Sometimes when I look around me at the world, I feel overwhelmed or depressed. The problems seem so enormous! The degree of separation seems insurmountable. People keep on killing one another in the Middle East, in Croatia, in Ireland, and in what seems like scores of countries I've barely heard of. Even the recent controversial ending of the U.S. presidential election shows our own country to be split down the middle, almost evenly divided into two camps with differing political philosophies, and unable to reasonably and peaceably settle the disputed vote count in Florida. What can I, all by myself, possibly do that will contribute to peace and unity in a meaningful way? Won't whatever I do be as futile as trying to warm the ocean with a candle?
A Course in Miracles teaches that the world I see is a reflection of my own state of mind (T-21.In.1:2-6). If the national leaders seem unbending over some issue, if war seems inevitable, how does that reflect what is happening my own heart? My concern should not be primarily on fixing the world ("…seek not to change the world…" (T-21.In.1:7)) but on healing the thoughts in my mind that produce that kind of world. Rather than criticizing my political leaders or rejoicing when some aggressor like Sadam gets his come-uppance, let me focus my attention on ridding my own mind of the attitude of heart that brought us all our pain in the first place.
I believe that God has a plan for the healing of the entire world. It is a plan that includes ending wars, ending discrimination, ending racial and religious prejudice, ending poverty, ending hunger, ending ecological disaster, and indeed totally annihilating every conceivable form of separation and attack. I also believe that each of us has a key role to play in that divine plan. (See T-20.IV.6:1-4.) The role I have to play, however, must begin with taking care of the particular territory that has been assigned to me alone—that territory I have come to know as my own mind! The Holy Spirit will execute the overall plan just fine without my supervision—although it is essential that I carry out my particular part in that plan.
The Course teaches that each of us has a special function. That function will take whatever form it needs to take to meet our particular needs in the time and place in which we find ourselves (T-25.VII.7:1-3).
I don't need to burden myself with responsibility for peace in the Middle East. Rather, I need to take care of the "threat of war" in my own life, between my brother and me. If there have been long-standing animosities between me and another person, let me make overtures of peace. Let me offer to negotiate. Let me release my brother from the long-standing judgment that he is unworthy of love and deserving of punishment. Let the peace on earth begin with me.
God will see to the rest without my help, if I see to my own part. But God does need my own part to help Him with the rest! What can I do about the crisis in the Middle East? Make peace with that person in my life that I cannot seem to get along with. Forgive my brother. The peace of the world lies in my relationships.
Imagine for a moment that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians depended on a peaceful resolution of your most troubled relationship. Unless you do your part for peace between yourself and this one person, the world's problems will remain unsolved. Now forget that you are imagining, because this is the exact truth! The Course says "My part is essential to God's plan for salvation" (W-pI.100). That is just how important it is.
I'm not saying that if you heal this one relationship, there will be immediate peace in the Middle East. I am saying there won't be peace without it. This is the part that has been given you to do. Your thoughts are your responsibility, and only they affect you. Do not see yourself as at the mercy of world events over which you have no control. ("I am not the victim of the world I see" (W-pI.31).) Rather, see your work on your mind as having direct effect on the world. Realize the importance of what you are doing. Be a light in the world. "The light of the world brings peace to every mind through my forgiveness" (W-pI.63).
Perhaps you need to write a letter to someone, a letter you've been putting off for a long time. Perhaps you need to look up a former friend and seek some healing. Perhaps you need to take steps toward healing a relationship with a family member. All of us need to stop putting off the healing of our relationships, telling ourselves that other things are "more important" or "more urgent." Nothing is more important than this.
In the paragraph I've already referred to there is a famous line: "The ark of peace is entered two by two, yet the beginning of another world goes with them" (T-20.IV.6:5). What this is telling us is that if we do our part, it will usher in the Real World. If we tend to the healing of our special relationships, the Holy Spirit will carry that healing around the world and use it to uplift and enlighten all creation.
The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love…What hatred has released to love becomes the brightest light in Heaven's radiance. And all the lights in Heaven brighter grow, in gratitude for what has been restored. (T-26.IX.6:1, 5-6)
Every one of us has a relationship whose healing is our purpose for being here:
To each who walks this earth in seeming solitude is a savior given, whose special function here is to release him, and so to free himself. In the world of separation each is appointed separately, though they are all the same. Yet those who know that they are all the same need not salvation. And each one finds his savior when he is ready to look upon the face of Christ, and see Him sinless. (T-20.IV.5:3-6)
Of course no one is special. Of course every relationship is the same. And yet, if we really knew that, we would not need any healing. That is why special functions are assigned to each of us. That is why our purpose is to bring healing to a single relationship as representative of them all. Forgiving the person or persons closest to us, those regularly in touch with us or those we are bound to by lifelong circumstances (such as our families) is our part in God's plan of salvation. And nothing is more important than this.