This is a long and very meaningful lesson. I will do my best to choose excerpts from Ken’s books that will help all of us better comprehend what true forgiveness is all about.
“I have occasionally spoken about the symphonic nature of the text, in which Jesus introduces, re-introduces, and develops his themes of salvation. The same can be said about the workbook. To be sure, its structure differs from the text, but as you read through the lessons you can recognize their symphonic organization: themes introduced, discussed, dropped, and the brought back to be developed still further. These next three lessons illustrate this structure, as they center on a theme we saw in Lessons 68 through 72: the ego’s plan for salvation. This plan, referred to in the text as the ego’s plan for forgiveness, consists of holding onto grievances.
As an introduction to Lesson 134, let me review this ingenious plan. The ego’s strategy calls for us to make real the mind’s thought of sin, and then convince us our guilt is so horrific it can never be looked at, lest terror strike our hearts. In other words, sin leads to guilt, which in turn, demands punishment. The ego thus establishes the painful “reality” of sin, and tells us if we remain within the mind and confront its guilt, we will run head on into the wrath of a furious God, hell-bent on destroying us by retrieving the life we stole from Him. The ego counsels us that the only way we can be saved from our sin is to deny its presence and project it out, having us believe it now exists in a body; whether someone else’s or our own is irrelevant as long as sin is perceived outside the mind, the definition of attack. Incidentally, when we project sin onto our own bodies we call the attack sickness, the theme of Lesson 136.
Lesson 134 begins with a discussion of the ego’s plan of seeing sin as real, but in someone else. In the pamphlet The Song of Prayer, Jesus calls this dynamic of justified attack forgiveness-to-destroy (S-2.II), as the reader may recall.”
In response to the first paragraph, Ken writes:
“As I have explain before, the sin that deserves guilt is not really the murder of God and crucifixion of His Son, but our selfish self-centeredness, which assumes such monstrous proportions we wind up saying: “I want my individuality and specialness needs served, and I do not care the cost. Even if it entails destroyed another – ever Another! – I gladly do it to exist. Sacrifice of love is a small price indeed to pay for the survival of my special self.
This is the sin we deny, and projecting it out we claim it is in someone else. If that be true, as perception certainly witnesses to, I am innocent and others deserve judgment. Thus we say to our special relationships: “You, the object of my justified and righteous wrath, deserve to be punished.” In order to ennoble myself still further and reinforce my self-proclaimed innocence, I assume a mantel of spirituality, proclaiming that despite the sin, in the goodness of my merciful heart I offer forgiveness and pardon. Thus is my righteous wrath sacrificed to serve a “higher” spiritual truth. This, then, is forgiveness-to-destroy. I forgive you, even though your sins do not deserve it.”
“Truth is God’s creation, and to pardon that is meaningless.” (2:4).
“This is because you pardon an illusion or a mistake, and there are no mistakes in Heaven. Love need not be forgiven, only accepted, for it is love’s rejection the ego happily judges as sinful. When you withhold love, push Jesus away, or build a case against someone, your ego jumps in and cries “sin!”. The comes the guilt, which you deny by projecting it on to another, attacking still further. However, pushing love away is not a sin, but only the mad result of the fear of losing your individuality and specialness. Again, it is not a sin that deserves to be punished, but a mistakes that needs correction.”
In response to 3:1, Ken writes:
“In other words, I forgive what you have not done. Again, we are not referring to behavior, but to the mind’s interpretation of behavior. Recall that ACIM teaches the perception is not objective, for I look at you through the eyes of the ego or Jesus. If with the ego, I must attack, because that is all the ego does. If with Jesus, however, I understand that what I attack in you is a projection of what I do not want to see in myself – as much an illusion as what I see in you. It must be so, since ideas leave not their source: your sins are mine; mine are yours. I thus forgive an illusion, behind which is hidden the changeless truth of God’s Son.”
“Our interpretation – what we believe is a fact – is that people are bad because of what they do, and we demonstrate their sin through our injured self. That interpretation needs to be changed, not what our physical eyes behold. Thus we come back to the central issue: which teacher do we choose to instruct us on perceiving the world.”
In response to 4:1, Ken writes:
“Forgiving you is part of the ego’s plan to deny my sinfulness, see it in you, but overlook it, and assume the holy mantle of spirituality. In my state of “advanced holiness”, I forgive and even love, no matter how poorly you have acted towards me (or others with whom I identify). This approach means that we secretly want people to behave abusively, to reject and betray us, so that we can adopt this holier-than-thou stance, lift ourselves above our personal wretchedness to look down on the sinners and say: “You are a miserable person, but with Jesus’ love in my heart I forgive you.” Thus are we seemingly forgiven and the other damned, though on the surface it looks like forgiveness.”
