How are you talking to children about the school shootings in Connecticut?

Parents and teachers around the country have had to make difficult judgment calls on how and whether to discuss the Connecticut school shootings with children in their care. Today’s Question: How are you talking to children about the school shootings in Connecticut?

  • GregX

    My kids are 15 and 19. They were talking to me. I’m listened. The general theme is … guns and bullets are way to easy to obtain and use. We talked about the 2nd amendment and the status of access to guns in the USA.

    They really don’t accept the idea that we allow companies to make money selling war weapons to us (citizens) .. that are used to kill other of us (citizens).

    I think Chris Rock got it about right…. guns … sure you can have guns … but bullets are gonna cost $5000 each. Funny at the time … but maybe a goal now.

    I ‘m thinking the gun and bullet manufacturers need to put up the cash for a fund to pay the families — I think about $100,000/year for every year of

    statistical life lost due to wrongful death by gun.

    If they don’t want to pay – let them figure out how to stop the problem … aren’t they the “private business” experts.

  • kevins

    My four children are grown and off the farmstead. One just had a baby girl, prettiest in the world. None own guns, but I do. We talk openly about issues of violence and safety, and we all know a great deal about mental health issues as one sib has a chronic mental illness. My wife hates the NRA, I used to be a member. We generally agree that the leadership of the NRA has been irresponsible by conflating gun safety issues with individual liberty, and may in fact undermine efforts of mindful gun owners to have a reasonable conversation about how to protect all of us from folks that should not have weapons of any kind. The NRA is of little use to any of us when it continually plays on the vague paranoia of gun owners about some governmental authority taking away their guns. Ironically, that is exactly what would need to happen to prevent shootings like the one last week, but neither the NRA nor anyone else has figured out a rational way to do it. As for children, they should be taught to be wary of guns, people with guns, bad drivers, mean teachers, hypocritial clergy, and many, many more of the pathologies in our culture, and to feel for and revere the lives of those children lost.

  • Jim G

    As for me, a retired teacher, I volunteer one morning each week reading to Kindergartners, listening to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders read, and helping the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders with their problems with arithmetic. If tomorrow I’m asked by a student about Sandy Hook Elementary, I’m going to say, “We volunteers come every week to HELP you read, and learn your numbers. Your teachers HELP you every day. Your Principal HELPS keep you safe by locking the doors. All of us will HELP you learn, and we will PROTECT you.”

    I won’t add, “With our last breath.” But I’ll think it.

  • Gary F

    I asked my son, a high schooler, if the school talked about it yesterday, and they didn’t.

    He said after the Virginia Tech shootings, his grade school went through a drill with locking the doors, and getting on the floor.

    Then he said, “dad, not much you can do when the madman’s the only guy with a gun. The Connecticut guy even blew the locked door open.”

  • JasonB

    It’s important for adults to be calm, positive, and mature around children. Do not project your own fears onto them. Kids cue in on others and can get strength or become fearful from what they perceive in adult behavior.

    Adults should also not assume what emotions a child is going through based on their own emotions. Our brains are different and innocence has a way of buffering children from harsh realities, particularly when they do not fully understand what has happened. In the case of children ignorance is bliss, they have a sort of natural resilience.

    As long they are not traumatized by something that affects them directly they should be OK.

  • GregX

    Then he said, “dad, not much you can do when the madman’s the only guy with a gun. The Connecticut guy even blew the locked door open.”

    the apparent and un-stated implication of that comment challenges credulity …

    I think 30 teachers – none of whom are certain who the predator is … may actually misidentify each other as the threat. In addition, the idea of every adult in a building full of kids conducting a live fire exchange, each with their “Assessment of the situation” only introduces more life-threatening rounds zinging around an already confusing situation.

  • Regnar James

    I instructed my boys to disregard the teacher (huddle in corner and wait to die), find a weapon (such as a table leg, flag pole, anything robust, heavy and long) plaster yourself against the wall just inside the door opening. Hide out of sight from the door window. If the Devil breaches the door attack with everything you have. Go for the head and groin. If possible retrieve whatever weapon he has and if possible hold for authorities. If he moves kill him.

