[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
In our Sunday gathering this week, we discussed and practiced the lesson for the day, Lesson 193: “All things are lessons God would have me learn,” and in the course of the evening, I understood the lesson more than ever before, and on a very personal level.
As you will recall, the lesson that God wants us to learn as a response to all distress in any form is,
Forgive, and you will see this differently…. I will forgive and this will disappear.
One of my students said that she found it really hard to believe that all distress is nothing but a form of unforgiveness and that everything that bothers us can––and will!–– be solved by forgiveness. She couldn’t see how forgiveness could do that. As we talked about it, we realized that it’s hard to believe because we still tend to see forgiveness as pardoning someone when he or she has hurt us, rather than overlooking the seeming hurt.
Our discussion sent me to the Preface of the Course, which has a terrific definition and description of forgiveness:
As we learn to recognize our perceptual errors, we also learn to look past them or “forgive.” At the same time we are forgiving ourselves, looking past our distorted self-concepts to the Self God created in us and as us. (xi)
That seemed to make things a bit clearer for everyone. If forgiving is looking past perceptual errors rather than seeing our perceptions as facts, then forgiveness can wipe away all distress, because the basis of our distress is our perceptions.
Then I was reminded of “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” from the Lord’s Prayer. To forgive a debt is to cancel it out, let it go, act as if it were not even there. That, in turn, reminded me of what Robert wrote recently in his “Latest Thoughts” posting called, “All hurt and hate you have ever expressed is cancelled.” In it, he quotes Jesus as saying to Helen,
I told you I forgave you and that meant all hurt and hate you have expressed is cancelled.
Then, in his posting called “How can we connect with the word ‘Atonement’”?, Robert said, “Atonement is the wiping away of all that stands between us and God…. The basis for the wiping away is the fact that our mistakes never really happened.”
“Cancelled”… “wiping away”–– they mean the same thing. So just as God and Jesus have cancelled and wiped away our seeming sins, we are called to do the same for others for their seeming sins. We are called to wipe away and cancel all our misperceptions of anyone hurting us and causing us pain. We are called to cancel the hurt and hatred anyone has expressed towards us. “Cancel” like cancelling a cheque. A cancelled cheque is worth nothing. It has been stripped of all value. It has been rendered null and void.
Making these connections had a profound effect on me. Ever since I had the realization that “It’s not me; it’s the ego” (about which I wrote in an earlier blog), the ego has been pulling out all the stops in its attempt to prove to me how it is me; that is, how unloving, unholy, impure, and sinful I am. It has been a relentless teacher of its “dark lessons” (T-14.XI), which it keeps throwing in my face. In the face of this, it has been really hard for me to believe that all the hurt and hate I have ever expressed, all my unlovingness, and all my mistakes, are nothing; that Jesus has cancelled them all and rendered them null and void.
In the light of these connections, I asked myself what to do to forgive so that I would learn the Holy Spirit’s lesson rather than the ego’s, and so that all the pain I was feeling would disappear. What came to mind was an exercise (based on Lesson 193) from Greg’s Q&A, “What can I do when my ego fights back?.” Here’s the gist of it, slightly adapted to fit my situation:
First, I wrote down all the dark lessons the ego has been teaching me; all the lies it has been telling me about myself. I filled a page with them! Then I applied this to each of them:
I have no use for this dark lesson. I will forgive and see myself differently and it will disappear, to be replaced by the Holy Spirit’s bright lesson that I am the Son of God and that “God’s Son is guiltless.”
With each one I took my time, allowing the words to really sink in and wipe away the thought–-and they did. I came out of the exercise feeling a lightness I haven’t felt in quite a while. A long time ago, in a time of distress, I heard Jesus say, “Yes, the ego is strong in you, Mary, but I am stronger.” After doing this exercise, I had a renewed hope that he was right and that the ego would not “prevail against” me (Lesson 73.7)––that I would learn the lesson God would have me learn:
There is a way to look on everything that lets it be to you another step to Him, and to salvation of the world (13:1).
P.S. Thanks, Greg, for the exercise and your Q&A!