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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship

VI. Setting the Goal

1. The practical application of the Holy Spirit’s purpose is extremely simple, but it is unequivocal. In fact, in order to be simple it must be unequivocal. The simple is merely what is easily understood, and for this it is apparent that it must be clear. The setting of the Holy Spirit’s goal is general. Now He will work with you to make it specific, for application is specific. There are certain very specific guidelines He provides for any situation but remember that you do not yet realize their universal application.  Therefore, it is essential at this point to use them in each situation separately, until you can more safely look beyond each situation, in an understanding far broader than you now possess.

2. In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is “What do I want to come of this? What is it for?”  The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning, for it is this which will determine the outcome. In the ego’s procedure this is reversed. The situation becomes the determiner of the outcome, which can be anything. The reason for this disorganized approach is evident. The ego does not know what it wants to come of the situation. It is aware of what it does not want, but only that.  It has no positive goal at all.

3. Without a clear-cut, positive goal, set at the outset, the situation just seems to happen, and makes no sense until it has already happened. Then you look back at it and try to piece together what it must have meant. And you will be wrong. Not only is your judgment in the past, but you have no idea what should happen. No goal was set with which to bring the means in line, and now the only judgement left to make is whether or not the ego likes it; is it acceptable, or does it call for vengeance? The absence of a criterion for outcome, set in advance, makes understanding doubtful and evaluation impossible.

4. The value of deciding in advance what you want to happen is simply that you will perceive the situation as a means to make it happen. You will therefore make every effort to overlook what interferes with the accomplishment of your objective and concentrate on everything that helps you meet it. It is quite noticeable that this approach has brought you closer to the Holy Spirit’s sorting out of truth and falsity. The true becomes what can be used to meet the goal. The false becomes the useless from this point of view. The situation now has meaning, but only because the goal has made it meaningful.

5. The goal of truth has further practical advantages. If the situation is used for truth and sanity, its outcome must be peace. And this is quite apart from what the outcome is. If peace is a condition of truth and sanity, and cannot be without them, where peace is, they must be. Truth comes of itself. If you experienced peace, it is because the truth has come to you and you will see the outcome truly, for deception cannot prevail against you. You will recognize the outcome because you are at peace. Here again you will see the opposite of the ego’s way of looking, for the ego believes the situation brings the experience. The Holy Spirit knows that the situation is as the goal determines it and is experienced according to the goal.

6. The goal of truth requires faith. Faith is implicit in the acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s purpose, and this faith is all-inclusive. Where the goal of truth is set, there faith must be. The Holy Spirit sees the situation as a whole.  The goal establishes the fact that everyone involved in it will play his part in its accomplishment. This is inevitable. No one will fail in anything. This seems to ask for faith beyond you, and beyond what you can give. Yet this is so only from the viewpoint of the ego, for the ego believes in “solving” conflict through fragmentation and does not perceive the situation as a whole.  Therefore, it seeks to split off segments of the situation and deal with them separately, for it has faith in separation and not in wholeness.

7. Confronted with any aspect of the situation that seems to be difficult, the ego will attempt to take this aspect elsewhere, and resolve it there. And it will seem to be successful, except that this attempt conflicts with unity, and must obscure the goal of truth. And peace will not be experienced except in fantasy. Truth has not come because faith has been denied, being withheld from where it rightfully belonged. Thus do you lose the understanding of the situation the goal of truth would bring. For fantasy solutions bring but the illusion of experience, and the illusion of peace is not the condition in which truth can enter. [1]

The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to heal the One Relationship in order to heal all our relationships.  As simple as this may sound, and as sensible, our egos balk at the idea of holiness; our egos shriek at the idea of not being special.  For if I am not special to you, how can I depend upon you when I need your help, when I need your hand, when I need a ride, when I need a shoulder upon which to lean.  If I am not special to you, you won’t care about me, you will not come see me, you won’t take time out of your busy day to give me what I need from you to make me happy.   If I am not special then what am I to you?  If I am not special I will be last on your list.  I might have God on my side, but what does that mean if I can’t have you?

To this resistance we must take a stand in faith.  We must ask ourselves if all this neediness is from the flesh perception or the Spirit?  Do we want to obligate others to us through our special relationships or do we want to set them free?   Do cliquey relationships which provide us with the picture of fun and companionship at the expense of keeping others out, catering to each others’ ego, telling lies and practicing dishonesty really fulfill us?  Do we really want friends who get jealous when we spend time with other people, who question our need for solitude, who grow sulky and pout when we no longer promote their ego?  Do we really want to be married to someone who watches us like a guard dog in case we make gestures of friendship toward potential romantic rivals, who dare to find other people physically or spiritually attractive, who tell lies and practice deceit in order to soothe our egos and keep the semblance of peace?  Instead of letting the ego’s resistance to holy relationships swirl around making all kinds of fantasies in our head about the reasons we should stick to specialness, let us settle our minds and ask ourselves these questions.    

