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What Makes a Relationship Special? 

Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word-for-word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.

Participant1: I have a particular interest. Can we talk about special relationships?

Speaker: Is it with persons?

Participant1: With particular persons.

Speaker: OK we can go into this a little bit more. Is it an upset around a particular person?

Participant1: Yes. I don’t know whether the person in my life is the person that I should be with. That’s the reason for my question.

Participant2: We had been discussing this coming down here because special relationships seem to come in and out of this Course. In one place there are no special relationships and in another there’s one’s brother, and then where you begin to see everyone as your brother, and then special relationships don’t really have a place, and then there are certain places where they almost seem to be ordained – a special person has been given to you to .. well you can guess how it goes!

Speaker: Like an assignment (laughter)

Participant2: Yes, like an assignment and in a teaching sense, you know, it makes sense and when you begin to look at a relationship like that then you don’t want to look the other way. In one place in Lesson 78 it says ‘Let me behold my savior in this one who has been given to me…..’ Like one person has been brought to you for your salvation, or did I read that wrong? And then in the Manual for Teachers the Levels of Teaching, it says that there are very specific contexts given to you to teach, to learn from, relationships in particular must be properly perceived. So that’s what I’m wondering about, how do you properly perceive relationships?

Speaker: OK relationships is a pretty good, ambitious topic (laughter). Well the Course does say that you have made special relationships. In other words all of the relationships that we perceive in this world are special relationships in the sense that they involve specific people and mainly, I think if we had to have one underlying factor that we could talk about – what makes a relationship a special relationship? Its the past. You’re seeing the past in your brother, and of course that’s where sin is, that’s where all grievances are held. When you think about grievances or problems and difficulties that you have with particular people, isn’t it the things that they have said or done in the past? Maybe you have a particular problem or special relationship with this person(pointing to self)? I mean you would blame what you consider to be yourself a lot when you really don’t do it as much with others. But it still has to do with the past, and that’s what makes a special relationship special. So in a larger context when talking about special relationships the Course says that the Holy Spirit doesn’t try to destroy our special relationships, but he wants to take them and purify them. He wants to have us set another goal for our relationships, and the metaphor that the Course uses for these purified special relationships are holy relationships. So once we get into talking about special relationships eventually we’ll have to come around and talk about holy relationships as well. This Course is a tool written for a mind that believes it’s a separate person, a separate little isolated person. This is a tool for the mind that’s forgotten that it is the Christ and its a very powerful Spirit that is one with God. So this tool has lots and lots of metaphors and Jesus knows that the mind believes in specifics, it believes in persons, and so a lot of the Course is written at the level of perceiving working with other people. What comes to your mind when you think of the word relationship? What pops into your mind? What do you have to have to have a relationship?

Participant1: Another person

Speaker: That would be right. Anything else?

Participant3: Commitment

Speaker: Commitment, OK

Participant1: Love

Participant4: Honesty

Speaker: When you talk about another person that involves bodies, and in most cases we’re talking about the proximity of bodies. It’s possible to have a relationship with someone, but is it having a significant relationship if one person lives in China and one person lives in Wisconsin. That would be considered a rather difficult significant relationship, because aren’t part of our relationships involving proximity of the bodies and time together, whether we’re talking about a significant other or even a good friend. What about memories that you shared together, good times, doesn’t that seem to enter into the picture of a relationship? What the Course is saying is that we have a lot of concepts in our minds, including time and bodies and proximity and laws of friendship. Another word that the Course uses a lot with special relationships is reciprocity. I’m spending this time with you and I’ll do these things but I expect you to do a certain amount of things in return. All relationships as we’ve come to know them in this world involve reciprocity as well. So that gives us a little bit of a context for the way we perceive relationships in this world.

Also Jesus says, you don’t know what real relationship is so that’s quite a significant thing to look at. He says the only real relationship is the relationship between the Father and the Son. When we talk about love, that’s really love. That’s like a continuous song of praise and gratefulness between the Father and the Son in Heaven, and it seems to have no direct bearing on what we just talked about – bodies, time, proximity, reciprocity. There’s no reciprocity in Heaven. There’s no time in Heaven, it’s just eternity. There are none of those elements that we just talked about.

When we get into relationships with the Course its like saying, these are the things I believe in and now I want the Holy Spirit to help me undo some of these beliefs in my mind. When we get back into time too, about seeing the past, its like asking the Holy Spirit to come in and to be the central focus of a relationship. When Jesus talks about that in the section on special relationships he says that it’s a very big turnaround when you invite the Holy Spirit to come into a relationship, that the two may be shocked or appalled because the purpose of the relationship has been so drastically shifted from what it was before. In other words, through the ego lens when we are working with relationships the basic premise of the ego is to get. That’s what relationships in this world, co-dependencies are all about – you meet my needs, I’ll meet your needs. And the underlying purpose is that I want to get something from this other person.

If we take it down a little bit deeper than just plain old getting, the ego believes it’s been wronged, the ego believes it’s been hurt, the ego believes it has a terribly dysfunctional past and has been let down many times in the past. The ego also sponsors a belief that you’re unworthy, incomplete, you’re not whole, that you need to seek outside yourself to find the things in other persons, in other places, in other situations that will fulfill you. So all the anger and all the vengeance that comes into special relationships comes in from this ego’s purpose of what can I get from this other person - I want them to fulfill me and when they let me down this is where the anger comes in.


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