On August 7, 2016 Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the assembled people at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Thank you all for being here! Woohoo! Hat off for mom. (Rev. Tony takes off his fedora and puts it on the piano behind him.) Ok. My talk today is "Don't Be Conflict Averse." Do not be conflict averse. That's not conflict "adverse," that's conflict "averse." Being conflict averse is a term that is used in business and psychology. It means that you shouldn't feel that you need to avoid conflict. You shouldn't feel that you always have to get away from conflict quickly. Don't be averse to it. "Averse" is an adjective that means, "... having a strong dislike of, or opposition to, something."
This actually seems antithetical to some spiritual people. Some A Course in Miracles people think we should avoid conflict. We shouldn't be in conflict if we're practicing A Course in Miracles. It's about getting out of conflict, isn't it? Well, to get out of conflict, sometimes you have to walk into it. If you don't walk into it, if you are constantly trying to avoid conflict, then it's a problem. It's not actually healthy to continually try to avoid conflict. We have to walk through conflict. We have to resolve it. We're not going to resolve it unless we walk straight into it and not be so strong in our dislike of it. It's actually a very bad thing, in business especially, to be conflict averse. If you have some conflict going on with your employees, your staff, you have to address it. You have to look at it. You have to talk about it. You have to figure out what the problem is. Then you have to do something to correct the problem. If you don't do that, the problem will just fester, build and then cause larger problems later on.
It's also true especially in relationships. If you are in a relationship with a friend or an intimate, and there is some conflict coming up, you can't be averse to that. You have to actually look at that, talk about it, and confront it. It's true here at the Community Miracles Center. It's true here at our church. It's true with our Board of Directors. When we have some conflict going on, we have to talk about it. We have to state the issue; we have to discuss it. We have to look at it. We have to see what's going on there. And that's what is so important about that lesson our Reader read, Lesson 333. This is usually a lesson that most A Course in Miracles people don't really like all that much. They try to ignore, pretend it isn't really there.
"Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, nor hidden by deceit of any kind if it would be escaped. It must be seen exactly as it is, where it is thought to be, in the reality which has been given it, and with the purpose that the mind accorded it. For only then are its defenses lifted and the truth can shine upon it as it disappears." (OrEd.WkBk.333.1)
So, we have to look at our conflict. We have to confront it. We can't be averse to it, because confronting our conflict is the only way we are going to lift our defenses to it. That's the only way the truth is going to shine on our conflict, and that's the only way our conflict is going to actually be able to disappear. I had a woman, an intimate partner, for about eight years and she was very fond of saying, "Conflict is a positive form of communication." She had learned that in some psychology course or somewhere like that. I didn't really realize how much she actually meant it though, because for the last few years of our relationship we were frequently in conflict. But it was a positive thing. It was something that we had to do.
I currently am an Administrator of a very large Facebook A Course in Miracles discussion group – a Facebook group with more than 11,000 members. I was made an Administrator there by the good graces of the creator of the group, who had been thinking about making me an Administrator for almost a year before she finally did it. She needed some help administrating the group. When you have a large group like that, you have to approve members, and you have to monitor the posts. People do all kinds of things in large groups like that. Once groups get large like that people think they can put ads on it. They, for some reason, want to spam it with pornography, or some very violent images. People do amazing, strange, and weird things. It is almost like a form of digital "vandalism" sometimes, or just simple commercial promotion.
You need to have Administrators who have the control to delete posts and the power to approve members, so she made me an Administrator. Her name is Diana and I really thank her for that. It's a large A Course in Miracles group and as these groups frequently do, we have stated guidelines and rules that we try to make people function with. I really liked the guidelines this group had as it was very open. The group just wanted to make sure the discussions always focused on A Course in Miracles and were not too commercial. Aside from those you could pretty much do anything. Which is great! The group didn't mind if you talked about the different versions of A Course in Miracles. The group didn't mind if you talked about topics that sometimes cause quite a bit of controversy. So, this group can actually be quite contentious at time. Contentious. It's an adjective. "Causing or likely to cause an argument or to be quite argumentative." This group has arguments in it at times. It can actually be quite contentious sometimes.