To heal special relationships is simple, Jesus assures us.  In every situation determine ahead of time – What do I want to come of this relationship, this activity, this project?  What is it for?  Ask yourself, why you are married, why you live where you live, why you do what you do.  Ask yourself why you are reading that particular book, why you are reading this blog, why you are watching a particular Netflix series.  Why do you work?  Why do you do have this particular friend?  And what is it all for? 

To clarify why we do things, who we engage with, what our goal is in any relationship or endeavor belongs at the beginning of holiness. While the ego allows every situation to determine its own outcome, this careless, chaotic approach leads to melodrama, confusion, and disruption.  However the ego can be no other way because the ego does not know what it wants, only what it does not want.  The ego has no idea what anything is for because the ego has no meaning and no ultimate purpose.  The ego is a construct of time, and its only aim is to continue existing in time, not living, for living is not seeing and doing, living is Being and being is of everlasting Spirit.

Special relationships need healing because they fail us as all flesh must fail.  Do we want it healed or do we want to keep complaining about it?  Failing to see the truth in it, we are often far to happy to mortgage ourselves to it in bitterness and self-pity or discard it, to move on, to try to find specialness with someone else.  

By the grace of holiness, we recognize our need of healing; we ask for holiness.  If we want our relationship to be holy, we must want the will of God for it.  And what is God’s Will?  He wants us to be happy.  And what do want to be happy for?  Because happiness sustains us.  Happiness fills our minds and hearts with a foretaste of eternity.  Happiness elevates us, giving us a continual wellspring of meaning and purpose.  Not found in sacrifice, duties and obligations, rules and regulations, happiness is found only by accepting God’s Will for our relationships. 

When we make happiness our goal, we put our faith in each other to make a means to reach our goal.  I listen to you when you speak of what makes you happy; you listen to me when I speak of what makes me happy.  We do not grill each other, accuse each other, dream up scenarios of hatred and strife toward the other.  “Have fun,” we say to each other and wave goodbye.  “Good to see you!” we say with eyes alit with joy and open arms of warmth and welcome.  We can only experience this freedom and liberty when we trust in Love, for when we trust in Love we are trusting in God and in His Will of happiness for us.   Not selfishly doting and gloating on each other, not bragging and boasting about how special we are, not using our relationship for vengeance upon our past – our happiness is in the happiness that comes from God.  It can be trusted. For God’s happiness extends itself.  Time does not weaken it, but rather serves it.

Time does not serve special relationships.  Over time, special relationships become stifling, boring, lopsided.  Special relationships gather grievances, lies, and duplicity.  The giddy highs and extreme lows that characterize specialness, wear and tear it to shreds.  Insane relationships are joyless and leech joy from all they touch.  On a positive note, they teach us the unreality of flesh and ego; on a negative note they can entrap us through lifetimes of vengeance, spite, and ongoing irresolution. 

In paragraph three Jesus tells us that our special relationships begin on “fate,” the fact that they happen gives it the only sense it has.  We just fell for each other, we’ll say.  Only in retrospect will we look back and try to piece together what it could have really meant.  Because we are reading the past, which is gone – we will be dealing in fiction. 

Because no positive goal was set, no holiness was established, the means to make the relationship happy, fruitful, and an extension of God’s Will for it got lost in the ego’s version of the special relationship.  When fate brings us together, we are helpless in our desire for one another.  The clouds parted and the sun came through and shone down upon her, and I knew she was the woman of my dreams.  Who has time to ask what we want to come from this encounter?  Who wants to take the time to think upon what it is for!  The special relationship is framed with rubies of blood and diamonds of tears, and we are deceived by the gaudy frame; we do not look at the mean little picture.  And a mean little picture it becomes.  Bloody, sweaty, and tearful – special relationships become a sentence in which our egos will either settle for or seek vengeance upon.  Because we got swept off our feet by the relationship, we failed to make holiness its goal.  We thought we found the answer to all our longings in this one particular person, this one particular relationship.  In our unhappiness and disappointment, we cannot truly evaluate if the relationship is worth saving.  There is a cost attached – whether we discard it or we stick it out.    

Deciding in advance to go with God’s Will for the relationship gives us a positive goal and the guide in which we then make choices that advance happiness.  If the way you floss your teeth in the car and flick that gunk everywhere makes me want to puke, I need to trust in your willingness to keep me happy and ask you not to do that anymore.  If the way I put the toilet paper roll on annoys the crap out of you, you must tell me how much it means to your happiness that I do it your way.  Because our mutual goal for our relationship is happiness, we will be happy to stop doing or start doing what brings more happiness into the relationship.  While these seem like trivial matters, let them stand for all the instances in relationships that arise that give us opportunities to be honest, to communicate our wants and needs, and give each other ways to express our love and devotion to our original goal.

Happiness depends on you not making me guess what ticks you off!  Happiness depends on us communicating with honest, sensible, actionable requests, not hostile demands and impossible obligations.  Happiness depends upon me accepting that I am not here to meet all of your needs nor are you here to meet all of mine.  We have a Sonship of which we are part – not with sulky demands or unwilling presence, but in thoughtful, meaningful focus on which attitudes, actions, and habits need replaced with ones which make us happy, whole, and honest.  The contemplative approach of holiness enhances our ability to communicate.  The better we communicate the more oneness and wholeness we establish not just with one another but with all we touch.    

