is a choice. I never see my brother as he is, for that
is beyond perception. What I see in him is merely what
I wish to see because it stands for what I want to be
the truth. It
is to this alone that I respond, however much I seem to
be impelled by outside happenings." --A
Course in Miracles
The heart of the teaching
and practice of the Course is the process and experience
of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the means by which the
experience of separation is undone, the guilt and pain
of the past are released, and fear is rendered causeless.
It is the bridge to what the Course calls the "real
world”—which is this world seen in a light
so loving that it perfectly reflects Heaven.
The attainment of the
real world is the necessary preparation for the final
step of awakening from our dream of separation. The
Course teaches that God will take this final step Himself
once we are ready.
We ready our minds to
remember God,or more precisely, we let ourselves be
restored to the awareness of our eternal readiness,
by allowing the Holy Spirit in our minds to guide us
gently through the healing process of forgiveness.
Forgiveness bridges the
gap between the ego self we believe we are and the Self
that God created.
As we are willing to offer
forgiveness to others—to see past their illusions
about themselves, to see past their fear and their defenses,
to see past the mask of their ego to the spark of Divine
Light that is the truth in them—we receive our
own forgiveness as well.
This is a process and
journey of healing everyone must undertake in one way
or another, because in this world we will suffer the
pain of forgetfulness.
Like the prodigal
son, we find ourselves in misery, deprivation, fear,
and loss because we have forgotten that we are our Father’s
sons and daughters. And like the self-righteous son
in the parable, our judgments against ourselves and
others—judgments that declare God’s children
unworthy to re-enter their Father’s house—merely
block our own homecoming, our own acceptance of our
Father’s gifts to us.
Yet our judgments and
the self-righteous arrogance of our egos cannot keep
us ultimately from being where God wills us to be. They
can merely delay our experience of the richness of our
reveals to us that we are still our Father’s daughters
and sons, no matter what the ego has taught us about
ourselves. Each time we forgive, we are a step closer
to home. And every step we take is upheld and strengthened
by the power of God and by the efforts of all who take
the journey with us.
“Sooner or later
must everyone bridge the gap he imagines exits between
his selves. Each one builds this bridge, which carries
him across the gap as soon as he is willing to expend
some little effort on behalf of bridging it. His little
efforts are powerfully supplemented by the strength
of Heaven, and by the united will of all who make Heaven
what it is, being joined within it. And so the one who
would cross over is literally transported there.”
Course in Miracles
is a Shift in Perspective
bridge itself is nothing more than a transition in the
perspective of reality."
Forgiveness, as the term
is used in the Course, is an inner process, a change
in the way we are looking at a situation and, as a result,
a change in what we see.
Gerald Jampolsky calls
forgiveness "an inner correction that lightens
the heart," a healing process by which we return
to peace of mind by letting go of thoughts, interpretations,
and judgments that are not helpful to us—that
lead us deeper into feelings of separation, victimization,
fearfulness, defensiveness, anger, guilt, powerlessness,
One helpful way to understand
forgiveness is to think of what are called "figure-ground"
drawings. These are line drawings in which two different
images can be seen in the same drawing. Probably the
best known of these is a drawing that can be seen either
as two faces in profile looking at each other or as
a wine goblet.
Generally, when we first
look at a figure-ground drawing, we will see only one
of the two images. Others may tell us the other image
is there as well, may even try to point it out to us—but
until we actually see it we cannot really grasp what
they are talking about. We may believe them—and
certainly the second image is already there in the picture—but
until we see it for ourselves, it isn't real to us,
it doesn't exist for us in our experience.
What is necessary in order
to see the second image in a figure-ground drawing is
to let go of our definition, our idea of what we are
looking at. We need to let go of the mind-set that has
interpreted what our eyes are physically seeing in a
particular way. Letting go, we essentially return our
perception to a state of innocence, of not knowing what
we are looking at. In that freshness and openness, we
suddenly see the second image, as if it had been revealed
to our sight. Once we’ve seen it, it is hard to
imagine ever having not been able to see it that way.
Once we can see both images
in a figure-ground drawing, we can continue to see either
one. But we cannot see both at once. At any
given moment we can see one image or the other, because
that is the nature of perception. We can shift our perception
back and forth between the two, but at any instant we
are choosing to see and experience only one. To see
one literally denies the other to our sight.
The Course teaches us
that we need to look upon this world much like a figure-ground
drawing—as neutral, lacking inherent meaning but
reflecting back to us the meaning we want to see in
it, what we want to experience as real for us. In any
situation, in any person, we can see two different pictures—the
picture the ego sees or the picture the Holy Spirit
sees. We can see either one. We can even see both—but
not at the same time. We must choose.
