It’s worth it to me to lay out the steps of how a worldly self concept is developed and how to get out of it (ACIM text 31.V - VII). Here is my idea of the punch line: The Holy Spirit can give me the means to see only love in my brother (ACIM forgiveness). Doing this, I am released from a world of pain and suffering along with my brother. We both live in a world of love, as God created it and us. To accept the means and Aid given by the Holy Spirit, I must be willing to release my worldly self concept.
In my 51 years of thinking I am in this world, I have been through a number of self concepts: child of an alcoholic, honors engineering student, struggle for a career, recovering alcoholic, motorcyclist, nun, long distance runner (marathoner, ultra-marathoner). Now, having been somewhat of a recluse for almost a year, I am letting go of my past concepts and being more of a nobody. I continue to study and learn from the Holy Spirit, going out each day to learn forgiveness, practice love and bring my hate to the Holy Spirit that it may be healed.
The world tells me to “get a life;” and then criticizes whatever life I got. I see that every self concept I could choose ends up in this painful state. The thing I have decided now is a type of transformation: seeing things differently. Most importantly: seeing the love behind everything and realizing all else does not exist. God is love, therefore only love exists.
Everything that follows is excerpts from the ACIM text (underlines mine).
The building of a concept of the self is what the learning of the world is for. This is its purpose; that you come without a self, and make one as you go along. And by the time you reach “maturity” you have perfected it, to meet the world on equal terms, at one with its demands… A concept of the self is made by you. It bears no likeness to yourself at all. It is an idol, made to take the place of your reality as Son of God.
The lesson teaches this: “I am the thing you made of me, and as you look on me, you stand condemned because of what I am.”; On this conception of the self the world smiles with approval, for it guarantees the pathways of the world are safely kept, and those who walk on them will not escape…Here is the central lesson that ensures your brother is condemned eternally. For what you are has now become his sin. For this is no forgiveness possible. No longer does it matter what he does, for your accusing finger points to him, unwavering and deadly in its aim. It points to you as well, but this is kept still deeper in the mists below the face of innocence
Concepts are learned. They are not natural. Apart from learning they do not exist. They are not given, so they must be made. Not one of them is true, and many come from feverish imaginations, hot with hatred and distortions born of fear. What is a concept but a thought to which its maker gives a meaning of his own? Concepts maintain the world. But they can not be used to demonstrate the world is real.
Now must the Holy Spirit find a way to help you see this concept of the self must be undone, if any peace of mind is to be given you.
The concept of the self has always been the great preoccupation of the world. And everyone believes that he must find the answer to the riddle of himself. Salvation can be seen as nothing more than the escape from concepts. It does not concern itself with content of the mind, but with the simple statement that it thinks. And what can think has choice, and can be shown that different thoughts have different consequence.
Seek not your Self in symbols (idols).
The world can teach no images of you unless you want to learn them. There will come a time when images have all gone by, and you will see you know not what you are. It is to this unsealed and open mind that truth returns, unhindered and unbound. Where concepts of the self have been laid by is truth revealed exactly as it is. When every concept has been raised to doubt and question, and been recognized as made on no assumptions that would stand the light, then is the truth left free to enter in its sanctuary, clean and free of guilt.
You see the flesh or recognize the spirit.
By focusing upon the good in him, the body grows decreasingly persistent in your sight, and will at length be seen as little more than just a shadow circling round the good. And this will be your concept of yourself, when you have reached the world beyond the sight your eyes alone can offer you to see. For you will not interpret what you see without the Aid That God has given you. And in His sight there is another world. (VII)