Back in the day when I was a political junkie I’d occasionally read an editorial or an opinion in the newspaper that would get me so fired up I’d dash off a letter to the editor in response. But before sending the letter I would go back and re-read the original offending article to be sure my response was as sharp as possible. And many times, much to my embarrassment, I found that the original article was not offensive at all. Sometimes it was even on my side and my response said the same thing it did. After expending my emotional response the original article would read completely different from the way I originally read it. Fortunately, because I didn’t send the letters before re-reading the original articles, my embarrassment was limited to myself.
After this happened a few times I finally caught on: My emotional response to something early in the article blinded me to the rest of the article. In my expectation that I would be attacked I read attack. I was experiencing how the ego always speaks first. It not only speaks first but its response is always emotional and defensive. I learned to step away when I read something that evoked an emotional response in me. I’d let my own response run its course and then go back and re-read the article later. Needless to say after a while I wrote far fewer letters to the editor.
This lesson came in handy as a student of A Course in Miracles. Much of ACIM seemed loving to me, but there was also much that I felt condemned me, too. I was reading through the filter of the guilt in my own mind. I would have fearful and sometimes angry responses that closed my mind and blinded me to what followed. I was defensive because I expected to be attacked and condemned. This is why later I’d read something in ACIM that would release me from guilt and fear and I’d feel like I never read it before. Each time I read ACIM it was a new book! As layers of guilt and fear peeled away ACIM became more charge-neutral (matter-of-fact) and more loving. I began to read its parts through its whole message rather than as isolated, unconnected concepts.
It took another long while but eventually I learned to extend this lesson beyond my emotional responses to what I read. I learned to take a moment when I had an emotional response to something I heard from another, whether in person or on the radio or TV. I was always amazed by how much I didn’t hear once my emotions were engaged. I had nothing to lose but embarrassment by taking a moment to let the emotions and defensiveness pass before responding.
My emotional responses were very revealing. They taught me that I expected to be attacked and condemned because I felt guilty. The specific form of what upset me showed me the specific form that guilt took in my mind so that I could undo it. I was never grateful for the upset. But I learned to be grateful for the opportunity to see what was going on in my own mind.
Learn about the books The ACIM Mentor Articles, The Plain Language A Course in Miracles, 4 Habits for Inner Peace, and Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace at www.acimmentor.com.