On Mistakes, Forgiveness and A Course in Miracles

Like all students of A Course in Miracles I make mistakes. I get frustrated with people. I can be very impatient and patronizing. I’m greedy sometimes – for food, for attention, for praise. I allow myself to be casual and lazy in my spiritual practice. I skip walking the dog because it’s raining. You know how it goes. We all do it and we all wish we didn’t.

A Course in Miracles teaches us both why we make these errors and how correct them and – ultimately and most importantly – how to get to a place where there is no such thing as error. In a way, we are learning through the course to be kinder, gentler and wiser people – true examples of radical healing – here in the world while simultaneously learning that it’s all just a dream in which healing isn’t necessary at all.

Our errors – regardless of their seeming magnitude and effect – are all a result of confusion about what we are in truth and what our role is in God’s plan for salvation.

The plan is not yours because of your limited ideas about what you are. This sense of limitation is where all errors arise (T-9.IV.2:5-6).

When we believe that we are bodies – perhaps with souls attached and perhaps not – then we are going to try and defend those bodies. We are going to identify with its appetites and its fears. We are going to look at our brothers and sisters as if they are merely bodies too – sometimes pleasing us, sometimes hurting us – but always with separate and competing interests.

That is why forgiveness in A Course in Miracles constantly urges us to overlook error (T-9.IV.1:2) and to see one another not as bodies engaged in a frantic dance of scarcity and loss but as equal thoughts in the Mind of God bent on remembering that Holy and unified state.

Look, then, beyond error and do not let your perception rest upon it, for you will believe what your perception holds. Accept as true only what your brother is, if you would know yourself (T-9.IV.1:3-4).

Of course, if it were that easy, then we’d already have done it and there wouldn’t be any need for A Course in Miracles. And the course acknowledges as much: “You do not understand how to overlook errors, or you would not make them (T-9.IV.2:2). So what do we do? How do we ensure that our perception will not rest on error but rather see beyond it to the Love that is our singular reality?

Central to the practice of A Course in Miracles is our willingness to accept a new guide or teacher in place of our egoic selves. Seeing the uselessness of our own teaching efforts, we effectively resign and ask the Holy Spirit (or Jesus, if that is more comfortable for you) to make decisions for us.

Forgiveness through the Holy Spirit lies simply in looking beyond error from the beginning, and thus keeping it unreal for you. Do not let any belief in its realness enter your mind, or you will also believe that you must undo what you have made in order to be forgiven. What has no effect does not exist, and to the Holy Spirit the effects of error are nonexistent. By steadily and consistently cancelling out all its effects, everywhere and in all respects, He teaches that the ego does not exist and proves it (T-9.IV.5:3-6).

Practically speaking, this means that we have to turn to the Holy Spirit. We have to remind ourselves every five minutes – every minute if that’s what it takes – that we need help and that help is here if we are ready.

So talk to the Holy Spirit. Get on your knees and ask to be guided. Light some incense. Read a few lines of the course when and as you can. Get a tattoo that says “help me Jesus!” Whatever it takes to keep in mind that you are not running the show anymore. You are a follower now, not a leader, and Life itself is counting on you to remember that.

Sustained effort in this regard is never without results. The form of the asking doesn’t matter so long as the content – the need itself – is there. We slow down and a sense of calmness enters. Even if we’re scared and uncertain, we can perhaps make contact with the willingness that there is a better way, and that we’re going to find it one way or the other, sooner or later.

As we begin to see the effects of looking at our lives with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we become more confident that this actually works. We aren’t being led down some primrose path and we aren’t being sold a flimsy bill of goods. And we begin to see that forgiveness is natural – that we can extend Love to one another without worrying about the apparent external details. We start to practice forgiveness all the time.

The Atonement is a lesson in sharing, which is given you because you have forgotten how to do it. The Holy Spirit merely reminds you of the natural use of your abilities. By reinterpreting the ability to attack into the ability to share, He translates what you have made into what God created (T-9.IV.3:1-3).

This is the way out. This is the way to fully recalling our fundamental Oneness. This is the means by which we remember that we are only journeying until we realize that no journey is necessary.

Thus we practice forgiveness. We start with what’s in front of us – the spouse that won’t make the bed, the son or daughter who talks back, the boss who won’t listen. We give it all to the Holy Spirit. We don’t pretend to be spiritual giants and we don’t worry about how messy it all looks. We are not the judge anymore. The new guide is here and so we become devoted followers. In this way, worry and fear end, and Love – which is our natural profession and our one calling – swells in their place.


  1. Just reached this chapter and emailed a friend for clarification on mistakes and correction. This post explains it along with his answer. Thanks!

  2. Sean, your blog has been my reminder to stay on Course (pun intended). : ) I feel that it was sent to me by the Holy Spirit. I have found myself being conscious more often since signing up for your daily emails. I lost that connectedness many years ago when my business became too busy to handle. Thank you!

    Jill, the Course seems convoluted sometimes, doesn’t it? I know that when I began studying it over a decade ago, it seemed like it was talking in circles. A girlfriend of mine began reading it at the same time and swore that we were reading two different books! lol

    One of the things that helped me to understand the course (internet/emails were not really up and running in a big way, yet) was to ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit for clarification. Just a suggestion on the “go to” authority if you get stuck and aren’t near a computer. When I ask a question and sit quietly, I typically get an answer. If the answer if full of guilt, then you know that it is the ego doing the talking. If it looks past guilt, then you know that it is from Jesus or the Holy Spirit. As the course tells us, it is correcting our upside down perceptions.

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