which your former goal was quite appropriate. You can escape from your distress only by getting rid of your brother. You need not part entirely if you choose not to do so. But you must exclude major areas of fantasy from your brother, to save your sanity. Hear not this now! Have faith in Him who answered you. He heard. Has He not but been very explicit in His answer? You are not now wholly insane. Can you deny that He has given you a most explicit statement? Now He asks for faith a little longer, even in bewilderment. For this will go, and you will see the justification for your faith emerge, to bring you shining conviction. Abandon Him not now, nor your brother. This relationship has been reborn as holy.[1]

Holy Spirit does not yank our special relationships away from us.  He does not make us sacrifice them or ourselves in order to be holy for this would amount to another kind of “special.”  Holy Spirit simply teaches us, and we learn, how to transform and see the special people in our lives in light of God’s truth about us. 

Jesus calls this a phenomenal teaching accomplishment and it really is!  From beginning to completion the holy relationship stands for the reversal of what is unholy, what is special, what is separate and opposes love.  Take comfort in the fact that as difficult as this may seem, it only seems hard in the beginning. 

For when I bring our relationship to Holy Spirit and ask for holiness, the goal of everything I had with you changes and goes in the opposite direction.  What started out as a hymn of praise to the you-and-me against the rest of the world, or in the case of our special family, professional, church, charitable or political relationships – the us-and-we against the rest of the world, suddenly becomes meaningless in face of the real meaning of what our relationships are given to us to be.  It will not only be a shock to your system. but it will be a double shock to the other party in all the relationships in which you are involved.  If our relationship is not about me and not about you what can it be about?   How can I love you if you are not special?  How can I accept your love if I am not special?   When I am no longer able to lie to you and pretend to believe the lies you tell yourself, when I can no longer think of you as any more special than anybody else, it would seem that I am taking something away from you.  When I am no longer able to engage in drama with you, when your stories of betrayal and victimization and sickness fail to interest me, when you are very much more aware that the things we have always imagined ourselves to be in the world were never true, right, or smart – how can we be friends?     

Personally, I felt lost. Okay, I see that specialness is a lie.  I can no longer sing songs that praise illusions or give my allegiance to specialness, but now what?  I can’t tell James he is not special.  I cannot tell my kids or grandkids they are not special.  It was a very lonely experience and I felt like isolating myself from the world.  For even though I see the truth in the holy relationship, how am I supposed to heal broken relationships when they don’t want healing? When they like it the way it is?   In my confusion and lack of understanding I dropped a lot of relationships.  I withdrew.  I floundered with the ones I kept.    

I would rather be lonely than have special relationships in my life.  I could not pretend to want that or believe in them anymore.  I could not attend fundraisers for special causes; I could not give a sympathetic ear to ongoing dramas or side with friends against their enemies.  I could no longer sing special songs about how big and great their gods were over all the other gods in the universe. I could not believe in a heaven as long as someone burned in hell. But what church could I attend?  What causes could I support? What songs could I sing?  Who could I hang out with?  What projects could I work on that have meaning?  Who could I call and chat with?  How could I keep specialness out of my life and still engage in the world?  Does holiness compel me to be a hermit? 

I was still bringing “me” to all my concerns and worries.  The “me” in my relationships was the main focus.  In the previous paragraph how many “I’s” will you find?  In holiness the “I” steps aside.  It is no longer about me.  I did not realize that I could hand over all my unholy relationships to Holy Spirit and go on loving them, enjoying them, being happy and having fun.   I thought I had to sacrifice them, or perhaps somehow find a way to persuade them to give up all thoughts of specialness and join me in holiness.  It felt so weird.  First of all I was very much put off by the thought of my holiness, even saying the word in reference to myself made me sound like I thought I was something special!  I was all in, but I did not know how, and still struggle, to share the concepts of holiness with my special relationships.      

We must welcome this time of distress however because the contrast between specialness and holiness would otherwise stay hidden from us.  We must be willing to hold out for holiness, to take a stand for holiness, to face down our fears that surround it, to be able to speak of who we are in holiness with courage in the face of derision, bewilderment, and contempt.  If we keep putting this first stage off, we will stay trapped in time, allowing specialness to destroy all our relationships, blaming and resenting our loved ones for it, and teaching ourselves cowardice. 

The shift from special relationship to holy relationship is a complete and sudden change of mind of what the relationship is for.  If our relationship is about us – it is doomed.  If it is all for God and His glory, we are saved.  Read over paragraph five in your personal devotion to understand the mechanics of how this works.  Where Jesus mentions two people in the relationship seeking holiness, you are still required to bring all your special relationships to Holy Spirit and ask for holy ones, even if the other party is not interested.  Your commitment to holiness will save the relationship.  It may look entirely different than it did before, but it will still be holy because you gave it to God. Jesus is very kind to explain this to us and it behooves us to pay close attention so that we learn it thoroughly and can help others through this process. 

Once we give our special relationship to holiness it can be broken but it can never be special again.  I may be tempted to blame you for it.  I may be tempted to give up on you entirely and try to find holiness with someone else, but if I can’t find holiness in my relationship with you, I cannot find it anywhere.  To look for holiness in someone other than you because I give up on you is only another form of specialness. 

In paragraph six Jesus tells us to have faith especially during this initial phase.  This is when we consciously take ourselves out of it and trust in Holy Spirit to set the goal.  We do not have to do anything at all to clean up our act.  We will trust in our holiness.  We will not judge ourselves by what it still looks like, sounds like, feels like.  We will just relax into it and let Holy Spirit purify us.  The only effort we will take is to trust in Him and in our loved one.   I will not judge you on your past behavior and get suspicious about you for the goal of our relationship is sanity.  Any misgivings about your motives, I will give to holiness and continue to love you and trust you in that holiness.  While in specialness, I learned of your faults and your weaknesses, in holiness I will consciously choose to be taught of your purity and goodness.  While you will never be my substitute for God, nor will I accept any idolatry from you – I love you and devote myself to you for we are the Sonship of God.  When worries and fears about you come to my mind, I will give them to Holy Spirit to purify and transform into holy regard. 

When we dedicate our relationships to holiness, the ego goes on full alert – for special relationships are the best it can give us.  Our egos resist holiness for as long as we accept specialness in its place, we will not see God, for we draw close to God only in mutuality, equality, and undivided love for one another. As humans we could never give up the need for specialness on our own.  It is born in us!  It is a requirement of the ego realm.  While it is impossible for flesh beings to love the way God calls us to love, when we will with Holy Spirit, that which is impossible in the flesh becomes possible in Spirit.


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the holy relationship. V. The healed relationship 1-7. 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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