Dedicated to truth and sanity, the outcome of the holy relationship is peace. In peace we find truth and in truth deception can no longer deceive us.  We do not have to worry about what could come between us.  Worry and fear, like obligation and demands are not part of our happiness.  Unlike the ego’s way of letting each situation determine its response, holiness knows that all situations are resolved by the goal of happiness.  We will deal with every situation with the best response toward our mutual happiness.  The roof leaks?  Let’s do what will make us happy.  We won’t waste time cursing and blaming, fuming and fussing.  We will only be happy if we fix the leak.  So let’s do that.   We won’t waste time in attack and defense.  For if I have put down my habit of blaming you for the things that go wrong with the house just as you no longer take responsibility for things that goes wrong, our happiness is not marred by circumstances.   

In paragraph six, Jesus speaks of the role of faith in our goal for holy relationships. Faith is Spirit.  Because faith is Spirit it includes all.   Faith is beyond the ego, it is beyond the laws of this world, it is beyond the vows of matrimony and the promises we make to one another in the flesh.  Ego’s aim for special relationships is to frame it with all that would obstruct the light, the love, the joy from entering in.  Our faith in God’s Will for our relationship overrides the ego’s neediness and fear that characterizes all of its interactions.  

When our relationship seem to fail us, when my husband seems to be paying way too much attention to another woman, when my nephew does not invite me to his wedding, when my son has not called me for a month of Sundays – the ego would fill me with fear, with insecurity, with doubts about my worth.  Because the ego sees each situation as separate from the whole, my goal for healing of all my relationships would be determined by each separate incidence that comes along.  However when I make my goal in advance, faith comes to give me the whole picture.  Separate incidences do not determine our happiness or our holiness for we have established the goal and we will be happy. 

Every time the ego would step in to steal our joy, to crush our hopes, to defeat our purpose is an opportunity to go beyond it, to see that which would hurt my ego is what helps me to lay it down.  Remember Jesus tells us in section IV of this section that what would bring the ego sorrow is what brings joy to the Sonship.  For if my holiness, my happiness, my relationship with God and with you, can be determined by how much attention you give me, how many times you include me in your special events, how much control I have over you and the decisions you make – then I have made the ego holy! I am not trusting in God or in you, I am trusting in my ego to determine my happiness. 

Every situation in the flesh that seem to cause us sorrow, despair, hurt feelings, and disappointments in others, can all boil down to bringing specialness into our relationship, not being clear about our goals for the relationship, and not believing in our right to be happy. 

Jesus speaks of how we try to resolve the things we do not like in our relationships by using the ego technique of separating it from the whole and taking it somewhere else to resolves.   When things happen in our relationship, holiness compels me to correct it as its source.  I am not to run to my friend and blab about all your shortcomings.  While it may make me feel a little better to have a safe vent for all the pressure that your failings to make me happy and keep me happy has put upon me, this will be the ego’s substitute for peace. You will not be helped by my going to somebody else and complaining about your terrible manners.  I will not be helped, for when I denied you the truth, I did not tell you what would make me happy, I gave up on our mutual happiness and denied my faith in you to keep happiness our goal.  I have brought dishonesty into our relationship and happiness cannot thrive in it anymore. 

I will continue to think that you failed me by exhibiting bad manners, but I have failed you.  Because I did not trust myself to be able to speak to you about my problem with your manners, you are none the wiser.  You will continue with behaviors which will cause other people to sneer at and deride you, which will hinder both your human strivings and your spiritual strivings.  I denied you and me our mutual happiness by separating out a certain aspect of the whole of our relationship and tried to resolve it in a dishonest way.  And because I denied this to you, I will have a sense of sacrifice and a sense of superiority toward you, neither of which meet the condition of holiness.  I will have not taught learned truth with you because I have not been truthful. In my lack of faith, in my timidity, in choosing not to address it with you but rather to take it elsewhere – I have made the ego holy. 

Holiness heals but it is not magic.  Holiness is simply welcoming the higher Mind, the happiness of God into our relationships.  When we seek God’s Will for our lives, we recognize that true happiness is His Will for our relationships, for we, His Sons are whole and complete only in Him and each other. 

In your personal devotional practice today, read over this section.  Set the goal of holiness for every relationship in your life.  Ask Holy Spirit to show you how to apply these directives to every special relationship in your life. If being direct and honest about certain things fills you with fear, practice using the holy instant to address these issues in your relationships by bringing them to you in Spirit.  Take the time it requires.  Practice speaking truthfully with no fear, no apology, no explanation.  Likewise, express your goal of holiness with those who may have passed from this realm for happiness and holiness is not constrained by death.  Above all, establish the One Relationship with the Father of all relationships in your mind and heart now and forever, for without the One Relationship we can have no real relationship at all. 


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the holy relationship. V. Setting the goal. 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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