    We have to fight evil, we have to be vigilant, we have to protect our most valuable things on earth… our children.

    Evil does not obey laws; you are kidding yourself if you think our politicians can pass meaningless laws that ban pieces of metal.

    Stand up and fight.


  • Pat

    GregX,,, your sense of reality is a fairy tale.

    Reality is we have always lived around unstable people. Some of them are bad,,, always has always will be.

    They will try and hurt us if we let them.

    I plan on not letting them.

  • GregX

    Pat – “Reality is we have always lived around unstable people. Some of them are bad,,, always has always will be.

    They will try and hurt us if we let them.

    I plan on not letting them.”

    There’s a.ot people who have proudly told me they own a conceal and carry – and I can assure you some of them are exactly the people I would be worried about “defending themselves” and harming countless others.

    Compounding an already deadly situation with the confusion of more “marginal agents” acting on their own presevation ideas and very likely on a complete lack if not a very bad set of facts .. is .. in my discretion .. not a very good idea. I hestitate to think what police would do when entering a school where the teachers are carrying weapons and their identity of the shooter could match any single teacher or more.

  • GregX

    GregX,,, your sense of reality is a fairy tale.

    Harsh – but predictable…..

    I respectfully disagree … my sense of reality is reality … how I choose to deal with is different than you.

    I might presume that your sense of reality is that we need more guns and that death by bullets is a freely and raional availble solution to any problematic encounter.

  • Ann

    I wonder what little children think when they hear their families talking about things like “The Hunger Games.” Can they distinguish between fact and fantasy and why people were so enthralled with a movie about kids killing kids?Also, it would be nice if children could learn to accept others in elementary school and not bully and taunt them. Judging by my experiences in elementary school, I would say that the shooter was probably bullied or taunted in elementary school because he was different..I found that the kids who valued sports were the most aggressive. They probably had other issues that contributed to their being bullies.

  • GregX

    Regnar I instructed my boys …

    OK … 1 by 1

    to disregard the teacher …

    – this attitude will become their general lack of disrespect for the teacher in nearly all situations. not so good – and a direct violation of the student teacher policies at most schools.

    find a weapon …

    unless your kids are the HULK – school furniture is generally designed to resist ripping apart. flag-poles with flags are like wiffle ball bats. time spent ripping apart furniture and hunting for weapons is time spent in the L.O.S of the predator.

    plaster yourself against the wall just inside the door opening.

    made-for-television movie posturing. Not a good idea.

    Hide out of sight from the door window.

    confusing and very likely in conflict with prior instruction.

    Asymmetric responses in these situations make it far worse for the teachers and police. Students brandishing weapons in positions of attack will likely be considered “potential assailants” to police.

    Step it back a notch & work with your school if you feel a more agressive posture is needed. Cowboying it on their own may not generate the best outcome for your kids.

  • Gary F

    “challenges credulity”

    What in my son’s comment is correct?

  • Regnar James


    My family and I are not cowards; we will fight if forced to.

    Have you ever fought for something you believe in?

    Do you have the skills to fight???? We do.

    I do know that weapons can be improvised from almost anything. A pen to the eye will work very well.

    “Cowboy” as a posed to what….”Victim”????

    I’ll take the fight to the Devil… win or die. Either way God will judge me sooner or later.

    Law enforcement’s main job is to fill out papers AFTER the event.


  • Steve the Cynic

    I’m continually amazed at the hypocrisy of nominal Christians who extol the virtue of fighting back, destroying the bad guys, and (especially) standing up to the nasty ol’ gubmint. WWJD? Well, according to the official reports as we have them in the Gospels, Jesus did no such thing. In fact, he did the opposite. He had no time for the zealots who wanted to make him their warrior king at the head of their revolution, and the gubmint he didn’t stand up to, the Roman Empire, was a lot worse than ours is. The solution to the problem of violence is not more violence.

  • Gary F

    Saw this on Facebook today.