What We Would See
ways of looking at the world are in your mind, and your
perception will reflect the guidance you have chosen."
The two possible "pictures"
we can see in any situation are illustrated by the story
told in John 9, the story of the healing of the man
who was born blind.
Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born
blind. His disciples asked him, 'Teacher, whose sin caused
him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents' sin?'
answered, 'His blindness has nothing to do with his sins
or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power
might be seen at work in him...'
he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud
with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man's eyes
and told him, 'Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.'
So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing."
John 9:1-3, 6-7
The picture the ego sees
in any situation is a picture of guilt, a picture of
sin, a picture of unworthiness and punishment and fear.
This is clearly what the disciples were seeing as they
looked at the man who had been born blind. Although
they seemed to be asking Jesus a sincere question, they
were really asking what the Course calls a "pseudo-question."
The disciples were, in
fact, making a statement, disguised in the form of a
question. They had already decided what was going on
in this situation. They were certain that the man's
blindness was punishment for sin, a sure sign of guilt.
The only question left was: Who is the guilty one—the
man himself or his parents? They never called into question
their basic premise and assumption—that someone
was guilty and being punished.
Jesus’ answer to
them was that they were looking at the situation
incorrectly. This was not a punishment, he said.
It had nothing to do with sin, with anyone being guilty.
Rather, it was an opportunity for the presence and power
and love of God to be made manifest. Jesus offered them
a different perception of the same facts, the same outer
situation. They could choose to see it that
The man who was blind
had a choice to make as well. He could perceive his
blindness as the disciples did, as punishment and proof
of guilt. Or he could share the interpretation, the
way of seeing, that Jesus was offering—that this
situation or problem in his life was a means to
become more aware of God’s living presence and
love, and nothing else.
That he did as Jesus instructed
him symbolizes his willingness and choice to share Jesus’
understanding and definition instead of that of the
disciples. And in that choice—the willingness
to accept what the Course calls the Vision of Christ—he
accepted the healing given him. His blindness was undone,
and he received the gift of true sight.
a choice and not a fact."
These two mutually exclusive
interpretations and ways of seeing are the only choices
offered us in any situation—no matter how different
the outer form and expression of these pictures may
appear to be. Either we will see a symbol of separation—of
sin, guilt, punishment, and fear—or we will see
an opportunity for healing—a chance to become
more aware of God’s presence, power, and love.
The first of these, the ego’s perspective, is
a picture of judgment and condemnation. The second,
the perception of the Holy Spirit, is a picture of forgiveness
As with a figure-ground
drawing, we can see either of these pictures, and we
may even alternate between the two. But we cannot see
both at once. Choosing one hides the other from our
The question really is—Which
do we prefer? Which one do we want to see?
“You see what
you expect, and you expect what you invite. Your perception
is the result of your invitation, coming to you as you
sent for it.
would you see? Of whose presence would you be convinced?
For you will believe in what you manifest…”
Course in Miracles
In fact, neither of the
two pictures we can see in a figure-ground drawing is
any more “real”’ than the other. The
drawing is no more, or less, a wine goblet than it is
two faces looking at each other. The only meaningful
criterion we have for deciding which picture to focus
on is, Which do I prefer to see?
In a similar light, the
Course teaches that forgiveness—being part of
the illusory world of separation and needed only within
that world—is itself an illusion. But the picture
it shows us points beyond itself, beyond illusion,
reminding us of the truth we have forgotten.
Forgiveness can be understood
as the choice to see the picture the Holy Spirit would
show us in a given situation—the choice to see
our brother and sister and ourselves with the Vision
of Christ instead of through the eyes of the ego. This
choice, the Course teaches, releases us from the web
of illusions rather than binding us deeper to them.
This choice is possible
to make in every situation where we are tempted to judge,
separate, condemn. It is this we are here to learn.
"This is the
lesson God would have you learn: There is a way to look
on everything that lets it be to you another step to
"Let all your
brother's errors be to you nothing except a chance for
you to see the workings of the Helper given you to see
the world He made instead of yours... This world has
much to offer to your peace, and many chances to extend
your own forgiveness. Such its purpose is, to those
who want to see peace and forgiveness descend on them,
and offer them the light." --A
Course in Miracles
Choice to Forgive
The idea of choice, of
preference in perception, is extremely important to
understanding the practice of forgiveness.
Think for a moment about
a situation or person you have not forgiven, about which
you are carrying a grievance. As you bring this person
or situation to mind, pay attention to how you feel.
If you are honest with yourself, you are probably feeling
some degree of physical or emotional discomfort, even
may feel tense, angry, anxious, powerless, fearful, upset.
