Study Guide and Commentary

ACIM® Text, Chapter 17, Section V.8–15 

The Holy Relationship, Part 2

Legend:
blue text = Material from ACIM 3rd edition (FIP)
bold blue text = words emphasized in all caps in Urtext
red text = alternate or omitted material from the Urtext
light blue text = editorial comments
strikethrough blue text = Not in Urtext, in FIP edition

Review of the First Half of the Section

Recall that this material originally addressed the scribes, Helen and Bill, in their relationship, in which they came together with the holy purpose of producing the Course. It applies equally well to any two people who mutually join in a common goal. That joining invites the Holy Spirit to enter their special relationship because it is the beginning of transcending separateness, based on private goals, with the shared interest of a common goal. As a result the structure of the relationship, which originally was built to meet the ego’s private goals, has to change into something suited to the mutual interest they now share. This creates significant stress in the relationship as long as the structure remains in its old form. The two people may be tempted to give up and just move on to another special relationship. Instead, Jesus appeals to them (and to us) to have faith that the goal is reachable, that each person can and will do their part, and that the Holy Spirit will guide them.

These instructions, then, are directed to people who have already entered into a holy relationship with someone. They are intended to help us get past the early, difficult phase of such a relationship. 

Paragraph 8

8. 1Accept with gladness what you do not understand, and let it be explained to you as you perceive its purpose work in it to make it holy. 2You will find many opportunities to blame your brother [each other] for the “failure” of your relationship, for it will seem at times to have no purpose. 3A sense of aimlessness will come to haunt you, and to remind you of all the ways you once sought for satisfaction and thought you found it. 4Forget not now the misery you really found, and do not breathe life into your failing ego [egos]. 5For your relationship has not been disrupted. 6It has been saved.

• Study Question •

1. When you are in a fledgling holy relationship, but going through the initial period of distress, what temptation is likely to arise? (More than one answer may be correct.)

A. Blaming each other because the relationship isn’t working.

B. Regretting the choice to join together in common purpose.

C. Wishing you had not given the Holy Spirit permission to enter.

D. Longing after past relationships that, in memory, seemed more satisfying.

A lot of trust is called for in the early stages of a holy relationship. There are things we don’t understand; we must simply accept them “with gladness,” willing to let our understanding grow over time as the new goal gradually transforms the relationship (8:1). There will be times that the relationship seems to be failing, and it will be tempting for both parties to blame the other. Thoughts such as, “What’s the point?” may cross your mind (8:2). Things that were previously our goal in the relationship, guided by our egos, start to disappear, and “a sense of aimlessness will come to haunt you” (8:3). The line of thought will be something like, “These are the things I hoped to get from this relationship, and now, it looks as though I won’t be getting them. What am I here for?” We may think back on past relationships, or the past of this relationship, and remember “all the ways you once sought for satisfaction and thought you found it” (8:3). In memory it may seem as though we actually found the satisfaction we were seeking, but Jesus encourages us not to breathe life into our failing egos by forgetting “the misery you really found” (8:4).

The relationship, he insists, has not been disrupted. Rather, it has been saved (8:5–6). The distress we experience does not come from the change of purpose; rather, it comes from our failure to allow the structure of the relationship to change to fit the new goal.

Paragraph 9

9. 1You are very new in the ways of salvation, and think you have lost your way. 2Your way is lost, but think not this is loss. 3In your newness, remember that you and your brother have started again, together. 4And take his [each other’s] hand, to walk together along a road far more familiar than you now believe. 5Is it not certain that you will remember a goal unchanged throughout eternity? 6For you have chosen but the goal of God, from which your true intent was never absent.

• Study Question •

2. This paragraph includes many images of process (the ways of salvation, walking along a road, remembering a goal). This paragraph implies that this shift in your relationship is the beginning of some kind of new process. What process is that?

