On Guilt, Corsets and A Course in Miracles

I was talking with a friend the other day about forgiveness. In particular, I was harboring a grudge with an ACIM teacher who is not meeting my personal standard for gender equity. Cut him some slack, my friend said. He’s your father’s age. It’s a generational thing.

When we find ourselves really hating on somebody, it’s not a bad idea to take a look in the mirror. I don’t mean that in a critical way – like we’re really the rotten ones who deserve disdain and rejection. I mean rather that we need to be aware of how our guilt facilitates projection and how that projection creates a world full of others who are responsible for our problems. I’m not screwed up and confused about gender – look at how carefully I always write “brothers AND sisters” – but that other teacher . . . man, it’s like the nineteenth century all over again.

Our so-called enemies are our best teachers, if we can crack the door just enough to let Jesus in.

And yet . . .

Cutting people slack is not my strong suit. I like guilt to be as tight-fitting as a nineteenth century corset. I want it to be so close it hurts.

The problem is, that corset isn’t just on you – it’s on me, too. It’s choking both of us. Guilt – much like corsets – doesn’t really do anybody any good. They force us into unnatural positions – that is, we are naturally kind and loving and joyful and guilt crimps us with fear and anger. Corsets could cause long-term health problems, too – just like guilt and anger can. You don’t have to believe in the body to take this seriously. A lifetime of guilt only lengthens the nightmare through we are stumbling. It’s a sort of spiritual constriction. Why not break free?

Probably there are ACIM students so naturally gifted they sneeze and wake up in Heaven. I’m not one of them. For me, it takes work. It takes forgiveness. That means that I have to pay attention to what’s going on in the so-called dream. It means I have to see when I’m enslaved by the ego and when – grudgingly sometimes, haltingly sometimes, tentatively sometimes – I’m listening only to the Holy Spirit.

When I am in the throes of the ego – as when I am griping that so-and-so insists on calling women “brothers” – I need to slow down and ask for help. Maybe cutting people slack isn’t something for which I’ve got a knack, but Jesus certainly does. It’s okay – it’s more than okay – to ask him for a few tips. It’s my experience that he answers and that his answers are always helpful (which is a separate issue from my resistance to those answers).

When we understand at last that the world is composed of our projections and that these projections merely reflect our self-hatred, greed and guilt, then we get to entertain some real healing. We get to invite the teacher in who knows a) how screwed-up and sketchy we think we are and b) that we’re really just healed minds at one with God. This healing might not feel especially metaphysical. It’s probably not going to be dramatic. Rather, you get to look at the so-called sexist ACIM teacher and see your anger with him as resistance to healing. And so you can see, too, that he knows something you don’t. And maybe – just maybe – you can let go of that anger and finally ask for the help you’ve been longing for since time began.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Quite the opposite, actually. But I am saying that it’s doable – for you and for me. We can chuck these corsets any time we want. We can celebrate the unconditional sisterhood we share with God. The only question is when.

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