For a long time I understood forgiveness as an action. It was something that I did to or for you, because of something – usually unpleasant or annoying – that you had done to me. You know, you rear-end my car and I forgive you. I acknowledge the mistake or sin and agree, out of the largeness of my heart and the charity of my spirit, to overlook it. In this way, forgiveness remained deeply related to self-righteousness. It was always contingent on wrong-doing and on the other. Oneness and love were foreign to it.
A Course in Miracles upended that idea. Forgiveness overlooked the sin or error entirely in favor of seeing the perfect child of God. You step on my toe and I don’t even notice my broken Hallux. All I see is the Christ shining in you, a light so radiant that we might as well forget about bodies all together and ascend into Heaven.
I might have talked that way but in my heart I was reluctant to give up on old-school Christian forgiveness. It was very reassuring in its way because it is so fundamentally about preserving our separation from God. It ensures that we always see one another as separate and capable of wrongdoing if not outright evil. And we get to cherish ourselves as just a little bit better than others . . . because we’re willing, with Jesus’ special love, to be forgiving.
The trouble with that mindset is that it doesn’t lead to peace. It’s loveless. I’m not saying that forgiveness, ACIM-style, is easy. Quite the contrary. But I can say that by practicing it – and seeking to understand it – one can get closer to a direct experience of God than they might otherwise.
It is a cornerstone of the Course that we are not these bodies, not these personalities. I have taken to refer to our real self as being our Christ nature. Jesus is not separated from us – he had nothing that we do not have. And so we are capable of ascending to the same quality of love that he experienced and extended. When we do, we make contact with our own Christ nature.
Forgiveness is the experience of seeing the Christ nature in others. Can we make that our focus? Our goal? When we walk down the street are we seeing other bodies or we are swimming in a sea of Christ? When we sit down at the meeting table, are we in the presence of Christ or just co-workers? It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. But we have to try. We have to try to come to that place where our relationship to one another is rooted in that profound love.
This, then, is the practice of forgiveness. It is the daily commitment to see only Christ in our brothers and sisters. It is the willingness to let go of the world of hurt and wrong in favor of the love we are promised is our real inheritance.
You’ll note as you flip through these articles that I’ve struggled a lot with this concept over the years. I’ve resisted it, been confused by it, played with it. I’m sure the evolution isn’t over, either. I offer them here as I offer all the writing on this site: accepting its usefulness to me in my own process and hoping it will be helpful in yours. Take it all with a grain of salt – or perhaps the whole shaker.