Master teacher Florence Scovel Shinn was walking through a toy store when she came upon a display featuring a huge mechanical bear with flaming eyes, showing its teeth, growling fiercely. At the bear’s feet stood a little boy looking up at the beast, smiling. “Aren’t you afraid of the bear?” Ms. Shinn asked the child. “Not really,” he answered. “Bears don’t bite good little boys.”
If you know you are innocent, you don’t attract punishment. If you know you are loveable, you remain safe and whole wherever you are. If you know you are worthy, prosperity shows up wherever you look. Conflict, disease, and hardship do not befit the divine beings we are. You don’t have to escape the wrath of God. It is your own wrath you need to escape. Voltaire said, “In the beginning God created man in His image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”
I saw a documentary on the Burning Man gathering, a huge celebration of art and creativity that rocks the Nevada desert every summer. In the film, a fellow walked up to various people randomly and told them, “It’s not your fault.” He had never met these people, and knew nothing about them. Yet they all had an emotional reaction. Some broke into tears. Others laughed. Others hugged him. They all thought that something was their fault, and when they considered that they were innocent, they were deeply relieved.
We all think that something, or lots of things, are our fault. From an early age we were taught, overtly or subtly, that there was something wrong with us. There was some gap we needed to fill, requiring a long series of tasks to prove ourselves. Parents, teachers, clergy, and siblings projected their perceived sins onto us, and we believed them. As a result, we carried those dark identities as if they were true, while they were the meanest of lies.
Then we invented all kinds of strategies to escape our sense of wrongdoing, none of which worked because all self-judgment is based on a faulty premise. My neighbor Roslyn spent much of her life running from herself. Her days were a constant stream of errands, shopping, and emergencies. I observed her car going in and out of her driveway many times a day. Then I got to know Rosyln. She was raised in a punitive religion, and she felt guilty about everything. If anything bad happened to anyone around her, she thought it was her fault. She feared that if she sat and faced herself, she would find an ugly, evil person. Nothing could be farther from the truth. She was a kind, compassionate person—but her self-image was horrid. So she was always on the run.
A Course in Miracles addresses this very predicament: “You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible.” Yet if we found the courage to face ourselves and pierce beyond the false veneer of evil, we would encounter a beautiful, lovable fall in love instantly and forever.
The new year is a fertile time to trade in an old identity of faultiness for one of innocence; lack, for worth. You don’t have to become a saint to be holy. You just have to identify with the pure soul that God created, not the one the world fabricated. Ram Dass used to say, “Spiritual masters are as neurotic as the rest of us. But to them, their neuroses are irrelevant.” Great teachers have human personalities like the rest of us, but their consciousness is established in their divine self rather than their social foibles. We are also free to shift the figure and ground of divinity and humanity.
If you owned an old clunker of a car that was falling apart and regularly broke down, you would trade it in for a new and more efficient one. You can likewise replace an identity that doesn’t honor or serve you. Watch the thoughts that run through your mind and the words that escape your lips. Whenever you follow the words, “I am” with a limiting idea, you tighten the shackles of smallness. When you make an “I am” statement of wholeness, prosperity, and love, you have printed your “Get Out of Jail Free” ticket.
When faced with a decision or dilemma, ask yourself, “What would someone who loved him – or herself do here?” Then do it. At first it might feel strange to treat yourself as an angel, but soon you will discover that treating yourself as a devil is by far stranger. Eventually treating yourself unkindly will become unthinkable. Why would you punish someone who deserves only love?
The bears that we have run from will ultimately prove themselves to be mechanical props. Then, like the little boy, we can smile and know, as A Course in Miracles promises, “You will no longer doubt that only good can come to you who are beloved of God . . .”
Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including his new metaphysical adventure novel Baby It’s You. Become a certified Holistic Life Coach in Alan’s life-changing training program beginning January 1, 2024. To explore Alan’s many books, video courses, retreats, YouTube channel, and free daily inspirational quotes, visit www.alancohen.com.