Perhaps no one in our world today inspires such intense and polarized reactions as President George W. Bush. His supporters laud him as a bold, principled leader who is protecting the homeland from the deadly threat of al-Qaeda, strengthening the economy through free markets and privatization, championing moral values, and spreading freedom throughout the world. His opponents excoriate him as a boy king who is stamping out civil liberties in the name of a bogus "war on terror," robbing the poor to give to the rich, building a repressive one-party theocracy, and imposing a ruthless American Empire on an unwilling world. There doesn't seem to be much in between. Red is red and blue is blue, and never the twain shall meet.
For Course students in the blue camp (and I count myself among them), this creates a dilemma. A Course in Miracles calls us to forgive everyone without exception, but how we forgive a man who, in our view, is such a negative influence on America and the world? Our impression at the Circle is that a lot of Course students are struggling with this issue. I've seen the struggles with Bush in our Sedona groups, and Robert tells me that everywhere he travels, "Dubya" is the first person that comes up when people are asked whom they're having difficulty forgiving. (There are Bush supporters among Course students, but they seem to be a small minority.)
Forgiving George W. Bush is clearly a major need, both in the world at large and among Course students. Filling that need is the purpose of this article. I want to provide tools that all of us can use to help us see our holy savior in brother George W. My hope is that for those of us who are having trouble forgiving Bush, this article will help us all make some real progress in letting go of our grievances against him and seeing him as the holy Christ he really is.
Steps Toward Forgiving Bush
The following are Course-based tools I've used in my efforts to forgive George W. Bush. While I still have work to do, I can honestly say I've made some progress. Forgiveness is an ongoing process; here are some things I've found helpful along the way.
Step one: Build your motivation
The Course claims that letting go of grievances against anyone "is simply a matter of motivation" (W-pI.68.4:3). If we really want to forgive Bush, we will find a way to do it; if we don't want to, we won't even begin the process. Our first step, then, is to remind ourselves that according to the Course, forgiving him is the only thing that will really make us happy.
I think as Course students we realize this, yet we are still reluctant to forgive him. We tell ourselves that it isn't really important, because after all he is a distant public figure, not someone in our personal lives whom we need to interact with day to day. If we are politically active, we may feel reluctant to forgive him because it seems that doing so means giving up our activism and letting him off the hook. But in truth, our unforgiveness of Bush clouds our minds whether we know him personally or not, and our forgiveness of him can go hand and hand with loving political activism against his policies, as great leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated so well.
There is, then, no reason not to forgive Bush, and every reason to forgive him. To increase our motivation, let's remember all the immense benefits the Course promises will be ours when we forgive. Forgiving Bush is how we will recognize that we are forgiven; as the Course says, "I let forgiveness rest upon all things, for thus forgiveness will be given me" (W-pII.342.Heading). Indeed, forgiving Bush offers us everything we could possibly want, as this well-known passage assures us:
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 never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset?
All this forgiveness offers you, and more. (W-pI.122.1:1-2:1)
Who does not want peace, happiness, certainty of purpose, self-worth, safety, and protection ? Forgiving Bush offers us all of these things, and more. There is no downside. What are we waiting for, then? Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Step 2: Use the process
Some complain that the Course tells us to forgive, but doesn't give us specific techniques for doing so. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are numerous forgiveness practices sprinkled throughout the Course, including six Workbook lessons that offer exercises for forgiving specific people: Lessons 46, 68, 78, 121, 134, and 161. These exercises differ in some details, but the basic process they present is the same.
The following process is drawn from those exercises. (It is also based on a process outlined by Robert Perry in his article How Do We Forgive? A Composite Forgiveness Exercise, which I recommend reading.) At the end of my article here, I've created a visualization that incorporates all the elements of this process, applying them specifically to Bush.
Get in touch with your current perception of Bush as a sinner
In order to let go of our grievances against George W. Bush, we must first bring them to light and look at them squarely. There are two aspects to this.