I encourage all of you who could stand that to join this group. It's great!And I could actually use some support there at times. It's just named A Course in Miracles. If you just go on Facebook and sort for a group called A Course in Miracles. The masthead has an images that states, "Life has a way of reflecting your views," and then there is a mirror image of that line like it was reflecting on water. If you ask to join that group I will approve you. You can be on that group. Remember, the group is contentious at times and people get in arguments around it, but we allow that. We don't stop that. In many groups they don't allow that, but in this group we do allow that. Therefore, we can talk about very controversial topics. We can talk about sexuality. We had this huge discussion about rape one time. That was contentious. We are currently discussing politics quite a bit, because currently politics are going on in the world. Some people don't like that we talk about these things. They really, really don't like it, because it creates too much conflict – and they are conflict adverse. They don't want that conflict and they think we really shouldn't discuss topics that bring up that kind of energy.
How can you avoid those kinds of topics? That's the world. I think it's really strange that we live in a world where all these things are going on but yet we think our spiritual discipline shouldn't be involved with discussions about them. When we are, when we're talking about these topics, it creates too much conflict. These people believe our spirituality should only bring peace, and it shouldn't bring conflict. So there's inherently something wrong with having these types of discussions in a group like this. But I don't think so. I think these are the types of conversations we have to have. We need to learn to apply our spiritual discipline to every area of our lives: in our relationships, in our intimate lives, in our sexual behavior, in our politics. That's where our minds are a lot of the time. That's where the issues in our lives are. We have to be able to discuss these things. We have to be able to apply our spiritual discipline to these things. I think it's very good to have a place where those discussions can take place. So again, I encourage you to find that group and join me there.
A Course in Miracles tells us that we are on this great crusade. It says, "…you must join the Great Crusade to correct it. The slogan for the Crusade is ‘Listen, learn and do': Listen to my voice, learn to undo error, and do something to correct it. The first two are not enough." Okay. So "listen" and "learn" are not enough. You need the "do" part and then there is something interesting. I quote this a lot. "The real members of my party ..." this is Jesus talking, so the real members of Jesus' party, "... are active workers." (OrEd.Tx.1.31) They are active doers. If you are going to be an active doer out there in the world – if you are going to bring this message to the world in whatever way you get the opportunity to do that – then there is going to be conflict. The world generally does not want to hear the healing message from A Course In Miracles. If the world wanted to hear the Course message, the message would be in the world much more than it is. So, we bring this message to the world. But the world resists it, and that causes conflict. If we are so conflict averse that we can't handle that, then we won't be doing the work that Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or the Divine, wants us to do.
A Course in Miracles says "All the separated ones have a basic fear of retaliation and abandonment .… Many thought that I was attacking them, even though it was quite apparent that I was not. An insane learner learns strange lessons." (OrEd.Tx.6.70) If Jesus is calling us to be like him, then many are going to think we are attacking them when we bring this message to the world. Even though in our minds, it is apparent that we are not. So nothing has gone wrong if when being a spokesperson for the Holy Spirit, for Jesus, you encounter conflict. That doesn't mean you made a mistake. It may actually mean that you are doing exactly what the Holy Spirit or Jesus wants you to do.
Here's another quote. "What you must understand . . ." I always like it when A Course in Miracles uses terms like "must." That means we must understand what it is going to say next. It is English after all. So what it says is, "What you must understand is that when you do not share a thought system, you are weakening it. Those who believe in it therefore perceive this as an attack on them." (OrEd.Tx.6.71) If we don't share the thought system that we are bodies and that the world is real – if we don't share the thought system that we have a limited life – and we are trying to teach a thought system that life is unlimited, that we are spirits and that we are not actually bodies then all those who believe firmly in body and world – which is still a vast majority of people – are going to perceive that we are attaching them. And so, we we'll get into conflict if we are doing what A Course in Miracles is telling us to do. Our message is not necessarily going to be welcome.
That took me a very long time to understand. I thought our message would be the "good news," because to me it seems like good news, but it is difficult for a lot of people to accept these ideas. They are fully entrenched in the idea of a limited physical reality life. So, we're telling people – or we're telling ourselves since the people we encounter are just a reflection of ourselves – that we are eternal and infinite. But a lot of people just plain don't want to hear that. Even a lot of A Course in Miracles students still don't really want to hear that. A lot of A Course in Miracles students, a lot of spiritual students, I think are just looking for something that will help them feel a little bit better as they walk steadily on to disintegration and death. (laughter) They just do. A lot of people study A Course in Miracles so they can be a little bit happier in the world as they go along, age, and do the things they think that bodies do. Eventually they die, and isn't there a way to feel a little better about that whole process?