    “I feel safer in “gun-free” zones because criminals aren’t allowed to use guns in them. That’s the way it works….right?”

    Oh, the fun of “some-e-cards” !

  • jack Goldman

    My daughter was told we were at war with Iraq. She came home sobbing that we were all going to die. It was terrorism for public school teachers to tell third graders we are at war.

    It is also terrorism to tell school kids about massacring school kids. How are school kids being told tens of thousands of children were murdered by their American mothers and fathers who are “troops” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Bosnia, Panama, Korea, and so on? Americans are an evil nation of evil people with double standards regarding murdering people.

    The crime of the shooter in Connecticut was he killed children without government approval. Israelis use Palestinian children for target practice. America subsidizes fat ass Israeli Zionists who kill children all the time, provoking 9/11.

    We need a coherent policy, not one based on double standards of exaggerating Israeli children being killed and censoring Palestinian children or exaggerating American children being killed and censoring Iraqi children being killed.

    Liberals have a double standard. Millions of people are born each day. Millions of people die each day. The wise are unmoved. The liberals try to make a game out of it called mass media to make profits.

    Where is the shame in mass media, government, and soldiers for their double standards? No one under age 16 should even know about this type of foolishness. Maybe it should not even be carried in the media at all, too sensationalized.

    Suicides are no longer reported because there were too many copy cat suicides. Maybe we should stop reporting gun deaths. There are too many copy cat killings. If it works for suicide it will work for murder. Murders should be banned on television too.

    By the way, there are 30,000 gun deaths a year, half of which are suicides. Being alone is the greatest threat to being killed by a gun. There are 40,000 car deaths. No one complains about sober drivers being the number one cause of senseless car deaths. This is just liberal anti gun bias.

    Can America live without murder and war?

  • Jim G


    My combat Marine father would head slap my brother and I if we weren’t paying attention because we might be caught unaware by some danger. The anxiety was enormous. Pay attention or whack!

    I now find myself trying to ignore my surroundings to lessen the anxiety. I’m not sure that was my father’s intention.

    Are Rangers different than Marines?

  • jockamo

    The government that Jesus would not stand up to……….

    ……….killed Him.

    And thousands of His followers.

    The solution to violence is superior firepower, superior manpower……..and being in the Right.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Just to be clear, jockamo/georges, you’re criticizing Jesus for letting himself be crucified instead of fighting back against the Roman Empire. Is that right? Or are you saying the Romans are to be admired for their military might? You’re starting to sound like those liberals you’re always ridiculing for seeming to think they’re smarter than God.

  • jockamo


    Jesus and His followers being murdered by the Government is the Perfect Example of why the People need to keep and bear arms to make sure the Government remains in the box the Constitution provides for it.

    Oh, wait……it already escaped!!!


  • Sue de Nim

    I was teaching a confirmation class a while ago, and the lesson was about the commandment, “You shall not kill.” One of the kids raised a hand to ask, “What about the killing of Osama bin Laden?” Another one said, “That was a good thing.” They were stunned when I disagreed. I tried to explain that it’s never good to kill a human being, even though it is sometimes necessary, but they had trouble getting it. When I was in confirmation more than 30 years ago, with the fresh memory of the self-inflicted national wound of the Vietman war as the backdrop, it was hard for the teacher to get any of the kids to agree that killing is ever necessary. So I have to agree, young people these days are dangerously desensitized to violence.

  • Andy

    Wow, did this “conversation” get hi-jacked or what?

    When I saw the question this morning, I wanted to respond, but it was only moments before my students were walking into my room. Now, twelve hours later, I finally have time to contribute, but….

    …not even going to waste my time addressing the actual question for fear that Mr. Regnar’s kids will throw me against the wall, grab a pointy pencil and stab my hands until I can’t type. (’cause violence ALWAYS works, right?)


  • Steve the Cynic

    Most Christians I know at least give lip service to following Jesus’ example, georges/jockamo. You seem to be saying we should learn from his mistake. Should I infer therefore that you don’t consider yourself a Christian?