1. Visualize his appearance
Bring an image of Bush to mind and look upon him. You might even want to find a picture of him to help with this. Lesson 161 gives us some instructions:
See him first as clearly as you can, in that same form to which you are accustomed. See his face, his hands and feet, his clothing. Watch him smile, and see familiar gestures which he makes so frequently. (W-pI.161.11:2-4)
What's the point of doing this? It is a powerful way to get in touch with your current perception of Bush as a sinner. There's nothing like looking at a person to stir up all the grievances you have against that person.
2. Mentally review his "sins"
Our next step is to look upon Bush's "sins"— the grievances we hold against him. We need to be as specific as possible in this: what particular things has Bush done that upset you? The Workbook has instructions for this as well:
You will review his faults, the difficulties you have had with him, the pain he caused you, his neglect, and all the little and the larger hurts he gave.…you will think of his mistakes and even of his "sins." (W-pI.78.7:3-4)(W-pI.134.15:1-2)
The second passage here gives us an important instruction about this review: we must "be certain not to dwell on any one" of Bush's "offenses." When doing this review, it can be very easy to get riled up and launch into a mental rant against Bush. But the point of bringing his "sins" to mind is not to wallow in our anger, but to use them "to save the world from all ideas of sin." We look at each one briefly and as dispassionately as possible, as a prelude to letting the light of God shine all of them away.
Invite a new perception of Bush as your savior
Now that we have Bush the sinner clearly in mind, the next step is to let that image of him be replaced by a vision of Bush the Christ, our shining savior. This shift in perception is the essence of forgiveness. Here are six aspects to this part of the process.
1. Declare your willingness to see him as your savior
As we all know, the Course says that all we need to see things differently is a little willingness. So, the first step in seeing Bush as our savior is simply to declare our willingness to do so. Lesson 68 gives us a good practice to help us do this. It has us mentally say the following line to the person we want to forgive:
I would see you as my friend, that I may remember you are part of me and come to know myself. (W-pI.68.6:3)
"I would see you as my friend" means "I want to see you as my friend." Why? I want to see Bush as my friend because I want to remember that the two of us share the same Self, for only through remembering this will I come to know this shared Self, which is who I really am. To awaken to this Self, a loving Self created by Love, is all I really want. To reinforce this desire, Lesson 68 has us end our practice period with another powerful line that reminds us of the blessing our forgiveness of grievances offers us:
Love holds no grievances. When I let all my grievances go I will know I am perfectly safe. (W-pI.68.6:8-9)
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see him as your savior
Our willingness is a necessary first step, but it is not enough. To see Bush as our savior, we need to ask the Holy Spirit for help, as we see in this instruction from Lesson 78:
Then let us ask of Him Who knows this Son of God in his reality and truth, that we may look on him a different way, and see our savior shining in the light of true forgiveness, given unto us. We ask Him in the holy Name of God and of His Son, as holy as Himself:
Let me behold my savior in this one You have appointed as the one for me to ask to lead me to the holy light in which he stands, that I may join with him. (W-pI.78.7:1-3)
This passage gives an important clue about what it means to see Bush as our savior. So often in Course circles, it is said that another person is your savior because he's so good at pushing your buttons and stirring up your ego so you can look at it and heal it. But that's not what being a savior means here. Bush is our savior not because he's such a good button-pusher, but because "in his reality and truth" he is the Son of God. Like Jesus, his true Self is standing in the holy light, calling on us to join him there. To see this, we need to "look on him a different way," and to do this we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3. Look for a spark of light in him
A big part of seeing Bush as our savior is seeing evidence of the Christ in him. We can do this with the Holy Spirit's help. We can exchange our dark picture of Bush the sinner for a brighter picture that represents who he really is. Looking for the light in the one you're trying to forgive is part of the practice for Lesson 121:
Now close your eyes and see him in your mind, and look at him a while. Try to perceive some light in him somewhere; a little gleam which you had never noticed. Try to find some little spark of brightness shining through the ugly picture that you hold of him. Look at this picture till you see a light somewhere within it, and then try to let this light extend until it covers him, and makes the picture beautiful and good. (W-pI.121.11:1-4)
It is helpful in this kind of visualization to see the "light" not just in an abstract way, but in the form of specific good and loving things about the person you're forgiving. Everyone has something good about him. What's good about George W. Bush? One thing I think of is how much he clearly loves his wife and daughters. The rock singer and political activist Bono, no fan of Bush's policies, nonetheless has noted that in his meetings with Bush, the president revealed a genuine concern for Africa, a real desire to do something about the AIDS crisis, and a great sense of humor. Echoing his hero Martin Luther King, Jr., Bono expresses his philosophy this way: "Don't respond to caricature—the left, the right, the progressives, the reactionary. Don't take people on rumour. Find the light in them."
