Obstacles to Choosing Love

comments 6
Christ / Course Ideas

One of the more challenging topics for me to write about recently was the topic of suffering, and the idea that what Jesus describes as “the choice of love” can end suffering.  It was challenging because I could anticipate resistance to this idea, even as I wrote about it.  I could anticipate potentially alienating a reader or two, (and when you have three readers, all of whom you value dearly, this is indeed a risk), because I can see why this notion could be controversial.  It is controversial even inside of my own self, but in being so, it feels like the frontier where uncertainty and mystery are slowly doing their work of unveiling new understanding.

Because the topic generated some wonderful dialogue, and because the dialogue really gave me a chance to examine my thoughts and beliefs on the notion with added depth, I would like to return to it.  I’d like to say that it is not my goal with this blog to say outlandish things for the sake of doing so, or to pretend I’ve got it all figured out.  I don’t.  However, it is my intent to explore concepts that ring my heart like a bell, and cause me to take notice and closely examine what I’m thinking, what I’m thinking that I’m thinking, and what those inescapable heart twinges are trying to tell me that I’m actually thinking.

This notion of ending suffering by choosing love is one of them.  It needs more room to breathe within me.  It requires more exploration.

I think this topic is controversial because it is easy to experience as being threatening.  Why is that?  Two things are obvious to anyone who has ever inhabited this planet and possessed an awareness of self and other: one, we’ve seen people in the world we know are suffering or who have suffered terribly, and two, we’ve suffered and/or are suffering ourselves to whatever degree we care to admit.  Let me add one corollary: many, if not all of us, at some level are doing our best to make choices that limit our suffering as well as the suffering of others.

So, the notion that a choice of love could eliminate suffering is threatening because it implies that there is something I could have done to reduce the suffering of myself and others, which I haven’t done yet, and therefore, I’ve screwed up- in fact, am arguably screwing up right now- and it also implies that I must not have made some sort of choice of love in the past, and I know I’ve been doing my best to be a loving person.  THAT is one they can’t take away from me.

I think a great starting point for digging further is to take the threat away from this questioning, so we can be truly open to what emerges.  Jesus offers repeated advice in A Course in Miracles we’d do well to heed in moments like this.  One piece of advice goes like this: never be afraid to correct a simple error in perception when it is blocking your view of something great and glorious.  We think errors mean something- that they define us, that they’re real and lasting and must be offset by paying a price.  We hold others accountable for paying this price when (in our judgment) they’ve screwed up, and (if we’re a good person of course), we pay our dues when we’ve screwed up to even up the score.  Jesus doesn’t buy any of that logic.  None.  Zip.  Zero.

He says, look at it this way: you were incorrect.  That’s not so bad.  If you had been correct, your world would be miserable, indeed.  But because you don’t get to decide these things, and God already decided for you that you are perfect and exist forever in a state of grace, that is where you exist.  You can keep pretending you don’t, in the effort to avoid being wrong, in order to prove you were right, but you just keep living an illusion as a result, and enjoying all the rights and privileges associated with it- like suffering, separation, nuclear disasters, and a world fit for a tragic rewrite of Catch 22.  Or… you could accept that you simply made a mistake.  No big deal.  No harm, no foul.  Just start the engine before you try and drive off next time.  You’ll get there faster, and you probably won’t even swear once.  Accepting correction is not admitting we’ve been wrong…  Right and wrong are not part of this conversation…

With the threat of being wrong put aside momentarily, some obvious questions arise for me.  Could the choice of love really eliminate suffering?  If so, how?  And if there’s an answer to that question, why haven’t I done it!?  And what about everyone else?  What good is it to be free of one’s suffering, if all the people we love will still be in harm’s way?  It doesn’t seem right or fair to be blissed out while major segments of the world are going down in flames.  THAT is surely selfish…


It’s no good to be free of suffering by ourselves, is it…  I agree.  This idea, however, that we could be free of suffering, yet separate from others, is a wholly distorted bit of logic.  We suffer because of separation.  There is no such thing as being free of suffering and being alone or separate from anything.  This is the message of Christ: return to your Home, return to Love, return to your Self, return to Unity…  Abandon separation…  This idea that we could somehow accept an end to suffering, by choosing Love, but the price we’d have to pay would be abandoning those we love, is the logic of the insane.  Our logic.  I think this type of thinking prevents us from really making a choice of love.