  • jockamo

    “Most Christians” is not where one would go to learn the principles of Christianity.

    Indeed, I was always there to educate the WWJD crowd. I would inform them that they were NOT Jesus, and what Jesus would do was for Jesus alone, not for them. What they needed to do was order their minds to follow Rational Thought, if they were able, as Rational Thought was God’s gift to them, and Nirvana enough for this World.

    Those who are able……learn from everything that happens. Those who are less than able……don’t.

    Modern Christianity says that you are free to make of Christianity anything your heart desires. Which renders God and Jesus into a molten mass of feelings-driven nothingness… excellent reflection of the general narcissism running rampant in the population. I have yet to meet a modern Baptist that doesn’t know more about what God (and Jesus) is than God Himself.

    When God becomes nothing more than just a purer version of yourself, then God is dead for you.

  • Steve the Cynic

    So, how do you exegete Matthew 5:38-48, jockamo/georges?

  • Ken


    Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

    It has been one of the tragic ironies of religious and spiritual movements that time and time again their proponents—teachers, “masters,” followers, and disciples—end up exemplifying the very opposite of the inspired teaching itself. Gentle messages of forgiveness and love very quickly metamorphose into gospels of hate and judgment, condemnation and attack. It is the purpose of the current article to discuss this phenomenon, explain how it arises, how it expands to what we can refer to as a “contagion of hate”—for groups as well as individuals—and finally, how it can be undone by the Christmas Cure of forgiveness.

    The Religions of Hate

    We begin by discussing a fundamental theorem of the ego’s thought system, which belies its claim for the legitimacy of special love: You cannot love those whom you see as different. And so you must hate them. This is a direct consequence of the ego’s fourth law of chaos: You have what you have taken (T-23.II.9:3). According to the ego’s law of scarcity, if I have something, I must have taken it from someone else, for I myself lack everything that is truly important. This establishes an adversarial situation in which, because of projection, we will believe that others are withholding from us what we secretly believe is rightfully ours and originally belonged to us. We are therefore justified, in our delusional minds, in attacking them in self-defense (literally, because we are attempting to defend and protect our special self) and seize the special something (i.e., innocence and love) that was taken from us. Again, the fourth (and fifth) law of chaos graphically depicts this insane dynamic (T-23.II.9-13).

    One cannot then practice the love that is otherwise preached and taught, for the relationship between form and content, behavior and thinking, has not been understood; what in the context of sickness Jesus refers to as level confusion (T-2.IV.2). Form, in A Course in Miracles, is always associated with the body, the embodiment (pardon the pun), of the ego’s thought of separation (the content). To state it another way, the content of the wrong mind is the ego’s belief in separate interests (one or the other) that is projected out to the body, which by its very physical nature separates and excludes us from each other, the meaning of its special relationships. For example, our existence begins and ends with our physical (and psychological) space, which distinguishes us from everyone else. How, then, could we not experience ourselves as separated, fragmented, and different? As this reflects the ontological separation and differentiation, we cannot help but feel guilty and fearful all the time, displacing the bottom-line fear of God’s wrath onto anyone and everything in our lives. Thus Jesus’ words, not- so-subtly aimed at the Christian religions:

    Whenever any form of special relationship tempts you to seek for love in ritual, remember love is content, and not form of any kind. The special relationship is a ritual of form, aimed at raising the form to take the place of God at the expense of content. There is no meaning in the form, and there will never be. The special relationship must be recognized for what it is; a senseless ritual in which strength is extracted from the death of God, and invested in His killer as the sign that form has triumphed over content, and love has lost its meaning (T-16.V.12:1-4).

    And what we believe we did to God is what we re-enact with each of our special relationships:

    Each day, and every minute in each day, and every instant that each minute holds, you but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love (T-26. V.13:1).

    Thus do the relationships between organisms, from the emergence of what we think of as life, mirror as shadowy fragments the ontological relationship between ourselves and our Creator when, in our insanity, we believed we took His Love and power to create and made it our own. Fear of retaliation for our sin therefore took the place of the Love that created us, and which unites us within Itself.