Bono's willingness to find the light in Bush is an attitude the Course wants everyone to adopt:
Dream of your brother's kindnesses instead of dwelling in your dreams on his mistakes. Select his thoughtfulness to dream about instead of counting up the hurts he gave. Forgive him his illusions, and give thanks to him for all the helpfulness he gave. And do not brush aside his many gifts because he is not perfect in your dreams. (T-27.VII.15:3-6)
The purpose of this isn't to count "the 'good' to pardon him the 'bad'" (T-31.VII.1:6). The point is not to compile a scorecard of "bad" and "good" traits, tally them up, and hope Bush comes out on the plus side. Rather, the point is that, in the Course's view, the evidence of goodness in him is the only evidence that matters. It is the only valid indicator of who he really is and what is true about him. All the "bad" stuff is false evidence manufactured by the ego; some of it may be true in the ordinary worldly sense, but it is all part of the illusion, so it is not really true. In that passage from Lesson 121, the truth is symbolized by the light, which starts out as only a small "spark" but grows until it completely covers and transforms our dark picture. The light is really all there is.
4. See him shining salvation into you and revealing your sinlessness
Lesson 161, "Give me your blessing, holy Son of God," is particularly helpful for this step. Behind the dark image our body's eyes hold of Bush is a being so holy that if we really saw his reality, we would be tempted to worship him:
This [fearful image] do the body's eyes behold in one whom Heaven cherishes, the angels love and God created perfect. This is his reality. And in Christ's vision is his loveliness reflected in a form so holy and so beautiful that you could scarce refrain from kneeling at his feet. (W-pI.161.9:1-3)
This holy being, revealed by the eyes of Christ, is our savior, "one who can forgive you all your sins; whose sacred hands can take away the nails which pierce your own, and lift the crown of thorns which you have placed upon your bleeding head" (W-pI.161.9:5). Now, with this vision of our brother George revealing his glory, we can ask him to offer us the precious gift of salvation:
Give me your blessing, holy Son of God. I would behold you with the eyes of Christ, and see my perfect sinlessness in you.
And He will answer Whom you called upon. For He will hear the Voice for God in you, and answer in your own. Behold him now, whom you have seen as merely flesh and bone, and recognize that Christ has come to you. (W-pI.161.11:7-12:3)
5. Join with him
The line immediately following the one that says you could scarce refrain from kneeling at his feet says, "Yet you will take his hand instead, for you are like him in the sight that sees him thus" (W-pI.161.9:4). This is another significant aspect of the forgiveness process: having a sense of joining with the person you're forgiving. We've already seen a number of references to this above. We see Bush as our friend so we may recognize he is part of us, part of our Self. We let him lead us into the holy light in which he stands, so we may join with him. Lesson 121, which has us see the light in both an "enemy" and a friend and then imagine both of them shining the light into us, puts it succinctly: "Now are you one with them, and they with you" (W-pI.121.13:2).
How could it be otherwise? Grievances are all that seem to separate me and Bush; when they are gone, all barriers between us go with them. Seeing the Christ in Bush reveals the Christ in me. If we are both the Christ, then we must be one.