A. The process of salvation, the journey to God.

B. The process of purifying your body.

C. The process of remembering your past lives.

D. Processed cheese.

Again, Jesus emphasizes that we are new to all this (9:1). Our relationship has taken a dramatic turn, and the familiar landmarks and road signs are no longer in view, so we suspect that we’ve lost our way. In a sense we have! We have lost our way, but it’s a loss that is actually a profound gain (8:2). We are no longer walking an isolated journey. We have joined with another person, and together, hand in hand, we have begun walking on a road that, as we progress, will seem more and more familiar, because it is the journey to a goal we have always had, although we had forgotten it (9:3–5). Of course we’ll remember the “new” goal, because it has been “unchanged throughout eternity” (9:5). He told us so back in Chapter 8:

The journey to God is merely the reawakening of the knowledge of where you are always, and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed (T-8.VI.9:6-7).

We have “chosen…the goal of God.” It is the joint will we shared with God in the beginning, a will (“your true intent”) that has always been within us (9:6). It is what we have always wanted!1

Paragraph 10

10. 1Throughout the Sonship is the song of freedom heard, in joyous echo of your choice. 2You have joined with many in the holy instant, and they have joined with you. 3Think not your choice will leave you comfortless, for God Himself has blessed your holy relationship [special relationship]. 4Join in His blessing, and withhold not yours upon it. 5For all it needs now is your blessing, that you may see that in it rests salvation. 6Condemn salvation not, for it has come to you. 7And welcome it together, for it has come to join you and your brother together in a relationship in which all the Sonship is together blessed.

• Study Question •

3. The Sonship, "many," and God Himself have all blessed your holy relationship. All it needs is your blessing. In light of the previous paragraphs, what form would that blessing take (there may be more than one correct answer)?

A. Having faith in the Holy Spirit to guide the relationship to its goal.

B. Not blaming the relationship's difficulties on your brother.

C. Not withdrawing yourself from the relationship to focus on other relationships.

D. Realizing that the difficulty of the relationship means something good--that it has been reborn as holy--not something bad.

E. Getting the hell out of the relationship.

When we first join with another in holy relationship, we are not aware that there is a cosmic song of freedom heard throughout the Sonship, a song that is the “joyous echo of your choice” (10:1). We may realize that we have joined together with another individual, but what we don’t realize is that we have joined everyone who has ever awakened (10:2)! As Jesus says in the gospels, “There is joy throughout heaven, and with all the angels of God, when one lost person chooses to change his mind” (Luke 15:7,10, my paraphrase). When we choose a holy instant, heaven throws a party! They are so glad we’ve come home! We have taken the first crucial step in remembering that we are part of The One.

Rather than resisting our special relationship, now become our new, holy relationship, because it is stressful at first, Jesus calls on us to bless it. God has blessed it, and wants us to join Him (10:3–4)! If we will just bless it, we’ll cease to see it as a problem and understand that “in it rests salvation,” that this relationship is the means by which we find our way home to God (10:5). To condemn it is to condemn salvation (10:6). As I, and my partner, join together to welcome the changes in our relationship, we will realize that not only have we been blessed, we have together become something “in which all the Sonship is together blessed” (10:7). We are saved, and we are saviors to the world.

Paragraph 11

11. 1You undertook, together, to invite the Holy Spirit into your relationship. 2He could not have entered otherwise. 3Although you may have made many mistakes since then, you have also made enormous efforts to help Him do His work. 4And He has not been lacking in appreciation for all you have done for Him. 5Nor does He see the mistakes at all. 6Have you been similarly grateful to your brother [each other]? 7Have you consistently appreciated the good efforts, and overlooked mistakes? 8Or has your appreciation flickered and grown dim in what seemed to be the light of the mistakes? 9Perhaps you are now entering upon a campaign to blame him [each other] for the discomfort of the situation in which you find yourself [yourselves]. 10And by this lack of thanks and gratitude you make yourself [yourselves] unable to express the holy instant, and thus [you] lose sight of it.