    Religions, which thrive on differentiation from other religions or spiritualities, quickly form around separation, guilt, and hate, for thousands if not millions are attracted to their false light. This has been especially true of the various forms of Christianity, which take as their starting point the celestially differentiated and very special savior figure of Jesus. Since the content of God’s Son is oneness, emphasizing the form of Jesus—the heroically salvific figure of Christian myth, then and now—merely shifts the focus to the more comfortable (to the ego) climate of bodies, differentiation, and specialness, referred to in A Course in Miracles as “bitter idols” (C-5.5:7). Such a shift to form is inevitable when there is a fear of love (the content). Thus does the ego “manage” Jesus’ love in a special form it can accept without any threat to its own specialness. Jesus, in fact, cautioned Helen Schucman, scribe of the Course, against practicing this very dynamic in a post-Course message when he advised her about using questions (i.e., specific forms) to limit the non-specific content of his love, which readers of The Lighthouse will recall from a recent article (March 2008, p. 3):

    The purpose of words is to limit, and by limiting, to make a vast area of experience more manageable. But that means manageable by you (Absence from Felicity, p. 445).

    Indeed, this attempt to “manage” or limit love through the employment of specific forms, such as stories and rituals, can be seen in all the world’s religions, inspiring Jesus to say in the Psychotherapy pamphlet:

    Formal religion has no place in psychotherapy, but it also has no real place in religion [i.e. spirituality]. In this world, there is an astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. The attempt to formalize religion is so obviously an ego attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable that it hardly requires elaboration here (P-2.II.2:1-3).

    Thus, attempts to integrate, or see as the same, the Jesus of the Bible and of A Course in Miracles express the above- mentioned astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. Jesus himself comments in the Course on this phenomenon as it revealed itself in the history of Christianity. He says, in the context of the traditional mis-understanding of the crucifixion:

    It is unwise to accept any concept if you have to invert a whole frame of reference in order to justify it. This procedure is painful in its minor applications and genuinely tragic on a wider scale. Persecution frequently results in an attempt to “justify” the terrible misperception that God Himself persecuted His Own Son on behalf of salvation. The very words are meaningless (T-3.I.2:2-5).

    Salvation’s “frame of reference” is the reflected unity of God’s innocent and guiltless Son. This is inverted by the ego to embrace an insane thought system wherein salvation is equated with sacrifice of an individual person—referred to in the Course as a “little life on earth” (C-5.5:3)—as the means of atoning for sin. This serves to reinforce the mind’s guilt that, remaining unconscious and thus unnoticed, lies buried in the part of our split minds that is ruled both by fear of the truth of God’s Love and the ego’s belief in sin. It is a psychological axiom—first articulated and elaborated by Freud—that what is repressed is inevitably projected. Guilt will always find its way from the mind into the world of bodies. As the Viennese father of psychoanalysis so graphically wrote of these repressed instincts, what the Course knows as guilt:

    the perpetual readiness of the inhibited instincts to break through to satisfaction at any suitable opportunity (Vol. XIV, p. 284) …; We must rather attribute to the repressed a strong upward drive, an impulsion to break though into consciousness (Vol. XXII, p. 68).1

    And, in discussing the projection of these repressed instincts in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Vol. XVIII, p. 42), Freud quotes the Faust of his beloved Goethe, saying that the instinct “Presses ever forward unsubdued” (I,iii).

    And thus it is that otherwise well-meaning spiritual seekers, unfortunately including students of A Course in Miracles, unaware of their secret belief that they “are the home of evil, darkness and sin” (W-pI.93.1:1), project out this darkness so it is now seen in someone else, thereby keeping their special identity safe:

    What you project you disown, and therefore do not believe is yours. You are excluding yourself by the very judgment that you are different from the one on whom you project. Since you have also judged against what you project, you continue to attack it because you continue to keep it separated. By doing this unconsciously, you try to keep the fact that you attacked yourself out of awareness, and thus imagine that you have made yourself safe (T-6. II.2).

