How can a relationship be holy when one person remains in an attack mode?

Q. You claim that when Helen and Bill agreed to join in “another way,” their relationship was made holy. But how do we reconcile that with the fact that Helen remained resentful that Bill moved to California? As you point out, it takes two, and clearly Helen was not playing. Does the relationship remain holy despite one of the people pulling out, i.e., remaining in an attack mode? Or is part of the relationship holy and part unholy?

A. In the Course, a relationship is made holy when two people join in a common goal. The result of this joining is not that the relationship now embodies holiness on a conscious level. Rather, the joining invites holiness to enter the relationship at an unconscious level. From there, it slowly rises up, and as it does, it replaces the ego-patterns that have dominated the relationship. Only then is the relationship holy on the conscious level.

This process of the holiness rising up, encountering obstacles, and eventually surmounting those obstacles and taking full possession of the relationship, is the main theme of “The Obstacles to Peace,” the longest and arguably the most important section in the Text. In that section, the word “peace” is used instead of “holiness,” but the idea is exactly the same: “The peace He lay, deep within you and your brother, will quietly extend to every aspect of your life, surrounding you and your brother with glowing happiness and the calm awareness of complete protection” (T-19.IV.1:6). “Yet the peace that already lies deeply within must first expand, and flow across the obstacles you placed before it” (T-19.IV.2:2).

In this process, the obstacles may seem to have their way for a long time. They don’t just up and run away at the first sight of the light. Rather, they dig in and hunker down. That is why the beginning phase, after the initial joining, is called “the period of discomfort” (T-20.VII.2:1). And that “beginning” phase may last a long time.

Therefore, it’s to be expected that there will be a lot of ego-patterns that remain and are quite active in the relationship. It doesn’t mean the relationship is not holy. And it doesn’t mean that holiness won’t have the last word.

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