“I can’t believe you’re making me do this,” I said to her with a pout. We sat outside in the sun. Early April was never predictable, particularly on the Bruce Peninsula, but we had lucked out. Sitting on the deck overlooking Lake Huron, we wore only sweaters and leggings and slippers, the last remnants of winter melting down around us.
“Hush, and just get started,” my friend reprimanded lightly. “It is going to help you move through this.”
She was having me write a letter- a letter that would later be burnt. I had been having trouble with a neighbour. We simply did not see eye to eye. No matter what I did or said, he disliked me. I had tried reaching out; I had tried backing down. I had tried offering help; I had tried giving space. And just when I think I’m following his rules, adhering to his boundaries- he changed them. The final straw, though, was when he insulted my daughter.
So my friend told me to write a letter.
“Make it long,” she said. “Don’t hold back. Tell him every little thing that’s going on in your head. Be detailed. Don’t edit. Don’t try to pretend you’re nice or that you understand-”
“Hey!” I shouted in mock defensiveness. “I am nice.”
She rolled her eyes. “The hell you are. You’re an ego, Danielle. Just like the rest of us. And we’re not going to get to your Holiness by pretending otherwise. Now write.”
Yes, she was right. The only way to let go of the darkness was to be willing to witness it and bring it to Light. Putting pen to paper, I concentrated. I pictured my neighbour before me. I tried to conjure all the times I had felt judged, misunderstood…
“You’re thinking too much,” said my friend, observing me. “Just write. Start with his name.”
Dear Victor… You are not nice. You are confusing to me. I don’t understand why you always have to make things difficult.
Good start, good start… But then, nothing more came.
“Danielle, you complained about this man for a half hour. You told me story after story. There is judgment enough in you right now to fill a kingdom. Let. It. Out.”
I gulped with guilt. “I guess I don’t like looking at my judgments. It makes me feel ashamed.”
She smiled. “Right, but you never look alone. Spirit looks with you. Egos judge. End of story. But let’s put it a different way. Think of it like this: Victor hurt you. He was unkind to your daughter, right? Defend your child. Start there.”
Immediately, my blood began to boil. I was met with an anger so raw and justified, it startled me. The page filled within minutes of sentence after sentence of hurt and blame. My body tensed, my breathing quickened. I felt….right, like the guilt was shifting into validation. I told my friend as much.
She nodded. “Yes, that’s because you’re not hiding the thoughts anymore. There’s a moment of relief,” she said taking an elastic from her wrist to tie up her long, brown hair. “The ego is like a child that needs to feel heard in order to be made docile. Honour your feelings, but don’t hold fast to them. Feelings aren’t facts. They’re simply based on beliefs you have- and, I might add, these beliefs are making you miserable.”
Grabbing the letter from my hands, she held it over a small, tin trash can and said a prayer:
“Take this from me and look upon it, judging it for me.
Let me not see it as a sign of sin and death
Nor use it for destruction.
Teach me how not to make of it an obstacle to peace,
But let You use it for me to facilitate its coming.”*
These words from A Course in Miracles always calmed and humbled me. Danielle may always judge and want to blame others, but Who I Am in Truth is only capable of Love.
She pulled a pink lighter from her sweater pocket and set the letter on fire. Watching my angry words turn to ash, I recalled a verse from the Course:
“All anger is nothing more than an attempt to make someone feel guilty, and this attempt is the only basis the ego accepts for special relationships. Guilt is the only need the ego has, and as long as you identify with it, guilt will remain attractive to you.” (ACIM Text, Ch. 15)
There was no way I was going to see Victor as the perfect soul he truly is on my own. There was no way I was going to be able to look past his actions to see his innate beauty and grace. No, to see the Truth in Victor, I had to be willing to admit my anger and give it away. I had to ask for a miracle.
My friend stared into the tiny fire. “Victor is so awesome for you, Danielle. He shows you your darkness. Without him, you would go through your life playing the victim. But because of him, you get to look at allllll these judgments, allllll this crap and use it to work miracles. He brings you closer to God. He reminds you that you never left.”
I knew she was right- both because of hearing it countless times and of experiencing it. My body felt softer, looser. My breathing slowed down and my eyes gleamed with unshed tears of relief. In that moment, I saw the real Victor: the soul, the brother, the extension of God he truly is. I felt a loving presence come up and through me, surrounding me with the most incredible sense of comfort. If this Presence had had a voice it would have said: All is well. You were never guilty. You have never sinned. Your brother brings you Home with a smile that alights a world that never was. You are safe and you are loved.
Standing up, my friend stretched her arms above her. “Beer?” she asked.
“Yes, please,” I replied.
* (ACIM Text, Ch. 19)