    The self-attack, of course, is the problem, yet our projected attack on others keeps our original attack protected, which is the meaning of this statement from the workbook:

    The [unforgiving or attack] thought protects projection, tightening its chains, so that distortions are more veiled and more obscure; less easily accessible to doubt, and further kept from reason [i.e., right-minded thinking]. What can come between a fixed projection and the aim that it has chosen as its wanted goal? (W-pII.1.2:3-4)

    Translating Jesus’ words on the sign of Christmas, the ego’s version would read this way:

    The sign of Christmas is attack, darkness masquerading as light. See it not inside yourself, but shining in your sinful brother outside, and accept it as the sign that the time of Christ has come.2

    Thus is Christ (or Jesus) seen as the avenger, and “the time of Christ” is when His vengeance is complete. We then want to be sure that His avenging hand strikes another. In other words, deep down in their guilt-ridden psyches, Christians believe that Jesus will not really return on clouds of glory, as the gospels say (Matthew 24:30), but on clouds of judgment:

    When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. … And these [the goats] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous [the sheep] into life eternal (Matthew 25:31-33,46).

    Despite their belief that they are sinless sheep, the secret and fearful thought of these would-be Christians is that they are, in fact, guilty goats. This repressed guilt, again, leads inevitably to attack, the ego’s insidious guilt-attack cycle. This cycle directly results in the ego’s contagion of hate, to which we now turn. Like an illness that easily and quickly spreads its poison, so, too, does hate infect others with its virulent venom, even unto death: “In contagion do they seek to kill” (T-27.I.4:5).

    The Contagion of Hate: One or the Other

    Hate is the inevitable and, to the ego, the natural result of projected guilt. It is the ego’s way of magically “helping” us be rid of the pain of our searing self-hatred: “We don’t have the guilt; they do!” Since the ego’s reigning principle is one or the other, giving others our guilt leaves us guiltless and therefore innocent, called attention to by our anger and hate that screeches of another’s sin:

    Beware of the temptation to perceive yourself unfairly treated. In this view, you seek to find an innocence that is not Theirs (God’s and Christ’s] but yours alone, and at the cost of someone else’s guilt. Can innocence be purchased by the giving of your guilt to someone else?…Whatever way the game of guilt is played, there must be loss. Someone must lose his innocence that someone else can take it from him, making it his own.… You think your brother is unfair to you because you think that one must be unfair to make the other innocent (T-26.X.4:1-3,7-8; 5:1; italics mine).

    Indeed, hate is in fact necessary if we are to survive our guilt, for it proves that another has treated us unfairly, thereby establishing our innocence. This, then, is the ego’s secret wish, “the outward picture of a wish; an image that [we] wanted to be true” (T-24.VII.8:10). This image is what later in the text is called the face of innocence (T-31.V.2:6), wherein we exist as a special, individual self, but someone else is held responsible for our misery and suffering, deserving of death as punishment for a sin that is no longer ours.

    This dynamic of one or the other has its origin in the ontological one or the other: God or His Son, oneness or separation. From the belief in our sin (again, “the home of evil, darkness and sin”) arises guilt or self-hatred—we have not only done something wrong, but are something wrong, since the very fact that we experience our separate existence means that we have indeed separated, thus justifying the self-perception of inveterate sinfulness. This guilt perforce expresses itself in teaching guilt to others, for, as we have just seen, projection is inevitable; self-hate needs to find specific expression (W-pI.161.7). And so we make attack, judgment, and condemnation real. Yet since ideas leave not their source, a primary theme of A Course in Miracles, the guilt we put outside remains within, there continually to fester and leading to continual projection and attack, the notorious guilt-attack cycle that preserves the world as we know it. Moreover, once we project our self-hatred, we will believe it is truly outside, due to a Course principle—projection makes perception—that is corollary to the above ideas leave not their source: what we make real in our minds we project, and therefore actually believe is outside us to be perceived and reacted to; yet all the while the projected guilt remains within the mind, out of awareness and seemingly preserved forever. This guilt, being unknown to us, means that we can never gain access to it unless we learn to recognize its dimly-lit reflection in the world we see, as we read in these two statements from the text:

    Damnation is your judgment on yourself, and this you will project upon the world. See it as damned, and all you see is what you did to hurt the Son of God. If you behold disaster and catastrophe, you tried to crucify him (T-21. in.2:1-3). The certain outcome of the lesson that God’s Son is guilty is the world you see. It is a world of terror and despair. Nor is there hope of happiness in it (T-31.I.7:4-6).

