Is it safe to forgive the way A Course in Miracles wants us to forgive?
The question I am asked the most about forgiveness goes something like this:
“How do I forgive someone who has really done something wrong?
What if someone really assaulted and/or murdered another? It
doesn’t seem right or safe to forgive (condone) that kind of behaviour.”
On further exploration of these questions, most of the time the problem is that new students of A Course in Miracles worry that they are being asked to let go of their security and safety. They are being asked to be irresponsible about crime and attack. They wonder if they are being asked to be doormats, letting others walk all over them.
This is probably one of the hardest things to understand. When trying to understand what Jesus means in the Course when he is teaching us about forgiveness we come with this world’s teaching and understanding of what forgiveness is. We come with our past learning and experience. This means we see that someone has really done something for their own gain at someone else’s expense. What they have done has caused real harm. Therefore we are right in our judgment that they deserve punishment and condemnation. We need to protect ourselves and make sure we are not being taken advantage of.
A Course in Miracles teaches that there is false forgiveness and true forgiveness.
False forgiveness sees sin as real. True forgiveness sees sin as unreal.
“How can you overlook what you have made real? By seeing it clearly,you have made it real and cannot overlook it.” (T-9.IV.4:5-6)
What this means is that when we judge that someone has really harmed us and then “forgiving” we can no longer see it as something that did not happen. We have looked at it and judged that it is true so when we try to forgive we are trying to overlook something that is real. This is false forgiveness. The Course asking us to;
“be willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do.” (T-17.III.1:5)
But how do we make sure we are not just heading straight for slaughter? How do we use true forgiveness without forfeiting our safety or our lives?
When first starting out, trying to change the way we see/use forgiveness it can be very challenging. It can be difficult not to get mixed up and then feel guilty of failure. The Course asks us to just do the applications and let ourselves be led by them and the Holy Spirit into a new understanding. It is not asking us to allow someone bent on harming our bodies to do so. I think we should be cautious about this. There likely are not many people in the world right now who can really accept they are not bodies and therefore cannot be harmed. What we can do is really apply the lessons of forgiveness to everything that makes us feel defensive and vulnerable while we do look after our bodies.
One such application is from (T-14.XII.8:6-8)
“I do not know what anything, including this, means. And
so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use
my own past learning as the light to guide me now.”
You can use this application at any time. When starting out it is best to do this during your quiet times, allowing a person or situation to come to your mind. Think of all the things that contribute to your seeing them as sinful, and then repeat the lines, let go of your own ideas of how to forgive them.
After clearing your mind with this you are ready to ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply true forgiveness to the situation.
You might find this application by Greg Mackie helpful:
“Holy Spirit, please take charge of how I would forgive this
person. Guide my mind, and let this situation help me learn
what forgiveness means.”
(Based on S-2.III.3:4 and W-pI.81.4:2)
Then try to open your mind to receive His guidance.
So as you start out on your journey with A Course in Miracles it is wise to remain cognizant of your safety and allow yourself time to really learn what true forgiveness is. You do this by disciplined study of the Course and diligent practice with forgiveness exercises on every area of your life you find yourself judging that someone else has harmed you in some way.
By: Kathy Chomitz program director of Course Oasis Toronto
Thanks to Greg Mackie for his Q & A feature at The Circle of Atonement from which this application came, modified slightly by Kathy Chomitz. S stands for Song of Prayer, a supplement to A Course in Miracles