The Unintended Consequences Of Defense

Years ago I conducted a memorial service at some friends’ beach house, since the new widow wanted to honour her late husband’s desire to have his ashes scattered in the Atlantic. As the assorted guests arrived, one of them commented on how much she liked a lamp in one of the bedrooms fashioned after a palm tree, obviously with palm leaves as the shade. One hostess immediately unplugged the lamp and graciously, but with determination, handed it to the startled guest, insisting that she take it. Of course, she protested and commented that she couldn’t possibly take the lamp; she was only admiring it. The hostess continued in her insistence and the woman promptly stashed the lamp in her car and the service then commenced.

A few days later, a very large box arrived at the beach house and the recent giver of the lamp inquired of her partner about its contents, to which she replied with a smile, “You’ll see!” When the box was opened, it contained a much larger floor lamp version of the identical one given away. It was so big, and the “palm fronds” shade was sufficiently wide, that the only place in the house it could possibly fit was by the fireplace in the living room.

And now to the moral of our story…

It turns out the “generous” hostess seriously disliked that lamp and was delighted at this perfect opportunity to get rid of it graciously. Her partner was unaware of the distress about this lamp and presumed she was being exceptionally thoughtful in replacing it. Happily they both have a marvelous sense of humour and the craziness of the situation and the basic unfounded assumptions led to much laughter. But here is the important lesson inherent in this tale: What you object to, fight against, resist, or defend against will always grow larger in one’s experience — in this case most literally. If you defend against certain types of people, they will loom larger in your personal life. Resist any situation and it will be cast like concrete into your experience. Object to a way of life and it will force its way into your attention no matter how hard you try to escape.

This phenomenon occurs because where you place your attention is always a request for more of the same. A basic law by which we all live is that charged emotional attention creates or attracts the focus of our unspeakably powerful ability to create. The clearly unknown fact is that focusing on what you want or what you do not want is exactly the same to the creative response built into all of us. It cannot distinguish, since to dislike or avoid something requires the same intentional focus as a deeply desired request for more.

A second and related law demonstrated here is that what you give you always, without fail, receive. So if you want to experience peace, offer that to everyone. If you want to be treated kindly, offer compassion and understanding to everyone. If you wish to live abundantly, be generous. And you can count on the opposite occurring as well. Offer hate and you will suffer, make others wrong and you will inexplicably find things not working out no matter how hard you try, attest to a person’s guilt and you will feel accused and diminished.

If these laws, not merely moral or man-made, but the observable process of the universe as predictable as the law of gravity, were known, then much mayhem and destruction in our world, both private and collective, could quickly cease. These laws are not negotiable and ignorance of them does not give one a free pass to get away with indiscriminately focused attention.

Most important of all — you should not just read about this but practice and discover these truths for yourself. If you are concerned about violence in our troubled world, practice being peaceful yourself. The gift of offering only what you actually want to receive is far more powerful and far-reaching than we can imagine. A huge lamp replacing a small one can be seen as an amusing, although most accurate, example. A huge social or individual problem stemming from lack of awareness of our own power is not. Choose wisely what you pay attention to, and thus, offer to the world!

Carol Howe is one of the original and most respected teachers of A Course In Miracles. A personal friend of co-scribe Bill Thetford, she wrote his biography, Never Forget To Laugh. Throughout her 40 year career with ACIM, she has guided many thousands on their journey to inner peace. To download a free copy of her latest book, The Best Guide Ever to A Course In Miracles, visit