Your stomach may be in knots, your blood pressure may
rise, your breath may feel constricted, your heart may
pound. You may be aware of a holding on, a tightening
and gripping of the mind, a hardening and armoring of
the heart. These feelings are the price we pay for unforgiveness.
The situation you are
thinking about can be thought of—like everything
else in the world—as a figure-ground drawing.
It can show you evidence of someone's guilt, or it can
be looked at as an opportunity to become more aware
of God's healing presence, power, and love.
Just as when we first
look at a figure-ground drawing we generally see one
picture or the other, in any situation in which we are
carrying a grievance, we are already focusing on and
seeing the picture of guilt—and experiencing the
feelings that result from that perception. We need to
ask ourselves these two simple questions:
Is the picture I am looking
at bringing me happiness, a sense of safety, peace of
Do I like how I
The Course assures us
that the picture that forgiveness would show us leads
to a very different experience.
"What could you
want forgiveness cannot give. Do you want peace? Forgiveness
offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty
of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends
the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth
of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that
cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that can never be
hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect
it can never be upset? All this forgiveness offers you,
and more." --A
Course in Miracles
Just as in a figure-ground
drawing, the picture that would give us all of this
can already be seen in the situation, exactly as it
is. Nothing outside of us has to change for us to have
a new perception. But in order to actually see the alternative,
we have to be willing to let go of the way we have been
looking at the situation, of our own ideas and interpretations,
which in fact are causing us pain. The Course asks us
you prefer that you be right or happy?"
One picture brings us
pain, the other offers peace. As it was for the disciples
and the man born blind, the choice is ours to make.
We are asked only to be honest about which choice we
have made and whether we like the results it has brought
us. If not, we can change our mind and choose again.
you have listened to His interpretation the results have
brought you joy. Would you prefer the result of your interpretation,
considering honestly what they have been? God wills you
Each time we choose the
perception that forgiveness offers us, we take a step
across the bridge that carries us from the world of
illusion to the real world and the memory of home.
That We Share the Ego
Unforgiveness always seeks
to separate and make different. It focuses on and attacks
the manifestations and mistakes of another's ego while
protesting that we are not like that, we would never
do such a thing, and so on. The first step in forgiveness
often entails recognizing that we share the same insanity,
the same basic ego thought system, as the person we
are judging, even if we express it in a very different
Unforgiveness looks at
the manifestations of the ego's insanity, condemns them,
and demands punishment.
them as expressions of fear, as deeply pained calls
for love. It hears the prodigal crying out to be reminded
that he is still his Father's son. And it answers with
love, with a perception that offers us the gentle certainty
that our true identity can never change.
"The power of
love is extraordinary, and it begins in the human heart
and can travel to infinity. So I practice opening my
heart, so that I can see the Divine in others. So that
I can see beyond the package—which is all the
stuff they're doing that's not to my liking—to
the gift inside the package, the essence, the beauty
buried under the fear—theirs or mine.
unacceptable the package, there’s always a Holy
Miracle inside; inside the surly teenager sitting coldly
across from me at dinner is a confused little boy yearning
to become someone he’s not, and too afraid to
risk being who he is. Inside the angry mother yelling
at her crying child in the supermarket is an overwhelmed
woman, herself a crying child, bone-tired and bone-lonely.”
“My heart, no
stranger to suffering, can easily cross the bridge to
another suffering heart, when I get my judgments out
of the way.” –Sheila
Forgiveness begins with
a recognition that we share the same ego thought system—and
thus the same need for correction, healing, and love—as
the one we have been tempted to judge. But it cannot
stop here or we will remain prodigals together, still
separate from home and from our source.
is not the adopting of a morally superior position.
Nor does it acknowledge someone else's cruelty and pronounce
it acceptable, for to do this would be dishonest. Forgiveness
sees that no real grounds for condemnation exist, and
for that to happen, new grounds for innocence must be
Certainly the person's
behavior cannot be rationalized away. He did behave
the way he behaved. Possibly another motivation can
be attributed to his behavior, such as fear instead
of selfishness, and although this can be a good first
step, it is not sufficient in itself to allows us to
see the splendor of God's light within him. Forgiveness
is a gentle turning away from what we see with our body's
eyes and a searching for the truth that lies beyond
the individual's ego." -Gerald
Forgiveness begins with
the recognition that we all share the painful insanity
of the ego's thought system and thus share the same
need for the gentle healing and correction of the Atonement.
We have forgotten who we are and in that forgetting
believe that we have changed our reality, our original
nature as creations of God.