    In this way does Jesus gently lead us from our projections back to the mind that is their source. As the Course says of the Holy Spirit:

    [He] takes you gently by the hand, and retraces with you your mad journey outside yourself, leading you gently back to the truth and safety within. He brings all your insane projections and the wild substitutions that you have placed outside you to the truth. Thus He reverses the course of insanity and restores you to reason (T-18.I.8:3-5).

    Returned to our minds, we can finally look, unveiled, at the ego strategy of first making guilt real, and then pretending it exists in someone else. Since this is a dynamic in which we all participate, we also participate in what the Course terms the “secret vows” (T-28.VI) we make with each other, the mutually-infecting contagion of hate that reinforces the ego’s thought system of separation and specialness. And so we all teach and learn from each other:

    To teach is to demonstrate. There are only two thought systems, and you demonstrate that you believe one or the other is true all the time. From your demonstration others learn, and so do you. The question is not whether you will teach, for in that there is no choice. The purpose of the course might be said to provide you with a means of choosing what you want to teach on the basis of what you want to learn (M-in.2:1-5).

    When we are able to choose the right mind, our projected special relationship with the ego (the content), as it is manifest in our special relationships here (in form), is returned to the mind via the miracle that reverses projection: “[The world you see] is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition” ( This “inward condition” is the mind’s power of decision: choosing the ego’s motto of separate interests or the Holy Spirit’s healing principle of shared interests. Once our awareness is shifted to the mind, we can change its content from one or the other to together, or not at all (T-19.IV-D.12:8), which is mirrored in our experience as bodies by the recognition that we are all the same. Despite the obvious physical and psychological traits that differentiate us from all animate and inanimate objects in the world, we share the identical split mind: the ego’s thought system of guilt and hate, the Holy Spirit ‘s thought system of innocence and forgiveness, and the decision maker that chooses between them. And so we realize that we are all in the same miserable ego boat, searching for the way out of the maelstrom of hate in which we find ourselves, yet always looking in the wrong place: the external world of special relationships instead of the internal world of forgiveness.

    The choice then is ours. If we wish to learn hate, we teach it by demonstrating the reality of sin by showing how we have been hurt by the sinfulness of others. If we wish to learn forgiveness, however, we teach it by demonstrating that sin has had no effect upon love—”not one note in Heaven’s song was missed” (T-26.V.5:4). By contrasting for us the effects of attack and forgiveness, pain and joy, Jesus teaches us to choose his Christmas cure: forgiveness over hate, the answer to the problem, not the problem itself.

    The Christmas Cure: Together, or Not At All

    To counteract the ego tactic of guilt and its projection of hate, Jesus urges us in the Christmas section of the text to uncover our darkness—”the secret sins and hidden hates” (T-31.VIII.9:2)—and invite the Holy Spirit to shine His forgiving light on what has long been kept hidden. It is a plea to recall our projections and see no one as separate from us:

    This Christmas give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you. Let yourself be healed completely that you may join with Him in healing, and let us celebrate our release together by releasing everyone with us. Leave nothing behind, for release is total, and when you have accepted it with me you will give it with me (T-15.XI.3: 1- 3; italics mine).