In response to paragraph six (6):
“Strongly implied here is taking care not to skip steps. Bringing illusions to truth means looking at them, not throwing the mistaken thoughts in a sack, tying them in a package that we bring to Jesus, magically hoping he will take them from us without our having to deal with them ourselves. We must do our part to allow Jesus to do his.”
In response to paragraph nine (9) where Jesus tells us there’s “a very simple way to find the door to true forgiveness…”, Ken writes:
“The myself I accuse is not the self I think I am, for I accuse the mind, wherein lies the belief in sin. It is essential I understand the tremendous cost to me of accusing you of anything – significant or insignificant – for when I do, I accuse myself of the same sin. This means I am the one condemned, not you. The idea of sin has never left its source in my mind. Moreover, I have put you in my dream so I could escape the terrible burden of sin. Therefore, in my accusations I have given myself a wonderful gift, if only I ask Jesus to help me see that I am not accusing you, but me. My judgments of you, then, are classrooms that allow me to expose the ego’s plan by reversing its course, recalling the sin I had projected onto you.”
“This shift enables Jesus to teach us how to turn attack into an appeal for help and a call for love (T-12.I8:6-13); a call that exists equally in all of us, an appeal the Holy Spirit cannot but answer if we invite Him in.”
In response to paragraph 12, Ken writes:
“Therefore, all you need do with evil is smile gently and realize it is not so, being merely a silly thought with no effects. This is important to understand as you become increasingly aware of your ego, an occupational hazard of any student of the Course. It is tempting to despair that the ego never seems to change and is always with you. You need not despair: it never changes! What changes is the teacher with whom you choose to look at your ego. We have seen that from the beginning the e go has been 100 percent murder and viciousness: selfish, self-centered, and pre-occupied with its own specialness. This is a constant. What changes is how we look at it – with gentleness and kindness instead of guilt and judgment.”
Where Jesus states, 13:1, “Forgiveness must be practiced”, Ken writes:
“This is a line that needs to be highlighted, and read again and again. Understanding ACIM’s theory of forgiveness means nothing if you do not practice it and – going back to paragraph nine – watch yourself accuse others, asking yourself: “Would I accuse myself of doing this:” The right answer is “yes” – I certainly would, for that means I exist and my identity remains secure. I pretend I am not accusing myself, as I pretend I am accusing you, but unconsciously I gladly accuse myself of sin because that, again, proves my reality. If I am sinless and innocent, I as an ego no longer exist. I do not know my Identity, yet I know my separate and sinful self that is witnessed to by my judgments, born of the unfair treatment I suffered at the hands of others.”
“True forgiveness lifts us above the dream of time and space, and we look down with Jesus on ourselves and hear him say: “My brothers, figures in the dream, what you think, feel and perceive is not the truth.”
At the lesson’s end, Jesus gives us a statement to use throughout the day which is “Let me perceive forgiveness as it is. Would I accuse myself of doing this? I will not lay this chain upon myself (17:3-5), Ken writes:
“Jesus appeals to our selfish motives, saying we should forgive, not because it is wonderful, noble or holy or because he tells us to, but because we will feel better. It is essential we see the causal connection between our decision to be separate from him and its effect: the chain of pain we lay upon ourselves. Is it worth it to suffer so someone else can feel guilty? Therefore, ask Jesus to help you realize that your judgments against others are only on yourself. You deserve far better than that.”
Whew! I know this is very long, however, reading Ken’s thoughts is nothing you or I have to read on any given day, that is, on the day that lesson is practiced.
As Ken wrote above, Jesus presents, drops, re-presents, etc., this major themes of the Course. The lessons, essentially, are all the same. They are the way in which we can find our way back Home. He provides us with countless very rich and meaningful practices that are helpful in our diminishing the power we have chosen to give to the ego.
I know I have practiced forgiveness-to-destroy much of my life. It’s OK. I am not mortified or ashamed, just so relieved that it is something about which I knew nothing and now I do. Sure, I will experience unloving and unforgiving thoughts, I do every day, but ah, I have a TEACHER who will help me…if I allow it.
Yesterday, let’s just say I felt a lot of upheaval, yet again, emanating from our business. Chaos, dysfunction, etc. We have an employee who has numerous health issues necessitating hospitalization and/or surgeries and she’s only been on board about five months. Couple this with our niece, our marketing executive, who will be out for maternity leave for three or four months in about two months, and my husband was over the top intense on the phone when he called.
Honestly, it gets old. But that’s just my ego’s perspective on this, to be sure.
I can see it differently. I don’t have to see nothing but chaos, I can get above the battleground and I will…as I work through this with a lot of self-kindness and self-gentleness, knowing “My brother, what you think is not the truth.”
This morning, I encouraged him to set an example by just taking it all in stride. If we have to hire someone else, so be it. Whatever course of action we take can be done in peace and trust.
Have a lovely day!