"Could you not
look with greater charity on whom God loves with perfect
love? Charity is a way of looking at another as if he
had already gone far beyond his actual accomplishments
in time. Since his own thinking is faulty he cannot
see the Atonement for himself, or he would have not
need of charity. The charity that is accorded him is
both an acknowledgment that he needs help, and a recognition
that he will accept it." --A
Course in Miracles
Like the prodigal son,
we believe that we are no longer worthy to be called
our Father's daughters and sons. Forgiveness is the
means by which we learn that this painful belief about
ourselves is not true. As we forgive, we recognize that
we too are forgiven.
As we are willing to see
past the mistakes of others' egos—willing to see
their hearts of innocence, the light of Christ that
shines in them beyond their veils of forgetfulness and
fear—we open to the presence of that light in
ourselves as well. And we begin to remember our Father,
who loves us all with a perfect love.
is the means by which we will remember. Through forgiveness
the thinking of the world is reversed... Holding no
one prisoner to guilt, we become free. Acknowledging
Christ in all our brothers, we recognize His presence
in ourselves. Forgetting all our misperceptions, and
with nothing from the past to hold us back, we can remember
God." -A Course in Miracles
The world teaches that
God's son is guilty, deserving of our condemnation and
blame. In the mistakes and manifestations of our brother's
ego it sees evidence for its judgment and does not raise
its interpretation to question.
unforgiving thought is one which makes a judgment that
it will not raise to doubt, although it is not true."
Unforgiveness always focuses
on the body for its proof of guilt—pointing
to something the body did, or failed to do, or, as in
the case of the man born blind, to a condition of the
body as proof and demonstration of guilt. And it demands
some kind of retribution from the body—some punishment
or change—as payment for release from guilt.
Forgiveness does not look
to the body for proof of innocence, nor is it based
on anything the body's eyes show us. Its vision does
not stop with the body and its errors, but looks further
and deeper to the light of God beyond.
Forgive Is to Overlook
forgive is to overlook. Look, then, beyond error and
do not let your perception rest upon it, for your perception
rests upon it, for you will believe what your perception
holds. Accept as true only what your brother is, if
you would know yourself." --A
Course in Miracles
It is easy
to misunderstand this idea of overlooking error and
to see it as encouraging psychological denial.
does not ask us to deny the events and facts of this
world, or to pretend that certain behaviors and actions
have not occurred.
means to look beyond, to look further and deeper than
the behavior, than the outer layers and expressions
of personality and defense that seem to separate us
and make us different from one another.
leader Nikita Khrushchev was once giving a speech, when
suddenly an angry voice in the audience demanded, "Where
were you when Stalin was committing his atrocities?"
fell into stunned silence. Khrushchev's gaze slowly
scanned the audience. He asked, "Who said that?
Stand up. Identify yourself."
every heart. No one moved. No one answered. "My
friend," said Khrushchev finally, "where you
are right now (that is, too frightened to come forward)
is just where I was when Stalin was in power."
is not to condone or approve of actions that are harmful
and destructive within this world of form. Nor does
the forgiveness process ask that we deny or ignore the
level of our human experience. There is a saying,
a blind man steps on your toe, it still hurts."
At the ego
level, the human level, that is certainly true. We need
not pretend that the man didn't step on our toe or that
it didn't hurt.
does not mean we should let the man continue to stand
on our toe because he is blind. Nor does it preclude
taking action that will make it less likely to happen
merely sees that whatever our brother did that was unloving
was an expression of blindness. When we are caught up
in the insanity of the ego, we are, in a very real sense,
In our blindness
we have done things that were insensitive or unloving
to others and to ourselves. As the Course points out,
"Frightened people can be vicious," and
we have all at times acted hurtfully out of our fear.
does not close its eyes to such actions. But its vision
does not stop at the outer appearances. Rather it sees
past them to the terrible fear that underlies all attack,
to the overwhelming guilt that hides behind all anger,
to the profound pain and sense of worthlessness that
give rise to all cruelty.
It sees that
behind all hurtful actions—no matter how extreme
the form—stand, not monsters, but children of
God lost in forgetfulness and fear—prodigal sons
deeply mistaken about themselves and everyone around
them, desperately calling out to be reminded of who
they really are.
urges for goodness exist in everyone's heart no matter
how overlayed they may be with guilt, defensiveness,
dishonesty and inhumanity.
looks past the more superficial motivations of the individual,
no matter how extreme these may be, to the place in
his heart where he yearns for exactly what we yearn
wants peace and safety. Everyone wants to make a difference.
And everyone wants to release his potential for love.
