There are few phrases in the Christian lexicon that are as troubling as “forgive and forget.”
How many times have we said, “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget?” Or, “I’ll forgive but I can’t forget?”
The problem is, the two actions – forgiving and forgetting – go hand it hand. The one makes the other possible. It makes it necessary. If we remember – if we still hold the grudge to even the smallest degree – than we have not truly forgiven and we are going to have to try again.
Twenty-five years ago when I made a brief show of studying and practicing Zen Buddhism (which was a fruitful gesture, by the way, if brief) I read Philip Kapleau who said something to the effect of “forget your good deeds and confess your bad ones.”
I’ve never forgotten it because it confounds in every way the Ego, the egoic self. I want to cherish my so-called “good deeds” and forget about the so-called “bad ones.”
A Course in Miracles places forgiveness at the heart of its curriculum of mind training. We are slowly being taught that forgiveness – which is right-minded thinking, which is Love, which is the miracle, and which is not possible without the Holy Spirit’s assistance – is the way to Heaven.
It is not forgiveness as the world and plenty of traditional religious belief systems have taught it. We are not identifying the sin or error and choosing to overlook it. We are not “hating the sin but loving the sinner.” Instead, we are doing something much more radical. We are overlooking the error entirely and seeing only the perfect son or daughter of Christ.
True forgiveness erases the wrong entirely. Why? It’s like shining a massive light on the thinnest of shadows. It disappears! How can we remember a wrong somebody did us when that somebody radiates the very face of Christ?
Even in the New Testament – heck, so many of the scriptures on forgiving others – Jesus and other spiritual leaders of the Bible talk about the importance of letting it all go. Jesus tells us that we cannot come to the altar if we have not forgiven our brothers and sisters. Even a shred of anger or bitterness or hatred will keep us from seeing the radiance of God.
This is not a condition – Jesus is not saying unless you do this, I won’t give myself to you. Not at all. Rather, this is a condition of our very identity. We are Love. We are Light. We can ignore that, obfuscate it, debase it but we cannot destroy it. As the Course makes clear, we did not create ourselves. Forgiveness – and forgetting – is the essence of our identity in God. When we we refuse to accept that, we refuse ourselves.
The altar that Jesus refers to is not the one that some of us see in church on Sunday. It’s the one inside of us. We can – we should – go there as often as possible. But we have to forgive in a radical way. We forgive so as to forget our small and insignificant selves in favor of our Self in Christ, our oneness with God.