Okay, so the ego’s plan opposes God’s, and Jesus says we believe in it. So let’s read on and see what the ego’s plan is, and see if we do believe it
The first thing we perhaps notice is that we relate to this idea that our plan for salvation is for things other than ourselves to change, so we can be saved. Who couldn’t relate to that? It’s how people basically live.
But what does this have to do with grievances? To answer that, all we need do is look at some definitions of the word “grievance”:
- An actual or supposed circumstance regarded as just cause for complaint.
- A complaint or protestation based on such a circumstance. See synonyms at “injustice.”
- Indignation or resentment stemming from a feeling of having been wronged.
So a grievance is a complaint. It says, “This thing wronged me. This is just cause for complaint. This caused me unhappiness.” It says, in other words, “If this were different, I’d be happy. I’d be saved.” So, “If this were different, I’d be saved” is basically the definition of a grievance. It is what a grievance says.
I find this astonishing. If my plan for salvation centers on things outside me changing, then my plan “centers around holding grievances.” I am constantly saying, “If only things outside me would change, I’d be saved.” Which means I am constantly saying, “These things have done me wrong.”
It’s amazing how Jesus can accurately describe what we all take for granted yet make it sound so ridiculous. It’s true what he says here: We do see our mind as having the job of deciding what out there, other than itself, has to change for us to be saved. It’s true that this hasn’t really worked. And it’s true that we keep at it because we think “there is still grounds for hope in other places and in other things.”
This all seems to us as it should be. It seems inevitable. And it seems proper. Yet that view overlooks a few obvious things that he points out here.
First, it is massively hypocritical. Everything else is supposed to change while I don’t. All I do is decide what other than me needs to change and how. And it’s all supposed to change for the sake of my happiness. Doesn’t that seem incredibly hypocritical?
Second, it is doomed. Our experience flows from the way we think about and perceive the world. Therefore, unless we change our mind, we are never going to be truly happy. Outer change simply won’t do it. If we want a change of feeling on the inside, we’ll need a change of thinking on the inside.
Third, the search has proven its fruitlessness. The results are already in. The jury came in a long time ago. But we still lie to ourselves about the supposed hope that lies just around the next corner.
In Jesus’ hands, our entire search for happiness looks patently ridiculous. It looks like the height of stupidity. Yet it guides our days and dominates our lives.
Could it be that our entire search for happiness is secretly guided by the ego, which wants to make sure that we search and search and search for happiness, without ever finding it?
This flips our usual thinking on its head. We think that our conventional way of finding happiness is the practical way, while finding happiness through God’s way seems very risky, with no promises. Here we are told that the only sure, promised way to success is God’s way.
Now, we are trying to follow both ways-the ego’s and God’s. This seems practical. This way, we are hedging our bets. Yet this too is a recipe for failure, simply because when you follow two diametrically opposed ways, you can’t really do either one. Imagine someone says to you, “Here is the way to inner peace: you just love and refuse to defend yourself.” And then “Here is the way to inner peace: you aggressively assert yourself and dominate others.” And then he says, “Now follow them both.”
The first five paragraphs put us in a position to understand what he says here: “Only God’s plan for salvation will work. There can be no real conflict about this, because there is no possible alternative to God’s plan that will save you. His is the only plan that is certain in its outcome. His is the only plan that must succeed.” Let’s do our best to take this in and accept how reasonable it is.
Now we are asked to go further than merely accepting that only God’s plan will work. We are asked to rejoice in it. Shouldn’t we be glad that we finally have an answer, a real answer, that we finally have a plan that not only can work, but can’t fail?
The first part is another exercise in “thinking about” the idea. Specifically, we are asked to reflect on the two parts of the idea:
Part one: God’s plan will work. According to recent lessons, God’s plan involves contacting the light within and letting go of grievances, both of which mean changing your mind.
Part two: Other plans won’t work. This lesson tells us that the ego’s plan involves seeking outside yourself for happiness, holding grievances when the outside doesn’t cooperate, and refusing to change your mind. Try to reach the conclusion, based on logic and your experience, that only God’s plan holds any hope of delivering actual happiness.
This second part is the Workbook’s first exercise in asking for guidance. Ask God (we are actually asking God, not the Holy Spirit) to reveal His plan for you for today; not His plan for your life, but His plan for your day.
Once you ask, listen for the subtlest inner promptings-it doesn’t need to come in words. If you don’t hear anything, you might want to repeat the questions, making them more specific: “What would You have me do today?” or “Where would You have me go after lunch?”
We will get more instruction in listening to the Holy Spirit in coming lessons.
Jesus speaks to our doubts that we will hear. Based on his remarks, we can tell ourselves, “I am doing the exercises, I have a right to hear an answer. I refuse not to hear.” This reminds me of the guidance that Helen got for Bill the day the Course started coming through. Jesus said Bill needed to be more confident that guidance will get through. He said, “He never just claims his rights.”
By the way, the assumption in these questions I am asking (“What would You have me say?”) is that I am serving, I am giving. In other words, “What would You have me do on Your behalf? Where would You have me go on Your behalf? What would You have me say to so-and-so on your behalf?”
Now we can appreciate both plans more fully:
I refuse to change on the inside.
Instead, I simply pressure the outside to change with my complaints,
so that I can get from it.
I change my mind on the inside.
I let go of my grievances.
And now my question in relation to the outside is “How can I give?”
Frequent Reminders: six or seven times an hour. Notice all the focus on frequency in these lessons. Are we blowing this off? The reason we do this is for the benefits. It’s for our happiness.
Response to Temptation: Let’s do this now. Think of a grievance and say these lines.
Purpose: to truly recognize that only God’s plan will work and to rejoice in this, for it means escape from the hopelessness of the ego’s plan and from the pointlessness of trying to follow both plans at once.
Longer: 2 times, for 10-15 minutes
The first part is another exercise in thinking about the idea. Specifically, reflect on the two parts of the idea. Part one: God’s plan will work. According to recent lessons, God’s plan involves contacting the light within and letting go of grievances, both of which mean changing your mind. Part two: other plans won’t work. This lesson tells us that the ego’s plan involves seeking outside yourself for happiness, holding grievances when the outside doesn’t cooperate, and refusing to change your mind. Try to reach the conclusion, based on logic and your experience, that only God’s plan holds any hope of delivering actual happiness.
The second part is the Workbook’s first exercise in asking for guidance. Ask God to reveal His plan for you for today. Ask, “What would You have me do? Where would You have me go? What would You have me say, and to whom?” The willingness you are demonstrating just by doing this entitles you to an answer, so listen with confidence. “Refuse not to hear” (9:8). Once you ask, listen for the subtlest inner promptings-it doesn’t need to come in words. If you don’t hear anything, you might want to repeat the questions, making them more specific: “What would You have me do today?” or “Where would You have me go after lunch?”
Frequent reminders: 6 or 7 per hour, for half a minute or less
Repeat the idea as an affirmation of where your salvation really comes from.
Response to temptation: whenever you are tempted to hold a grievance
Be alert all day to grievances. Respond to each one by saying, “Holding grievances is the opposite of God’s plan for salvation. And only His plan will work.”