Reality-based forgiveness

Once again, I’m amazed at how, after years of practicing the Workbook lessons and teaching them as well, I can still find something that I never really got before.

On my recent retreat weekend, one of the lessons was: #46: “God is the Love in which I forgive.” As I was doing my morning quiet time with the idea, something Robert had said jumped out at me: that Course-based forgiveness was reality based, whereas traditional forgiveness was story based. “It’s not about telling ourselves a story, but setting the whole story aside.” Story-based forgiveness says, “You did or said such and such, and I forgive you for that.” Reality-based forgiveness says, “You are a holy Son of God no matter what you said or did, and I forgive you for my thinking that you were anything but that.” The idea is obvious from Jesus’ teachings, but it was thinking of it in the context of “reality based” and “story based” that somehow made a big difference for me and actually contributed to a major shift in my forgiveness work.

The practice in the lesson is to choose people to forgive (“anyone you do not like is a suitable subject” (4:2)) and then to say, “[Name] God is the love in which I forgive you.” I had a specific person in mind about whom I’ve been worried and upset (aka “angry”). Usually, having the story clear in my mind, I would say something like, “ [Name] God is the love in which I forgive you for…” and then I would list the things that bothered me about her, what I thought she was doing wrong, and all the mistakes I thought she was making. (Of course, I thought those things were “facts,” not simply mistaken perceptions coming from thoughts in my mind!) However, this time, keeping in mind Robert’s comments about Course-based forgiveness being based on reality, not on a story, I said it this way:

[Name] God is the Love in which I forgive you for my unloving thoughts about you. God is the Love in which I forgive you for my judgements about you. God is the Love in which I forgive you for my perceptual errors about you; etc.

With each statement, I felt a lightening in me, a lifting of a burden I had been carrying in relation to this person. Everything looked totally different. I no longer saw her as a “sinner,” and I no longer felt any anger or “need” to tell her what she was doing wrong and what she should do differently. I was able to see that there was nothing wrong with her, only with my perception of her! Wow, that was big!

When I went on to the second part of the practice, I said,

God is the Love in which I forgive myself for my unloving thoughts about [Name]. God is the Love in which I forgive myself for thinking I know what’s in her best interests. God is the Love in which I forgive myself for my not trusting her, etc.

 The lines from Lesson 193 came to me: “Forgive, and you will see this differentlyI will forgive and this will disappear.” The issue had disappeared along with my judgements of the person and my guilt over my unloving thoughts!

I am pleased to say that the results of this reality-based forgiveness practice have stayed with me in relation to this person. I have felt the worries and judgements trying to insinuate themselves into my mind, but I quickly go to the idea, and the door stays closed to them. The results have moved into aspects of my life as well. Whenever I want to blame someone for something, or when I am tempted to judge a person, I find that I stop and remind myself that it is just my perceptions that are the issue here.

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 That God created in us and as us.

I have always like this description of forgiveness from the “What It Says” section of the Preface (p. xi). Now, it has taken on even greater significance for me in the context of reality-based forgiveness.