Well I am sure there is. I'm sure A Course in Miracles can be used in that way too, but I think it's really calling us to something much larger than that. It's calling us to really be manifesting a world where eternal life is reflected. I actually think that our ministry with: A Course in Miracles, Community Miracles Center, what we do, our ministers, our staff at the Conferences, we are really a group of people who are bringing a different message. Our message is not only that we can just feel a little bit better while walking steady on towards disintegration and death, but really a message that says we don't have to age and die as it seems to be out there in the world. We can actually bring an entirely new reality into manifestation, a reality that reflects the eternality of our true selves.
I think that's what we have here. We are developing this cadre of miracle workers. I love that word, "cadre." It's a small group of people specially trained for a particular purpose or profession. We are a group of people especially trained for a particular purpose or profession. That purpose or profession is to bring the good news of eternal life, and a newly manifested world that would more closely reflect that, to the current world and we can't really assume that this message is going to be embraced in a positive way. A lot of people are going to fight our message. I encountered this recently with the Conference finale that I did at the Las Vegas Conference in April. I was trying to bring a different message. I think I did it very effectively, but a certain percentage of people attacked me for that. There is still some of this going on. That surprised me a little bit, but I'm not as conflict averse as I used to be. I can walk through this conflict and even embrace it, even though a bit of this reaction was difficult.
A Course in Miracles says that if we follow Holy Spirit's guidance, we have to be willing to do this and walk through seeming terror sometimes. This idea that A Course in Miracles is this great path towards inner peace – yes of course it is, yet it says things like this, "Yet God can bring you there if you are willing to follow the Holy Spirit through seeming terror, trusting Him not to abandon you and leave you there." (OrEd.Tx.18.87) If we are that active, cadre of miracle workers we need to be able to follow the Holy Spirit through the seeming terror as we divest people of their fantasy of bodily life. We are going to get push-back; people are going to push back against us. Now the thing is some people might think, "Well I don't really want to embrace that mission in my life. Maybe that's great for Rev. Tony, and maybe that's even great for the ministers at Community Miracles Center, but I don't really know if that is for me. Feeling a little better going through this life feels like a pretty good goal to me."
What I want to say is that you really don't have a choice. You really don't have a choice about that. You can't decide to accept your mission or not. You can only decide that you will accept it now. If don't accept it now, then you will accept it later. There really isn't a choice about the mission itself. The only choice A Course in Miracles tells us we have is when we are going to accept it. We can delay if we want to, but I would really recommend that we don't delay because we are just going to cause ourselves a lot of heartache. Inevitably, eventually we will all answer this call.
We will all work to bring this message to the world. If we don't do it, it's only going to bring us more discomfort than we already have. A Course in Miracles says, "Discomfort is aroused only to bring the need for correction forcibly into awareness." (OrEd.Tx.2.68) I like that word "forcibly." It is not in the Foundation for Inner Peace version of the book. It's in the Original Edition and the other earlier edits. They took out the word "forcibly." Think about that. If we don't do what Jesus or the Holy Spirit wants us to do, more and more discomfort comes into our lives forcibly. There is a discomfort force that is going to happen if we don't accept our mission. Think about that quote that our Reader read about the strain of not acknowledging the call. It says, "To you who have acknowledged the call of your Redeemer, the strain of not responding to His call seems to be greater than before. This is not so. Before, the strain was there but you attributed it to something else, believing that the ‘something else' produced it. This was never true. For what the ‘something else' produced was sorrow and depression, sickness and pain, darkness and dim imaginings of terror, cold fantasies of fear and fiery dreams of hell." (OrEd.Tx.17.77)
Not responding to the call – that's what is in store for you. Is it really a choice? Do you really think you can't respond to this call to bring the message of eternal life to the world? If you are too conflict averse, you are going to avoid the call. Get over it. (laughter) Just get over it. I've been dealing with this for the thirty plus years that I've had this job, so I've got a lot of experience with it. It's okay. You just walk through it. You just trust that the Holy Spirit is always there and the Holy Spirit is always there. The Holy Spirit was with me after I had to deal with the flack about the Las Vegas Conference. There was a lot of conflict; I just walked through it. It was difficult, but that was okay. There were a lot of valuable discussions that were had and the message continued to go out. So, you who are this wonderful cadre of miracle workers here who are bringing this message of eternal life to the world, join me in not being conflict averse. Be willing to walk through the conflict when it comes.
We will be led through and far beyond and what is far beyond is a reality of eternal life. I would say that's a good reality. Let's go for it! Thank you very much. That's my talk for today. (applause)♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (05.15.2018). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Diretors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 2097.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the October 2016 (Vol. 30 No. 8) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.