There are some related thought forms that also keep us rooted in place, and one in particular that Jesus points out in both A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love: specialness.  We may believe we have found love in particular forms, in particular relationships, in particular settings or hobbies, or in particular identity-building endeavors.  We’re afraid love will demand that we give up everything we’ve learned and value, because we sense, I think, at some level that this choice of love really does have the power to change everything.  We’re afraid of change, and afraid of losing the few precious manifestations of what we call love that we have managed to find and hold onto in this mad world.

So this choice is daunting…

We’re afraid it will isolate us.  We’re afraid it will leave us in an even worse condition of lack.  We’re afraid it will cost us the few shreds of meaning we’ve managed to find in this world.  And we’re afraid there’s no going back.  Better the devil we know…

But this choice of Love is nothing like we fear.  It is not at all about loss or isolation of any kind.  Love asks for no sacrifices or austerities.  Jesus is one example of the true nature and power of this choice.  He did not shrink in making this choice with the whole of his being…  He is alive today- right now- in any and all hearts who would have him.  He is distant from no one.  As a man, he could be in the room with a few persons at a time.  As Love, he is everywhere he is called in an instant.  The choice of love is not a choice to abandon or leave behind.  It is a choice to embrace all…  And many of us know others we would speak of in similar terms- beings to whom we call who are available to answer.

All those shreds of meaning to which we cling, those elements of our lives that make us special, they don’t build us up.  They shrink us down.  They limit and constrain us.  They keep us living in the same house as our suffering.  They prevent us from choosing Love, and sharing it with everyone, forever…

To choose to be free of suffering is not to walk away, or leave behind, but to usher in, and join together.  To undo falsehood.  To accept what is.  To live by what is real, joined with all.  The miracle, I think, is that this isn’t a choice any of us can make alone…  It seems that way, perhaps, while we are still on the near side of it, but we don’t get to decide the nature of what lies on the far side.  Only God does.  Let us be grateful for that…


  1. What a wonderful gift of contemplation, witnessing and dialogue that can be given when we offer transparency with our process of “doing the work” and living a life focused on growing and deepening understanding (maybe better said as remembering 🙂 ). You offer up so much with this post.

    I am at the beginning stage of a chunk of time working which limits my time available to write, but not to contemplate. Your words so beautifully shared here will fly with me as I often find much time to ponder in the sky once all are safely cared for (wonderful perk of my job is down time with freedom to think and the opportunity observe the human family at large as we move together in a small tube traveling in the air… not sure that you know, but the paid work 🙂 I do currently is as a flight attendant). I would love to engage your thoughts with more depth, but it will have to wait for a bit.

    I just wanted to take a moment to let you to know that this reader appreciates your honesty and willingness to share your process. It has been my experience that if words ever alienate, it is as it should be. We come to a fork in the road and those who are growing in a different direction (or not moving at all sometimes as well) are naturally given the opportunity to fall away. This is not a bad thing when one is being true to their current understanding of “the truth”. I have witnessed this occurring in my life many times and although it can be a challenge at first, I have come to see it as an organic and natural part of life when we have a focus on living “Christ like” lives.

    We who are focused on growing can become a challenging mirror to dance with as we are in ever expanding motion. I have had friends who want the “old Maren” that they knew and were comfortable with… the one who did not test the edges of their current belief boxes just by being who “she is”. Now this is not saying I have this love/suffering being as one as the hands of Christ in motion thingy ( 🙂 ) down to perfection in action, but it is saying that most days with every breath I draw, this is why I am doing whatever it is that gets done. (a bit more of a share on alienation is offered in a cheat as I don’t have time to retype and it can be found here: http://seeingm.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/because-it-is-hard-to-be-crazy-alone/ )

    You have shared some really important and deep thoughts which I look forward to chewing on, and when I have more time, reflecting a bit more back on too.

