When we encounter ourselves as less than perfectly-loving – which, if we are honest, is most of the time – there are two coherent responses. The first is not to freak out. The second is to do better.
We don’t freak out because drama – spiritual or otherwise – tends to be a distraction. Getting hung up on our flaws and shortcoming is a zero sum game: there are always going to be flaws and shortcomings. Giving our attention to them in the form of self-hate and self-improvement and so forth is just another way of focusing on ourselves rather than others. It’s just another way to ignore our brothers and sisters.
Really, when we perceive ourselves as imperfect – whether in our thoughts or our actions – we are just seeing the way in which we are touched by – effected by – living the shadows of – separation. This is what it looks and feels like for everyone. We aren’t special. If we are cool and collected when the separation shows its fangs, then we will understand we aren’t being singled out, and we won’t need to make it a big event. It’s like if you are taking a shower and you drop the soap: you don’t pray or call a psychotherapist. You pick up the soap.
It is okay – it is more than okay – to just get on with our living. Or – better – to let living get on with us.
So that’s the first coherent response: we don’t freak out.
The second response is that we just do better. Wherever we are falling short, we just fall less short less often.
For example, I am not naturally a patient person, especially when it comes to the domain of ideas. I want people to understand things the way I understand things and I want that to happen now. A lot of students and friends and so forth have struggled with this quality of mine over the years.
The point is not for me to become perfectly patient but rather to be more patient – and to be aware of when I am being impatient so that I can curb it.
This, too, is not a big deal.
There are all kinds of reasons why I am not patient – some are biological and chemical, some have to do with how I was raised, some are just my own psychological effluvia built up over the years. Taken together, these are actually effective explanations for my impatience. You could say, well, it makes sense that you’re impatient. It’s okay.
But really, who cares? The point is not to justify my imperfection, or understand my imperfection, or even explore my imperfection. The point is to notice it, not get hung up on it, and consistently do better.
So that is our ACIM practice of forgiveness: we decline to overreact and sincerely try to do better. Int his way, we become responsible for our own thinking and stop blaming our unhappiness and guilt and fear on external sources. What remains is peace and joy.