• Study Question •

4. When you first share a holy instant with another person, the relationship between you begins to seem strange, and it seems to be that the other person is acting very strangely. In light of this paragraph, what should you not do about this realization?

A. Be grateful for his/her good efforts.

B. Overlook his/her mistakes.

C. Realize that you have made many mistakes, but that the Holy Spirit has overlooked them and instead has been grateful for your good efforts.

D. Convince the other that the difficulty of the situation you are in could be alleviated if only he/she would change.

The Urtext, addressed directly to Helen and Bill, omits the word “may” in the third sentence because the first sentences here speak of something they had actually done. For the rest of us it is a possibility, not necessarily a fact, although what it speaks of is a common occurrence. Let’s assume we are in a holy relationship. We have invited the Holy Spirit into our relationship (whether or not we knew it at the time we joined in common purpose), and we may have made many mistakes since then (11:1–3). Nevertheless, we have also made considerable efforts on behalf of the Holy Spirit’s work and, when we have done so, the Spirit has very much appreciated it (11:3–4). The idea behind all this, for me, is that the Holy Spirit, or God, has a certain attitude toward us, and a way He behaves toward us, and we are asked to emulate it. He overlooks our mistakes. He does not even see them (11:5). Like the father in the story of the prodigal son, He welcomes us back with open arms.

Some of you, reading this, may be troubled by the anthropomorphic references to God as a separate, divine “Person” who interacts with us, preferring to think of God as an abstract, impersonal Principle, not as a superior Being but as Being Itself, as beingness. That’s fine. An impersonal principle, such as gravity, does not care what mistakes we have made in the past. It responds with equal “enthusiasm” to anyone who acts in accord with its nature, its “law.” God is like the sun and the rain, which fall equally on “the just and the unjust.”

That’s how we are asked to be in regard to one another, especially in the context of a holy relationship (11:6). Appreciate the good efforts and overlook the mistakes (11:7). It’s so easy to let our appreciation of the good be undercut and stifled because our partner has made mistakes (11:8). I know I make that mistake quite often! It seems somehow easier to do the opposite: focus on the mistakes and overlook the good stuff! It’s such an obvious and practical bit of advice. Years ago, Kenneth Blanchard noticed how well this worked in business, and made a fortune writing and selling a little book called The One Minute Manager. One of the principles he set forth was that you help people realize their potential by catching them doing something right. A boss who constantly points out what you did wrong is eroding your motivation to do well. Pointing out when you do a thing right reinforces your motivation. It’s that simple. And it works that way in relationships as well. Of course it does! Boss-employee is just another kind of relationship. 

As this discussion points out, blaming the other person for any discomfort in the relationship rather than expressing thanks and gratitude has exactly the same effect as the critical boss. It erodes motivation. It stifles the expression of the holy instant, and causes both of you to lose sight of it (11:9–10).

Paragraph 12

12. 1The experience of an instant, however compelling it may be, is easily forgotten if you allow time to close over it. 2It must be kept shining and gracious in your awareness of time, but not concealed within it. 3The instant remains. 4But where are you? 5To give thanks to your brother [each other] is to appreciate the holy instant, and thus enable its results to be accepted and shared. 6To attack your brother [each other] is not to lose the instant, but to make it powerless in its effects.

• Study Question •

5. How can you keep the holy instant "shining and gracious in your awareness of time", as also mentioned in Paragraph 1?

A. By having a holy relationship.

B. By entering another holy instant.

C. By being grateful toward your brother.

D. By letting the Holy Spirit shift the goal.

The experience of a holy instant can be a compelling thing. Nevertheless, it can be “easily forgotten if you allow time to close over it,” which I think refers to allowing ourselves to build up grievances about our partners mistakes. The burden of past baggage gets heavier and heavier until it is all we can think of, and the shining joy of the holy instant disappears from our awareness (12:1). A holy instant needs constant polishing, to be “kept shining and gracious in your awareness of time” (12:2). It isn’t negated or lost by our growing pile of grievances. It remains (12:3), but it does become concealed. You have not allowed the holy instant to bear fruit in your lives (12:6). The instant is here and now, “but where are you” (12:4)? You are stuck in the past!

