I have been thinking a great deal lately about forgiveness with a lowercase f. I mean the ordinary – the traditional – experience of forgiveness. Of accepting apologies, letting grudges go, and moving on with our brothers and sisters.
That is a different understanding of forgiveness than that espoused by A Course in Miracles (which is why I distinguish it with a lowercase f). In terms of the course, forgiveness is a way of seeing, or a shift in perception, by which we see our brothers and sisters not as enemies but as friends (e.g., T-17.9:1-3).
In that sense, forgiveness essentially undoes our specialness – our uniqueness – by allowing us to perceive everyone equally (e.g., T-25.IX.8:1). Since we cannot really do this on our own, we turn to Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help us, adopting their sight in place of our own (e.g., T-5.I.3:1-2, T-5.II.11:1).
Thus, as students of A Course in Miracles, we do not take note of the so-called wrongs other people do to us, then agree to overlook them because we are following a spiritual path, have evolved to a higher understanding of love, and so forth. Doing that just makes the error real (e.g., T-30.VI.4:1). And the course emphasizes that what we actually are cannot hurt or wronged or injured (T-in.2:2-3). To believe otherwise is literally what it means to be separated, and it inevitably forces our brothers and sisters into separation-based thinking and experience as well.
That’s well and good – better than well and good, actually – but how are we to handle the fact that we aren’t always in that space? What do we do when we believe that we have been treated unfairly or poorly? That we have been wronged?
In this world – in these bodies – that is going to happen from time to time, even to those of us who are maybe starting to feel consistently peaceful and happy, and for whom applying ACIM principles is our default mode of behavior.
I think in those situations, forgiveness with a lowercase “f” – just accepting that bad stuff happens, people screw up, including us from time to time, and so why not just let it go – isn’t a bad policy.
That is, we can just enact basic, traditional forgiveness with the understanding that A Course in Miracles proposes another way that we have yet to fully and functionally embrace.
And that is okay, so long as it reminds us to remain committed to our ACIM practice.
Really, what I am saying here, is that even traditional forgiveness – ordinary forgiveness – can be a form of love.
“I forgive you.” We don’t even have to say it out loud. We don’t have to make a big production out of it. But we can let our hearts enter that space of forgiveness as love. It’s okay; it’s more than okay.
It is particular loving and helpful when we can yoke it to the metaphysics behind A Course in Miracles. That is, we can have a forgiving heart here in the world while remembering that there is another way to understand the experience.
If we do that, sooner or later, we are going to be enable to enact that experience – forgiveness with a capital F, if you will.
More and more one appreciates the importance of kindness in ones practice. It is a kind of service unto our brothers and sisters, and the world that together we bring forth. When we are kind, our mind is less boxed in by the ego. There is more room to remember that what we actually are is formless and cannot be injured or harmed.
This, in turn, undoes our sense of vulnerability, and the accompanying need to defend oneself. It testifies to the truth of “nothing real can be threatened” (T-in.2:2).
Forgiveness in the world isn’t going to bring us to Heaven, to that pre-separation state of formlessness and love. But there can be a gentleness to it, a lovingkindness. It is a way of saying to our brothers and sisters, “we are in this together and I don’t want to get hung up on the little things. I don’t want to forget you or forsake you.”
Really, this is just about being nice! It sounds so simple but it’s hard. If you look around, you can see this. People are scared and stressed and sad. They are impatient and overwhelmed. I am too. It happens.
The question is: what can we do about it?
Well, we can be nice. In ordinary, common sense ways, we can be helpful and gentle and kind. Why not? It opens a little space in which we can remember – and maybe even share – that this world is not our home.