This lesson is trying to solve what it considers a big problem: giving our "kindness and forgiveness" (1:2) to another, but then withdrawing those gifts when the other person is not sufficiently grateful.
Let's face it, this is a genuine part of life, and perhaps more significant and pervasive than we think. We can probably remember withdrawing our forgiveness and generosity when it wasn't received well. But we probably have no idea how many times we never gave our gift in the first place because we expected it to be received poorly. If we could get over this issue, then, we would be able to be far more giving and far more forgiving.
To solve this problem, this lesson first describes what results from giving our gifts only to withdraw them. Something in our mind reads that as petty and mean. As a result, we imagine God up there looking down on us and thinking, "How petty and mean-spirited can you get? This person clearly needs a little God-style justice. Just as they withdrew their gifts from their brothers, so I will withdraw My gifts from them. That'll show them."
Of course, none of this is true. It's all an illusion conjured by our thoughts. Because of these thoughts, everywhere we look we see either gifts being withdrawn from us by some unseen hand or we see the possibility of that withdrawal occurring at any moment. And thus we live in fear, never suspecting that our own thoughts have magically produced the illusion of "outside force pitted against your own" (1:1).
Now that we have (hopefully) been motivated to handle lack of gratitude from others differently, the lesson sets out to show us how to do that. The gist of this is realizing that we can and do actually receive the gratitude we crave, from three sources.
First, we can give ourselves this gratitude, and we ought to. After all, when we give a gift to a brother, we are also giving a gift to ourselves. "It is you who honor them and give them fitting thanks, for it is you who have received the gifts" (3:5).
This is really quite a brilliant and practical solution. He's not saying we don't need the gratitude. He's assuming that we do, but we can rightfully give it to ourselves. We can give ourselves our needed gratitude fix. "Your gratitude is all your gifts require, that they be a lasting offering of a thankful heart, released from hell forever" (3:3).
Since this is the focus of the idea for the day, it's important that we take this seriously. Think of a gift you gave that was not well received. Then think, "Hold on—I benefited from my gift as well. Therefore, I can be grateful for it, too. I am going to be thankful for my gift right now. I'm going to feel that gratitude right now, and let it relieve the pressure I feel to receive gratitude from someone else."
The second source of the gratitude we need is the (ungrateful) recipient of our gift. For the fact is that, despite this person's conscious lack of gratitude, on another level there is an entirely different story:
It does not matter if another thinks your gifts unworthy. In his mind there is a part that joins with yours in thanking you. It does not matter if your gifts seem lost and ineffectual. They are received where they are given. (4:1-4)
To make this practical, we have to imagine that it's for real. We have to make real to ourselves something our eyes can't see, but which we believe is really going on on a deeper level. So take a moment and imagine that someone who received a genuine gift of your ungratefully really was, on an unconscious level, joining with you in thanking you. And let that thanks fill your heart, so that you don't need the external gratitude.
The third source of gratitude is God:
In your gratitude are they accepted universally, and thankfully acknowledged by the Heart of God Himself. And would you take them back, when He has gratefully accepted them? (4:5-6)
Again, we have to imagine this being for real. Imagine giving a gift to a brother. Then imagine hearing God Himself say to you, "I gratefully accept your gift, and My Own Heart thankfully acknowledges it." Can you imagine taking this gift back, even if you noticed that your brother was not particularly grateful?
Now put all this together: You thank yourself. The other person, on a deeper level of mind, thanks you. And God Himself thanks you. At this point, where is the need to take the gift back?
After laying out these three sources of gratitude, the lesson reminds us once again of the costs of withdrawing our gifts due to lack of gratitude. Not only do we imagine God withdrawing His gifts to us as punishment for our withdrawal of gifts, we even imagine it extending all the way to Him withdrawing the gift of existence. It's as if we imagine Him saying, "I'll eventually even take away the gift of life itself. Maybe when they die, then, they'll finally understand the sinfulness of withdrawing their gifts."
So let's see, we can live in fear of God withdrawing His gifts as punishment for us withdrawing ours, or we can accept a river of gratitude from ourselves, from the other person's unconscious, and from God, and thus feel no need to withdraw the gift. Is this a hard choice?
Finally, the lesson lifts off from the earthly subject of specific gifts of forgiveness and kindness, and moves into the heavens. Its final three paragraphs lay out a soaring vision of God and Christ thanking us, not for anything we do, but for what we are. And then we, having received this eternal, unchanging gratitude, give it out to all our brothers, again, simply in thanks for what they are, for completing our very Self.
Can we imagine a more sublime or more practical vision of gratitude than we find in this lesson?
Purpose: to realize the truth of today's idea, to realize that you don't need visible gratitude from others, that your own gratitude for your gifts is sufficient.
Morning/evening quiet time: at least 5 minutes; ideally, 30 or more
Once again there are no specific instructions. The focus of the lesson is on being grateful for the gifts that you give others, especially the gift of forgiveness. Often, says the lesson, you will withdraw your gift of love and forgiveness unless it is received with "external gratitude and lavish thanks" (1:3). When you are tempted to withdraw your love, you should realize that "your gratitude is all your gifts require" (3:3). You have the right to be grateful, for your gifts are given to you. Also, remind yourself that somewhere deep in your brother's mind, he is thanking you. And realize that God Himself has received your gift and thankfully acknowledges it. So instead of taking it back, be grateful to this brother of yours. Be grateful for what he is, for the fact that, as part of your Self, he makes your Self complete.
How do you turn these ideas into a practice period? One possibility is to search your mind for times when you felt that another didn't show enough gratitude to you. With each case, repeat the idea, realizing that your own gratitude is all your gift requires, and that by snatching your gift away, you snatch it away from yourself. Then replace your ingratitude with gratitude toward yourself and toward your brother, for being part of your Self.
After spending time practicing gratitude in this way, you may want to spend the rest of the practice period in meditation.
Hourly remembrance: 1 or 2 minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit)
Search your mind for the happenings of the previous hour that are still burdening your mind. With each one, let it go by repeating the idea. Realize that you can give that situation the gift of love right now, and that the only gratitude you need in return is your own.
Response to temptation: (suggestion) whenever you feel incensed because another is not sufficiently grateful to you
Repeat the idea, realizing that your gifts were received by you, and that the only gratitude you require is your own.