It is deep into this desire that forgiveness gazes,
and seeing there a reflection of itself, it releases
the other from judgment." -Gerald
Just as we
all share the insanity of the ego, so we all share the
deep desire to go home--to be reunited with the Love
that created us, the love that we are.
hears our brother or sister afraid, crying out for love,
and recognizes our own cry. And forgiveness answers
our fear with love, recognizing that mistakes call for
correction and learning, not condemnation and punishment.
forgiveness is based on reality ... The truth of our
reality is that each of us is innocent and loved completely
not that we haven't made countless mistakes and will
probably continue to do so for some time ... All mistakes
come from the ego and are part of a learning process
that everyone must go through.
is a gentle vision that sees the maturity, the goodness
of heart, and wholeness of character that will come
in time to each person. And it recognizes the inappropriateness
of condemnation to this growth process." -Gerald
how different our paths may appear, we are all traveling
the same journey of learning, healing, remembering.
Forgiveness shows us a glimpse of what awaits us at
journey's end, on the other side of the bridge, and
gently urges us on.
Price of Unforgiveness
We pay a
heavy price for unforgiveness. We can keep a brother
"guilty" only by keeping ourselves in pain,
only by continuing to separate ourselves from inner
peace and love.
unforgiving mind is full of fear, and offers love no
room to be itself; no place where it can spread its
wings in peace and soar above the turmoil of the world.
The unforgiving mind is sad, without the hope of respite
and release from pain. It suffers and abides in misery,
peering about in darkness, seeing not, yet certain of
the danger lurking there.
unforgiving mind is torn with doubt, confused about
itself and all its sees; afraid and angry, weak and
blustering, afraid to go ahead, afraid to stay, afraid
to waken or to got sleep, afraid of every sound, yet
more afraid of stillness; terrified of darkness, yet
more terrified at the approach of light. What can the
unforgiving mind perceive but its damnation?
unforgiving mind is in despair, without the prospect
of a future which can offer anything but more despair.
Yet it regards its judgment of the world as irreversible,
and does not see it has condemned itself to this despair."
Course in Miracles
to forgive imprisons us in a nightmare of torment within
our minds. The story is told of two Hindu monks whose
order forbade them to have any physical contact with
women. As the two were on a journey one day, they came
to a river. There an old woman pleaded with them to
help her cross. One of the monks took pity on her, lifted
her onto his back, carried her across too the opposite
bank, and there set her down. Thanking him, she went
on her way.
As the monks
continued their journey, the second monk began angrily
berating his companion for breaking his vows. This went
on for hours. Finally the first monk, a deeply compassionate
man, turned to the second and said gently,
brother, I did carry the woman across the river. But
then I set her down. You have been carrying her ever
One of the
most graphic examples in literature of the effects of
unforgiveness is the character of Miss Haversham in
Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.
jilted on her wedding day, Miss Haversham stopped her
life at that moment. The room in which the wedding feast
was to have been held was frozen in time. The table
remained set for the banquet. The room was never dusted
or aired out. The curtains were kept drawn against the
never wore anything but her wedding gown and never ventured
outside. She lived but a grotesque parody of life—all
to bear grim witness, decade after decade, to the injury
that had been done to her.
of such an extreme example is that we can look at it
and somewhere inside ourselves say, "enough is
had happened to her, we recognize that Miss Haversham
could have, at some point, decided to let it go and
get on with her life. That she didn't was ultimately
her own choice, and she was the one who paid the price.
forgiveness, we choose to continue living in fear, separation,
and pain. In being willing to forgive, we free ourselves
to return to love and to the peace of God within us.
As we begin
to recognize and understand clearly what we are choosing
between, we also begin to recognize that there
is only one choice that , in our hearts, we truly want
... is the time to make the easiest decision that ever
confronted you, and also the only one. You will cross
the bridge into reality simply because you will recognize
that God is on the other side, and nothing at all is
here. It is impossible not to make the natural decision
as this is realized."
is Turning Within
is not something we do. It is something we choose and
allow through our willingness to turn to the Teacher
of forgiveness— the Holy Spirit—within our
mind. We ask to share His perception, knowing that what
He will show us will restore our minds to peace. For
He will show us Christ, in our brother or sister and
in ourselves. And we will cross the bridge of healing
together and as one.
we behold that Christ in any person, in some measure
at least he is healed of his humanhood and of all finite
limitation, and as he beholds that in us, we, too, are
lifted up. Enter into the sanctuary of your own being,
and there in silence and secrecy behold the true identity
of friend or foe. Lift up the son of God in him to your
level, knowing that the christ of him is the Christ
Goldsmith, Gift of Love
Berke The core practices
of A Course in Miracles are forgiveness and
listening to the Holy Spirit, our inner teacher,
the voice for God within us.