The title for chapter 17 is Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship. Within this chapter are the following sub-titles: Bringing Fantasy to Truth, The Forgiven World, Shadows of the Past, The Two Pictures, The Healed Relationship, Setting the Goal, The Call for Faith, and The Conditions of Faith.
Oftentimes when we are in “special relationships” we believe we are experiencing love. As we saw in last week’s chapter, ACIM considers this type of love an illusion and not real love. “All sorts of fanciful and fragmented illusions of love, set with dreams of sacrifice and self-aggrandizement.” What we tend to do is justify this love or add to it what we would consider real love. This chapter states that the Holy Spirit wants us to learn how to give up all our illusions about what love is and replace them for the truth of what relational love really is, so we can transform it into a holy relationship. “When you try to bring truth to illusions, you are trying to make illusions real, and keep them by justifying your belief in them. But to give illusions to truth is to enable truth to teach that the illusions are unreal, and thus enable you to escape from them. This is done through faith in the act of forgiveness which literally transforms vision, and lets you see the real world reaching quietly and gently across chaos, removing all illusions that had twisted your perception and fixed it on the past. To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.” To transform a relationship is a difficult thing for us humans to do and brings great disruption to the relationship if both members are not in agreement that they want to transform their relationship into a holy relationship. It is a challenge to forgive and release both our past and that of our relational partner. For those that are willing to commit to it, the Holy Spirit has promised to be there to guide you through the process. “If all but loving thoughts have been forgotten, what remains is eternal. And the transformed past is made like the present. No longer does the past conflict with now. That is why Atonement centers on the past, which is the source of separation, and where it must be undone. For separation must be corrected where it was made.
This chapter also address problem solving. When we have a problem, the ego works to distract and confuse us so we cannot figure out how to resolve the issue. “The ego seeks to resolve its problems, not at their source, but where they were not made. And thus, it seeks to guarantee there will be no solution. The Holy Spirit wants only to make His resolutions complete and perfect, and so He seeks and finds the source of problems where it is, and there undoes it.” When you have a problem, ask the Holy Spirit to help you locate the root cause of the problem for this, when found, is what brings the solution to the problem. When making decisions it suggests that you begin with the end in mind. “In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is “What do I want to come of this? What is it for?” The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning for it is this which will determine the outcome. The absence of a criterion for outcome, set in advance, makes understanding doubtful and evaluation impossible.”
“It is still up to you to choose to join with truth or with illusion. The spark of beauty or the veil of ugliness, the real world or the world of guilt and fear, truth or illusion, freedom or slavery – it is all the same. For you can never choose except between God and the ego. Only the Thoughts of God are true.”