Commentary on Lesson 281: I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts.

by Robert Perry

When you read the lesson title, you think this lesson is going to be about how nothing outside us can hurt us. External happenings can't hurt us; only our thoughts hurt us. And it is about that, but that's not where its main emphasis is.

The lesson opens by saying that, since God created me "perfect," I cannot actually be hurt. "Perfect" not only means "without faults"; it also means "complete and whole." And if our true nature is complete and whole, then it is also beyond damage, beyond hurt. Therefore, experiencing myself as hurt can only mean "I have forgotten who I am" (1:2). In my real nature, I am incapable of being hurt or knowing hurt. That's just not what I am.

So the lesson starts with the being I received from God, which is beyond hurt. From there, it moves to the Thoughts I receive from God, which are also beyond hurt. Therefore, if I am experiencing hurt, what is happening is that I am thinking my little thoughts and letting them obscure God's Thoughts. If I could really let God's Thoughts in, I wouldn't be thinking "premarital sex will get you sent to hell." Rather, I would be thinking, "I love everyone so much I almost can't bear it," which, of course, is an incredibly happy thought.

In applying this lesson, I have found it helpful to see its three main entities (external happenings, my thoughts, God's Thoughts) in a particular relationship. It's really very simple. First, something happens outside me. Let's say someone I know ignores me in public, acts like I'm not there. That, as the idea for the day tells us, cannot hurt me, because "I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts."

Second, I interpret that event: "That person doesn't love me, and that diminishes my worth and makes me that much more alone. Further, it means the other person is guilty of callousness, and should suffer for it (at which point I will secretly gloat)." This is actually what hurts me—this interpretation, this thought. Again as the idea for the day tells us, "I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts."

Third, the solution is not to have no interpretation of the event. We are not supposed to just stay with the uninterpreted sights and sounds, the pure, unadorned sensation, as if that is the road to spiritual awakening. Rather, we are supposed to see the event through the lens of God's Thoughts. With God's Thoughts as our guide to seeing, we will interpret the event entirely differently. For example, we might think, "How could being ignored by this person hurt me? As God created my being, I can't be hurt. Further, I want to make sure this brother knows he hasn't hurt me, for somewhere inside he is carrying guilt for ignoring me, and I want him to know it's OK; he is guiltless, he is still as God created him." God's Thoughts, then, will interpret this situation in a completely happy way, which gives us yet another slant on today's idea: "I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts."

Let's go ahead and apply this now. Think of something that seems to be hurting you, and say,

This outer thing cannot hurt me.
(I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts.)
Only my thoughts about it hurt me.
(I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts.)
Let me see it through God's Thoughts, for they can only bring me joy.
(I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts.)


  1. Brenda
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Robert for the very literal interpretation and deeper clarification of yet another lesson. It seems that I am better able to go deeper with understanding for the lessons with concrete examples. Once again, I thought I “knew” perfectly what this lesson meant as I thought back on Lesson 4 – “These thoughts do not mean anything.” I can see this lesson is a deeper level to that first Lesson 4 concept, as how you described the “snowball effect” of the Course bringing us into layers of deeper understanding. Then as I read this commentary and the step by step “seeing” of a situation, I see even more clearly how I not only can I intellectualize the lesson (which I seem to remain in sometimes), but I can actually “feel” a change of state (in my mind as well as my seeming body) in how I truly look at another. The anger feelings I think are seemingly out of control within the confines of my body can actually dissipate into the nothingness they came from when my “cause” of thought changes how I interpret someone’s actions.

  2. Brenda
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Thank you again for your contributions to peace on earth in our minds!!! Once again, what I happen to come across and read (this article) is precisely what I need to exercise in my mind. Although I can intellectually get that it is only my way of thinking about an event that hurts me, I seem to get stuck with that. The article you wrote addresses the “cause and effect” thing that the Course brings up in different places. Unless the cause of my way of thinking is addressed directly by (me with the help of HS) then the effect will continue to seem problematic in its various forms. Grateful for your help and reminders of getting us on track,

  3. Cynthia Bove
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    These three ideas on how to apply the lesson to the troubles that we perceive are extremely helpful. I think that in applying them it will eventually change the ruts in the road that we have entrenched our thinking in.
    I also believe that down that particular road will lead to the fourth thought, which is that ‘I am not a body’. There is nothing that can affect me in this world because bodily thoughts and behaviors are not part of God’s Thoughts, for we are as God created us- Spirit not flesh- so all that goes on here in the world cannot affect us one whit.
    So as the ‘offense’ is perceived, we are not affected and gently laugh since we are looking in to the dream and not taking anything personally, since we now know the truth of our real Self.

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