How does one go about loving everyone? In most cases it seems as if we must force ourselves somehow to express this love. We need to repress all the anger and fear and guilt we feel toward others, and then turn love on when the occasion arises. It’s a small wonder that people have to work so hard at this. We tend to view the ones who really seem able to completely express this selfless love as saints or great people, not like us ordinary people who must struggle with it.
Love thy neighbor as thyself. (Bible, Leviticus 19:18)
A miracle is a service… It is a way of loving your neighbor as yourself. (T-1.I.18)
The original ‘Love thy neighbor’ quote comes from the Old Testament of the Bible, which means it is part of the foundation of all Western religions. Most Christians know the phrase from Jesus’ comments in the New Testament, but both this phrase and the Golden Rule – ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – predate Jesus’ time by many centuries.
Different forms of these phrases also appear in many of the Eastern philosophies. The ‘Love thy neighbor’ phrase is more of a passive state, while the Golden Rule is intended to guide active behavior. In both cases the focus is on the neighbor, meaning essentially everyone you interact with in your life. It seems this act of loving everyone is, along with one’s relationship with God, a key tenet of most religious thought.
The Point of View of the Course
This idea of loving your neighbor is a central theme in the Course as well, but the understanding of why it’s so hard and the process for achieving that love are very different from conventional religions. In the Course, the word ‘brother’ is used most often instead of ‘neighbor’. Brother is clearly used to mean everyone, no matter what the gender or age of the person. This relationship with our brothers in this world is key to all the teachings of the Course.
No one who condemns a brother can see himself as guiltless and in the peace of God. (T-13.X.11)
In the mad world outside you nothing can be shared… Within yourself you love your brother with a perfect love. Here is holy ground,… where only the truth in your brother can abide. (T-18.I.9)
So why is it so hard to express this love even when we know we should. It starts, as always, with the idea of separation and the resulting ego-dominated world we believe we live in. We have seen how all the pain and fear and guilt in this world is the result of the ego telling us we are separate from everyone else, a lone individual who must build up internal and external defenses to keep the dangers of the world at bay.
Some of the dangers we see are from our brothers, who we believe on occasion have the intent to harm us, whether this is some stranger out to attack us, or someone close to us who hurts us emotionally. It seems obvious there are people we must avoid and others we must defend ourselves against. As long as we listen to the ego, we will focus on the external dangers and never realize those perceived dangers all originate in our minds.
Here for once we have an explanation for why loving everyone is so hard. It’s not because we lack some kind of will power, nor because we are fighting some kind of evil in the world or in ourselves. It’s because we are making an active choice every day to see the world the way we do. We are choosing to listen to the ego and not to the Holy Spirit as we make our decisions. The Course is very clear about this – the world you see is the world you project. If you see your brother as a danger to you, you have projected that image onto the world first and then perceived the danger.
Now the idea of trying to repress all the negative feelings we have about our brothers is shown to be completely futile. Those negative feelings are something we have made and to then turn around and try to suppress them is absurd. We will never be able to love another if we do not address all the negative feelings within and the ones we perceive in the world. One can never force love to happen. Love is there waiting once we let go of our ego-driven thoughts.
Fortunately for us, the Course takes it to the next step and offers us a clear path for removing these negative, non-loving thoughts from our minds. It is through the practice of forgiveness that we can let these non-loving thoughts go, seeing them for the illusions they are. Each act of forgiveness makes loving that much easier.
Make way for love, which you did not create, but which you can extend. On earth this means forgive your brother, that the darkness may be lifted from your mind. (T-29.III.4)
In the Course, we have another advantage, the help of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to do this all alone. We don’t have to figure out how we can express more love. By getting in touch with the Holy Spirit within, we will be guided as we forgive the illusions we believed our brother had committed against us. With this help, we will no longer have to try to repress our negative feelings. Instead we can look all these non-loving thoughts squarely in the eye, and through forgiving every one of them, we can let the love that is our natural state come through.
To forgive is to overlook. Look, then, beyond error and do not let your perception rest upon it, for you will believe what your perception holds. Accept as true only what your brother is, if you would know yourself... Remember always that your Identity is shared, and that Its sharing is Its reality. (T-9.IV.1)
It is this shared Identity, knowing your brother is like you, observing what is the same about you rather than what is different, that will ultimately lead you to the discovery of the love and peace within you. Through the practice of forgiveness, we begin to see all those we walk beside in this world as just like us and not as a threat in any way. It is possible to live in this world knowing that you and everyone else are safe and loved.
What It Would Be Like
As we proceed on our path of forgiveness, we can in time begin to experience continual forgiveness, where every non-loving thought that arises is instantly forgiven. When this occurs, we will no longer be in a battle with the ego, but will always be in touch with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit expresses only love and when we keep the connection with the Holy Spirit in the center of our thoughts, we too can express only love.
And along with this comes the state of peace the Course promises us is our due. When you know that through forgiveness, nothing can disturb the love and peace in your mind, when you hold your communication with the Holy Spirit as central in your mind, and when you see your brother as one with yourself, you will lead a life of True Peace, miles and eons away from the ego-influenced life you so long endured.
We can now see it is how we think about our life, how we think about our brother, that ultimately determines our experience. It is our thought processes that lead us to choose between the ego’s view of the world and the Holy Spirit’s view. So now perhaps we can replace the ‘Love thy neighbor’ phrase with this phrase,
Respond to everything with love.
For it is how we respond to the events in our lives that determines whether we are expressing the ego’s view or forgiveness. If we can realize in real-time our response to a situation, and can instantly replace any negative thoughts or feelings with love, we have defeated the ego in its drive to convince us we are unhappy. If we can instantly forgive every non-loving thought with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will replace that thought with love.
In the real world there is no sickness, for there is no separation and no division. Only loving thoughts are recognized, and because no one is without your help, the Help of God goes with you everywhere. As you become willing to accept this Help by asking for It, you will give It because you want It… Ask, then, to learn of the reality of your brother, because this is what you will perceive in him, and you will see your beauty reflected in his. (T-11.VIII.10)