April 2017

Watching the news recently and seeing the suffering of the refugees in Europe, made me think about empathy and if, in fact, it is helpful to feel sorrow and pity for those who appear to be less fortunate than ourselves. Then I listened to a recording by the renowned A Course in Miracles teacher Kenneth Wapnick, in which he pointed out the we need to be “above the battle ground” because if we see pain in the world we are believing that we have actually separated from God. We should look on devastation and remind ourselves that it is not real. This makes sense if we remember that the world is not real. So how can suffering in the world be real? But, on the other hand, how can we deny it, when we see so much tragedy on television?

As we read in Lesson 190, of the Workbook of A Course in Miracles, “Pain is a sign illusions reign instead of truth…If God is real, there is no pain. If pain is real, there is no God. For vengeance is not part of love…It is your thoughts alone that cause you pain. Nothing external to your mind can hurt or injure you in any way…” W361.

Yet, there seems to be so much misery in this world and so many worthy causes that one could support. So I asked for guidance on this and received the following: “You must learn to be at peace, to choose peace at all times. Remember free will was given to all of mankind. People are free to choose what happens to them in their lives. If some choose poverty, hardship or loss, you have to accept that but know that, in reality, the Son of God cannot suffer loss and cannot be in pain regardless of what seems to be happening in the dream. See everything that is happening as if it is happening on a large television screen. Don’t grieve but be joyous. Feeling sad, upset or guilty because of the suffering of others will help no one, least of all yourself.”

“Remember: ‘God’s will for me is perfect happiness.’ Guilt comes from the ego. The ego wants you to see suffering and be sad because it makes the dream real! Don’t buy into that. We are not asking you to be callous or unkind but simply to know that all that is going on in this world has nothing to do with reality. So don’t get upset about it. You can help those who are suffering but don’t get caught up in it.”

That message was certainly food for thought. Of course the ego wants us to see suffering and believe it is actually happening because that would make this world seem real and guarantee its survival. As Kenneth Wapnick remarks in his book ‘A Vast Illusion – Time according to A Course in Miracles:’ “In reality, there is no real hopelessness or despair here because the world has already ended. But that obviously is not our experience.” p.110. He also said in a YouTube recording: “Why should you do something about something that doesn’t exist?”

In A Course of Love, Book Two, First Treatise, Chapter 10, page 233, Jesus reiterates his important message about empathy and says: “…there is no reason not to take joy in observing another’s happiness or to feel compassion at another’s suffering. But you need not partake and you cannot partake if you are going to carry the Peace of God within you.” So yet again, he is telling us that is all right to be kind and empathetic but not to let suffering take our peace away; it’s a matter of trying to remain “above the battleground.”

Then I read the following passage from Chapter 7 in the Text: “When a brother perceives himself as sick, he is perceiving himself as not whole, and therefore in need. If you, too, see him this way, you are seeing him as if he were absent from the Kingdom or separated from it, thus making the Kingdom itself obscure to both of you…” T114. The words, hard-up, lonely, sad, abused, depressed, could all be substituted for the word “sick” in this passage, and it would still hold true. Sickness, poverty, lack, loneliness, grief, etc. can only be found in this world—the world of the ego. Those who wish to awaken from the dream world, have to look upon everything with Christ’s vision, and see the strength of Christ in everyone, including those who perceive themselves to be suffering in some way.

It isn’t easy, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, our Higher Self, we can do our best not to fall into the trap of false empathy. But this does not mean that we turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. We most definitely can support worthy causes and we can go out and help those we feel guided to help, but we do it from a place of inner strength and not out of pity.

 

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