Ask: Trouble Forgiving

From Ask ACIM Mentor:

I have a person in my life that I am having a lot of trouble forgiving. Usually, when I have a problem with a person, I usually find something good to concentrate on. By doing this, I have something to hold on to when there is a conflict.
But with this new person, I can't find any good in them. Sorry if that sounds harsh but that is the total truth. This person has done a lot of harm to people. It's hard to ignore that - I know I'm supposed to believe that the world is an illusion and there is no loss, but it's very difficult to see people being victimized.
Is the Course saying I literally made this person up?
I am torn between the two concepts of cowardice and forgiving. Sometimes I feel like the Course is asking us to "back down" which, in my mind, could easily be seen as an excuse for cowardice. I think about this in terms of dealing with this person in the world. In other words, sometimes I feel like I should confront her, which brings up feelings of fear. Then I use the Course by thinking I don't need to confront her after all and that Jesus will some how take care of it on a different level. Is this just an excuse for not doing anything?
I hope this is clear. I no longer talk to this person, by the way. I know this isn't the best way toward peace but it's the best I can do for now.
Many thanks. Requested anonymity.

This is a great question, because you bring up a type of circumstance that is so typical for A Course in Miracles students, and because so much is misunderstood about true forgiveness. You also missed a miracle, which is also very common for early Course students, and I will get to that in a few paragraphs!
True forgiveness means recognizing that only God is Real. This is not something that you can grasp intellectually. This comes from allowing God into your awareness over and over until God is a real experience for you. So, the first thing that you must cultivate is your awareness of God. Then, for a while, you will seem to have two realities: God and the world. This is when you can really start to forgive, because you will be able to let go of what seems to be happening as you turn within to God and remember that This is What is Real. Then, what seems to need forgiveness will fall away from your mind.
True forgiveness, then, is not about seeing the “good” and overlooking the “bad” in a personal self; it is letting go of personal-selves-as-reality altogether. This is why the personal thought system (ego) considers the Course so radical!
On some level you do project the forms that you seem to experience with a body (itself a projection of your mind), but form is never the issue, because all form is neutral (has no meaning in itself). For your peace of mind, the projections with which you need to be concerned are your projections of meaning onto the forms that you see. These projections are the source of your conflict. So, it is never the form that you have to forgive, but the story that you have for the form. The stories that you have for others are there to reinforce your identification with a personal self, both by making the personal self seem real, and then by reinforcing the particular story that you have for it. These stories all, in some way, tell how you are a victim of others. (You feel attacked, abandoned, betrayed, misunderstood, etc.). This is simply the way that the personal thought system thinks, and you cannot change it. That’s why you have to release the personal thought system altogether, and you do that by forgiving its projections of meaning over and over and over again.
For example, this woman of whom you speak behaves in a certain way. Since you were not specific, I am simply going to call her behavior “abusive”. When you are centered in God, you will find that you can simply observe that her behavior is abusive and recognize that she behaves that way because of something going on in her mind; it has nothing to do with you. You can then decide to be around this behavior or not. But, when you are centered in the personal thought system, you will “take it personally” and make her behavior about you (“she’s attacking me”). If you do the latter, it will play into whatever story the personal thought system in your mind has for your personal story (“People are always so mean to me”, for example).
Remaining in uncomfortable situations is self-torture, not forgiveness. The same can be said for seeking out uncomfortable situations just to forgive them, which some Course students feel they need to do. (Sometimes you are obligated to stay in uncomfortable situations for a limited time, and these you can use to remind you of God.) Forgiveness is commonly misunderstood, because the personal mind teaches that love means sacrifice (which makes the forgiver a victim again). Your choice to no longer speak with this woman is a miracle, not a failure! A miracle shifts your mind toward Oneness with God (peace), away from separation from God (conflict). You chose forgiveness and peace, and it showed up as your choice to take care of yourself by avoiding an abusive person. I’m going to guess that you missed this miracle because you probably expected forgiveness to show up either as the abusive woman changing her ways, or you somehow finding her lovable.
A miracle always occurs in your mind, and it always brings you peace of mind. If a change of mind is all that is needed to bring you peace, then the miracle will not necessarily result in a change in the world that you perceive. But, your change of mind (choosing forgiveness) happened to result in you changing your behavior (choosing to no longer speak with this woman) to bring you peace.
If you find that you still cannot let go of this woman, then you need to further forgive your thoughts about her. You will need to look at how your story for her ties into your story for the personal self with which you identify, and release it in the recognition that the personal self is not you. It’s just a story in your mind with which you choose to identify.
Always be on the lookout for the ways that the personal thought system tries to “spiritualize” the personal self. Inner peace is the result of your awareness that you are One with God (Eternal Love, Peace, Joy), not of you being a certain type of person (“good”, “kind”, “righteous”) to please God. The personal is totally irrelevant to God, because it is not of God; it is only a story in your mind. This is what you recognize when you truly forgive.


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Anonymous said…
My understanding of the Course and forgiveness: We recognize and remember that we all have Christ in our Selves. If I'm having trouble being able to see past someone's behavior I ask the Holy Spirit to help and guide my mind to see with His Vision. Peace is always the goal, so sometimes we have to step back from a relationship to achive Peace.
Anonymous said…
This post really helped me tons, Liz. Very applicable information. I had been misunderstanding the idea of doing forgiveness and expecting the 'other' to change. I did not realize that I was holding onto this idea until I read this blogpost (via the newsletter). Funny how HS helps us find what we need to learn for 'today'. Much thanks, eternally! :-)
Bob Stebbins said…
Dear Liz,
I'm new to your blog, and most of what I have read has been right on the mark in my opinion. However, this column points out a different understanding of the Course. A member of our group had a similar issue and I encouraged her, not to move away in order to give herself peace of mind, but to follow the instruction: "I am here only to be truly helpful." And as the Course also tells us, "There are no accidents," I have to think that this troublesome person was sent to your writer or my class member as a teacher. And forgiveness of that person can only be given by showing that there has been no effect (such as avoidance) because of her behavior. The miracle, not unlike forgiveness,is given and received at the same time, and you are quite right that one of its hallmarks is a sense of peace... but the peace you give to the troublesome person by not "escaping" from her, is given also to you by recognizing what the Holy Spirit has brought to you in the form of a lesson. As teachers of God, which you, too, obviously are, we must try as best we can to always urge a showing of love... that your troublesome speech or behavior has had no effect... what a miraculous shift that would be. Love, Bob
ACIM Mentor said…
It was clear from what the writer was saying, Bob, that she was not yet in a place within herself where she was not affected by what this other woman was saying/doing.
Also, for many who do not have healthy boundaries, learning to set healthy boundaries can be a miracle until such time as they learn that the issue is always in their mind, not another's words or behavior.
The Holy Spirit meets us right where we are, and how a miracle shifts us at one point on the path is not the same way that we will be shifted later.

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