6. Feel the joyous relief your forgiveness of him brings
Remember the promise that forgiveness offers everything we want? Once we have forgiven Bush, it is time to claim our reward. Several lessons encourage us to get in touch with the great sense of peace, joy, safety, and freedom our forgiveness brings:
Spend the remainder of the practice period trying to think of yourself as completely at peace with everyone and everything, safe in a world that protects you and loves you, and that you love in return. Try to feel safety surrounding you, hovering over you and holding you up. Try to believe, however briefly, that nothing can harm you in any way. (W-pI.68.6:4-6)
And now you are prepared for freedom. If you have been practicing thus far in willingness and honesty, you will begin to sense a lifting up, a lightening of weight across your chest, a deep and certain feeling of relief. The time remaining should be given to experiencing the escape from all the heavy chains you sought to lay upon your brother, but were laid upon yourself. (W-pI.134.16:2-4)
Who among us would not want this? The end of the forgiveness process is salvation. Now that we have seen Bush "suddenly transformed from enemy to savior; from the devil into Christ" (W-pI.161.12:6), we breathe a sigh of relief and revel in the joy our forgiveness of him brings.
Step 3: Respond to temptation
We may do the above process in the morning and see Bush as our beloved savior, only to feel those old grievances rearing their ugly head again the first time we see his face on the news. What can we do when anger returns in the course of our day, which can easily happen simply because Bush is in the news so much? For this, we need something the Course calls "response to temptation": practices we can use to respond quickly to the temptation to listen to the ego—in this case, the temptation to hold grievances against Bush.
The Course has a wide variety of "response to temptation" practices to choose from. Virtually any Course line can be turned into such a practice, including many of the lines used in the above process. Whichever line you choose, the idea is to have it ready before temptation arises. Then, when you see or think of Bush and you feel that stab of anger, immediately use the line to dispel it. It is important to do this in the right spirit: don't use the line to aggressively bludgeon the anger into submission, but instead to gently but firmly shine that anger away.
One treasure trove of such practices is in Review II of the Workbook. With the review comments on each lesson, there are three different first-person lines that are meant to be applied to either "this" (a particular situation) or "[name]" (a particular person). I have used these countless times to respond to temptation. For grievances against particular people, like Bush, the "[name]" ones are especially effective. The next time you feel a flash of anger toward Bush, you might want to try lines like the following (I like using first names in these lines, because it feels more personal):
- Let peace extend from my mind to yours, George. (based on W-pI.82.2:2)
- I share the light of the world with you, George. (based on W-pI.82.2:3)
- You stand with me in light, George. (based on W-pI.87.2:3)
- The light in you is all that I would see, George. (based on W-pI.88.2:3)
- Let me not hold a grievance against you, George, but offer you the miracle that belongs to you instead. (based on W-pI.89.2:3)XS
- Let our grievances be replaced by miracles, George. (based on W-pI.89.4:3)
Step 4: Keep at it
This is perhaps the most important point of all. While the Course claims it is theoretically possible to forgive instantly, our unwillingness to forgive means it will usually be a long-term process. This is especially true when we have major grievances against someone, which is certainly the case with many of us in relation to Bush. We need to do the process sketched out above again and again. We need to respond to temptation over and over. We need to resist the temptation to give up because we think our forgiveness efforts "aren't working."
The Course claims that practice always works. When it seems not to work, it only means that we are not yet ready to receive the benefits it brings. Our job is simply to do our practice, and trust that we will experience the benefits when we are ready:
Your benefit will not be less if you believe that nothing happens. You may not be ready to accept the gain today. Yet sometime, somewhere, it will come to you, nor will you fail to recognize it when it dawns with certainty upon your mind. (W-pI.124.9:1-3)
This has been the case in my experience. It has sometimes taken a long time for me to experience the benefits of my forgiveness practices with certain people. Yet the benefits came when I was ready for them, in ways that often felt miraculous. In our efforts to forgive Bush, when we may be constantly tempted to give in to hopelessness and despair, let us remember the words of Winston Churchill: "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never."