    Thanks Michael for being such a courageous voice, taking the time to share and helping us all as we remember together. -x.M


    • Hi Maren,

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I have to digress a moment and respond to the fact that you are part of that which keeps the skies friendly. Your link said a few words about your goal to walk your talk, and do your utmost to be honest with yourself, even when no one is looking. And I think, man… I cannot imagine a better place to encounter the choice to see either the best or the worst in oneself and one’s brother and sister than the innards of an airplane, just prior to take-off and just after landing… You didn’t say you were a saint!

      And totally off the map, I’ve often wondered why airlines don’t charge for the convenience of the overhead bin space, which would vastly streamline the boarding process, as opposed to charging for checked bags? What am I missing? (I’m not expecting a logical answer, by the way…)

      Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts as time permits. I think honestly it is the inner controversy- that coming face to face with a view or stand about which you are conflicted, and not quite ready to really take the medicine- that is the feeling I was trying to describe.

      Thanks for dialoguing, and for sharing your wisdom and experiences.



  2. Michael,
    I’ve had your post in my mind for a few days. Like M, I was chewing your your share a bit. You have a way of touching on so many currents that are unfolding for you with such beautiful transparency that overlap and hit on my own unfolding self that I feel and resonate with but am also in that wonderful place you describe as “the frontier where uncertainty and mystery are slowly doing their work of unveiling new understanding.” Since it is unprocessed in many ways, I have a hard time articulating in this little box with fingers typing on a board, but I do wish to connect and say, zactly :).

    The place of pointing once one goes through the gateway to those on the other side (as can be perceived sometimes) is helpful, yet there is something energetically powerful and explosively fresh about the real time accounting and walking through with your battle shields down, mask off. There is real power in staying present in the confusion, or the not knowing, or the field of hmmm. That place is open for correction moment by moment, free for adjusting as we go. And the different “feeling” of love and fear becomes more apparent in this place, it seems to me.

    I was realizing yesterday how the discordant “have to” s in my life have always felt off, but that feeling was discarded as I chose to comply with the mainstream systems and rules. I still participate in society under the radar in an acceptable way, but I feel like a stealth agent, my body a new sort of radar detecting flowing spots and stuck spots in the movement of energy as I move along. What has fallen away from me seems a tragedy through most other lenses in the world, yet unencumbered by their ideas of what is suffering and what is love, i can recognize and dance within the gifts given in the stripping life has brought me. Now I sound like I am talking beyond the gate, which I am not. but understanding the process a bit more, it would seem 🙂

    Bowing to you for your choice to live by what is real, and to put “it” into words. Enjoying the party with you, brother M! 🙂


    • Marga,

      Out beyond the field of right and wrong, there is a field of Hmmm… I will meet you there.

      I agree that there are riches to be learned by being willing to be confused and confounded, when that is the truth of where we’re at. Not that we should make a career out of staying there, because I think Love is always waiting for us to drop those battle shields just long enough to whisper It’s Answer, but it’s not a process we can short circuit. I think sometimes we’re under the illusion that as we unlearn and remember, things become more stable and clear. And I think as far as being able to remain in Peace, they do. But I think perhaps the process of receiving downloads from the Unknown, that we can in turn absorb and re-broadcast as the Known, never ends. In other words, while the truth within us stabilizes and remains clear, what we are able to offer and express never becomes stagnant. We just become more comfortable, perhaps, with the dynamic ebb and flow of Creation.

      The stripping away you describe sounds beautiful- not like a loss, but a making room for real treasure!

      Glad there are stealth agents at work all over the world. This one is bowing right back.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really loved your post! Especially the part where you talked about suffering of self and others…
    The best part is ‘we think the errors mean something’ 🙂
    This is what also inspired my post ‘No regrets’ that you liked, thanks for visiting by the way. xox


    • Thank you. This is a topic that I have found it helpful to explore. It is funny- I am pretty clear on what the center of my chest feels about these matters, but I am also pretty clear that “I” am still a cloud of thoughts that aggregate like a coterie of consultants, experts, and diverse hangers-on. I find it is helpful sometimes to ask them to step forward- mano y mano like- and account for themselves! Writing can sometimes help that process take place. I’m really glad you stopped by. Let’s continue to inspire one another, for there is no greater work. Michael


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