    The key message here is that we cannot be freed of our guilt unless we free everyone of the guilt we projected, without exception, leaving no one behind and outside salvation’s kind embrace. A number of years ago in these pages, I quoted an experience Helen Schucman had in the summer directly preceding her taking down the Course, while vacationing with her husband Louis in Atlantic City, New Jersey (long before it became the East Coast mecca for gambling casinos). Here is Helen’s recollection, many years afterward:

    Several times that summer I felt something like the “subway experience” of years before, [an earlier experience when most unexpectedly Helen felt an indescribable love for people on the New York City subway].… It generally took place in a crowd of people, for whom I could feel a brief but powerful affinity. One took place on a warm evening when Louis and I were walking along a crowded resort boardwalk.… A sudden sense of deep emotional closeness to everyone there swept over me, with a clear and certain recognition that we were all making the same journey together to a common goal.

    However, later that summer, Helen recalled the incident more specifically in a letter to William Thetford, her partner in the Course’s scribing:

    One evening we were walking and Jonathan [Helen’s “other” name for Louis] pointed out a brain-injured boy (about 12 or so) who was being pushed by his parents in a carriage. There were other cripples [an Anglicism for the mentally retarded] there, too. As we walked I suddenly…got a sense of everyone walking happily and very much together on the same path.…we’ll all make it home eventually. Sometimes I love everybody very much (Absence from Felicity, pp. 115,140).

    Helen’s beatific experience emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s central principle of together, or not at all. We cannot lift the ego’s various veils of defense and return home at the expense of others, for such separation and attack are the foundation of the ego’s thought system, as well as its means of preserving it. This is why the first lesson of the Holy Spirit is To Have, Give All to All (T-6.V-A). We learn that to remember the all- inclusive nature of God’s Love we must be willing to share its earthly expression of forgiveness with all people, all the time, and in all situations. While Heaven’s state of perfect unity (“a Oneness joined as One” [T-25.I.7:1]) cannot be known here, its reflection in the form of shared interests most certainly can be. That we can learn, and this lesson is the central focus of A Course in Miracles, as we read in the opening pages of the manual for teachers:

    A teacher of God is anyone who chooses to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else’s (M-1.1:1).

    Helen’s first poem, “The Gifts of Christmas,” frequently quoted in this newsletter, begins with the following relevant lines that point to this essential truth of our salvation:

    Christ passes no one by. By this you know

    He is God’s Son. You recognize His touch

    In universal gentleness. His Love

    Extends to everyone. His eyes behold

    The Love of God in everything He sees.

    (The Gifts of God, p. 95; italics mine)

    This is paralleled in these words from the inspiring close of Lesson 160:

    Not one does Christ forget. Not one He fails to give you to remember, that your home may be complete and perfect as it was established. He has not forgotten you. But you will not remember Him until you look on all as He does. Who denies his brother is denying Him, and thus refusing to accept the gift of sight by which his Self is clearly recognized, his home remembered and salvation come (W-pI.160.10; italics mine).

    Can we, with Jesus standing beside our brothers, ever seek to exclude a single member of the Sonship, knowing that to exclude one is to exclude all, including ourselves? What hold can hate and judgment have on us when Heaven’s gift of love and peace are in our hands, to hold and to share? In what is perhaps the most beautiful of all the sections in the Course, “For They Have Come,” Jesus sings to us his encomium to the holy relationship; the “living temple” that is Heaven’s home on earth:

    The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love. And They [God and Christ] come quickly to the living temple, where a home for Them has been set up. There is no place in Heaven holier. And They have come to dwell within the temple offered Them, to be Their resting place as well as yours. 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).

    And from this temple of light we look back on the journey we have taken, which began with our separation as one Son and continued through the hellish hate of our special relationships wherein our happiness and salvation rested on another’s sacrifice and loss. Having retraced our steps, however, we stand now with Jesus and all our brothers on the holiest spot on earth, where the contagion of hate has been cured by the Christmas message of passing no one by. Thus do we return to Heaven as the one Son that God created one with Him, as Heaven sings its song of gratitude, to which we happily add: “And [we are] glad and thankful it is so” (W-pI.200.11:9).


    1. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (London: Hogarth Press, 1953).

    2. The original, of course, reads like this: “The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside yourself, but shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come (T-15.XI.2:1-2).”

  • Steve the Cynic

    As soon as I see that an author is citing ACIM, I know I can stop reading, because it’s practically guaranteed to be nonsense.