When you give thanks to a brother or sister for every action or word that furthers the goal of the holy relationship, you are appreciating the holy instant that drew you together (12:5). You are polishing it, calling it to mind. The results of the holy instant—the holy relationship—can thus be accepted and shared (12:5). You will find the relationship transforming from something “special” to something holy. And by its very nature, the effects will extend beyond itself to touch those around you as well.

Paragraph 13

13. 1You have received the holy instant, but you may have established a condition in which you cannot use it. 2As a result, you do not realize that it is with you still. 3And by cutting yourself [yourselves] off from its expression, you have denied yourself [yourselves] its benefit. 4You reinforce this every time you attack your brother [you attack each other], for the attack must blind you to yourself. 5And it is impossible to deny yourself [yourselves], and to recognize what has been given and received by you.

• Study Question •

6. It’s possible that, although you have received the holy instant, you have cut yourself off from its expression, the holy relationship. How might you have done this, according to this section (there may be more than one right answer)?

A. You have attacked your brother and blamed him for the period of discomfort.

B. You have been tempted to focus on other situations, since this one seems so hopeless.

C. You have not allowed the Holy Spirit to fully shift the goal.

D. You have turned the relationship back into an unholy relationship.

Again, the Urtext omits “may” in the first sentence, speaking something that had already happened with Helen and Bill. It was added by the editors because perhaps not everyone will make this mistake.

Even though you have received the holy instant (13:1), by focusing on the flaws of one another and refraining from appreciation of the good, you can cut yourselves off from the expression of the holy instant (the experience of the holy relationship). You are not receiving the joy that is to be found in a holy relationship (13:2–3). Your grievances, as the Workbook teaches, hide the light of the world in you. Your nature is love, but when you attack your brother, it blinds you to the reality of what you are (13:4). Once you have thus denied yourself you can no longer recognize the value of the holy instant and what it has given you (13:5).

Practically speaking, most of us have experienced this kind of thing in association with others. We come together with some high-minded goal, but the union disintegrates with competition, wounded egos, and bitterness. That’s just another form of what the Course is talking about.

Paragraph 14

14. 1You and your brother stand together in the holy presence of truth itself. 2Here is the goal, together with you. 3Think you not the goal itself will gladly arrange the means for its accomplishment? 4It is just this same discrepancy between the purpose that has been accepted and the means as they stand now which seems to make you suffer, but which makes Heaven glad. 5If Heaven were outside you, you could not share in its gladness. 6Yet because it is within, the gladness, too, is yours. 7You are joined in purpose, but remain still separate and divided on the means. 8Yet the goal is fixed, firm and unalterable, and the means will surely fall in place because the goal is sure. 9And you will share the gladness of the Sonship that it is so.

• Study Question •

7. The discrepancy between the holy relationship’s goal and the old, ego-based structure, seems to cause us suffering. Yet this paragraph says it makes Heaven glad! Why?

A. Because Heaven has been upset with you for a long, long time.

B. Because this discrepancy has the power to change your mind about what the whole relationship is for.

C. Because the goal has the power to lift the current structure of the relationship out of its unholy state.

D. Because this discrepancy is a sign that the relationship has been reborn as holy.

E. Because Heaven often feels glad for no good reason.


I get the feeling from this paragraph that a holy relationship is a gateway to Heaven. Standing together, we are “in the holy presence of truth itself” (14:1). The second sentence says, “Here is the goal, together with you” (14:2). The emphasis on “with,” to me, implies that the holy relationship is the goal, or rather, the union experienced between two people is a “miniature” or facet of the greater Union of which we all are parts. We are hooked in to something much greater than we realize, something that can, and will, “gladly arrange the means for its accomplishment” (14:3). In joining together with one another we have become connected to a divine life-force. We have planted a seed, and it will grow into a full-grown, mature form. It cannot be stopped.

The seeming suffering we are enduring is just growing pains. The discrepancy between goal and structure, as uncomfortable as it may be, is really a good thing, and it “makes Heaven glad” (14:4). It is evidence that a new life has been planted in us and is pushing against the soil, striving to break forth into full expression; and when it does, we will “share the gladness of the Sonship” as we come fully into line with the goal of our holy relationship (14:5–9).

Sentence 7, I believe, originally spoke in particular to the relationship between Helen and Bill. They had indeed joined in common purpose, but they remained “still separate and divided on the means.” The both wanted the same thing, but they disagreed on how to accomplish it. Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when he used the word “disjunctive” to describe the fledgling relationship back in T-17.V.3:3. That same situation can easily crop up in any of our relationships; perhaps you have run across it in one of your relationships. The assurance given here is that, despite the disagreement about means, that “the means will surely fall in place,” drawn ineluctably to agreement just as the power of gravity draws everything back to earth, drawn by the operative power of the “fixed and unalterable” goal (14:8).

Paragraph 15

15. 1As you begin to recognize and accept the gifts you have so freely given to your brother [each other], you will also accept the effects of the holy instant and use them to correct all your mistakes and free you from their results. 2And learning this, you will have also learned how to release all the Sonship, and offer it in gladness and thanksgiving to Him Who gave you your release, and Who would extend it through you.

• Study Question •

8. There is a two-step process described here. What are the two steps?

How will that play out? How will the goal of the holy relationship bring disparate ideas about the means into alignment with each other? 

It begins with a mutual appreciation of one another, and of the gifts that each has brought to the relationship, especially the crowning gift of joining in a holy instant. That will lead to acceptance of “the effects of the holy instant” (15:1). Look back, for a moment, at the last two sentences of Paragraph 12:

To give thanks to each other is to appreciate the holy instant, and thus enable its results to be accepted and shared. To attack each other is not to lose the instant, but to make it powerless in its effects.

This is clearly talking about the same thing as Paragraph 15. Note all the words in common: accept, effects, results. Rather than attacking each other for all the faults you see in each other, you thank each other for the gifts you have given and that you have received. This opens the door so that the power of the shared goal can flow in and enable you both “to correct all your mistakes and free you from their results,” instead of using the mistakes to drive a wedge of separation between you. This is simply the application, in the context of the holy relationship, of the principles of forgiveness taught over and over in the Course: Rather than judging mistakes as sins that demand punishment, we look upon them as mistakes that call for correction. We see them as a call for love, not a call for vengeance.

As we learn this lesson in the context of our one-on-one relationships, we are simultaneously learning “how to release all the Sonship.” The lesson of forgiveness implemented here can now be extended to the world—which is the purpose given all relationships by the Holy Spirit (15:2). 


• Study Question •

9. Suggestion: Write a one- or two-paragraph story, in which two people go through the process that this section talks about, from beginning to end. At least cover these elements:

holy instant

period of discomfort

ego reactions and "solutions" to the period of discomfort

true solution to the period of discomfort

Answer Key

1. A​ and D

2. A

3. A,B,C,D

4. D

5. C

6. A,B

7. B,C,D

8. The first step is to forgive yourself; the second step is to forgive your brother and the Sonship.


Father, I thought I wandered from Your Will, defied it, broke its laws, and interposed a second will more powerful than Yours. Yet what I am in truth is but Your Will, extended and extending. This am I, and this will never change. As You are One, so am I one with You. And this I chose in my creation, where my will became forever one with Yours. That choice was made for all eternity. It cannot change, and be in opposition to itself. Father, my will is Yours. And I am safe, untroubled and serene, in endless joy, because it is Your Will that it be so.

Today we will accept our union with each other and our Source. We have no will apart from His, and all of us are one because His Will is shared by all of us. Through it we recognize that we are one. Through it we find our way at last to God (W-pII.329.2:1-4).