Forgiving Bush: An Exercise
The following exercise is based on the forgiveness process outlined above, and draws upon many of the Course passages quoted in this article. It is a guided visualization. You can read each instruction and then close your eyes and carry it out. Better yet, make a tape of the exercise and then let your voice on the tape guide you through it. If you have serious issues with Bush, I recommend using this exercise on a regular basis. I hope you will find it a helpful tool in your quest to see the Christ in our brother George.
The first step is to get in touch with your perception of George W. Bush as a sinner.
So, begin by closing your eyes and bringing him to mind.
Or, if you have a picture of him, keep your eyes open and look at it.
See his face, his clothing, his gestures.
You might think of those aspects of his appearance and manner that especially annoy you.
Whatever those aspects are, bring them to mind and notice the feelings that come up.
Don't dwell on those feelings. Just notice them.
Now, briefly review his "sins."
Think of his faults,
the pain he has caused,
all the little and larger hurts he has given.
Think of the specific things you think he has done that anger you.
Whatever they are, bring them to mind and notice the feelings that come up.
Again, don't dwell on those feelings. Just notice them.
You are using his "offenses" to save the world from all ideas of sin.
Now that you are in touch with your perception of George W. Bush as a sinner,
it is time to invite into your heart a new perception of him as your savior.
Declare your willingness to do this by saying the following to your brother George:
I would see you as my friend, George,
that I may remember you are part of me
and come to know myself.
You want to see him as your friend,
because you want to know the loving Self you share with him.
You want peace, happiness, certainty of purpose, self-worth, safety, and protection.
You want salvation.
Your forgiveness of your brother George offers you all this, and more.
Now, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see him as your savior.
Ask of Him Who knows this Son of God in his reality and truth
for a new vision of your brother George,
a vision of him as your savior,
shining in the light of true forgiveness.
Say to the Holy Spirit:
Let me behold my savior in my brother George,
whom You have appointed as the one for me to ask
to lead me to the holy light in which he stands,
that I may join with him.
Let the Holy Spirit show you a spark of light in him.
Think of things about your brother George that reveal this light.
Think of the love he has for his family,
his concern for Africa,
his sense of humor,
or anything else that brightens your picture of him.
Think of his kindnesses instead of his mistakes.
Think of his thoughtfulness instead of counting up the hurts he gave.
As you do so, see the spark of light extend until it covers him completely
and makes your picture of him beautiful and good.
Now you see your brother George as the being of light he truly is.
He is a holy being, like Jesus or Buddha,
a being so holy that you can scarce refrain from kneeling at his feet.
He is one who has the power to forgive you all your sins,
whose sacred hands can take away the nails which pierce your own,
and lift the crown of thorns which you have placed upon your bleeding head.
Now, see your holy brother George shining salvation into you
and revealing your sinlessness.
Ask him to lead you to the holy light in which he stands.
Ask him now for salvation with these words:
Give me your blessing, holy Son of God.
I would behold you, George, with the eyes of Christ,
and see my perfect sinlessness in you.
See him answering your call and extending salvation to you.
Behold him now, whom you have seen as merely flesh and bone,
and recognize that Christ has come to you.
George's blessing of you gives you a precious gift.
Now you recognize that you too are the Christ.
You may have felt tempted to kneel at his feet,
but you are like him in the sight that sees him thus.
So now, see yourself joining with your brother George
in whatever way appeals to you.
Perhaps you take his hand.
Perhaps the two of you gaze into each other's eyes and smile.
Perhaps you embrace.
Your brother George is a part of you, a part of your Self.
He has led you to the holy light in which he stands,
and you have joined with him.
Now are you one with him, and he with you.
Feel the deep sense of relief that comes from forgiving your brother George.
Feel the heavy chains of unforgiveness being lifted from your chest.
You are no longer in bondage to your grievances.
You are free.
You are completely at peace with everyone and everything,
safe in a world that protects you and loves you,
and that you love in return.
Safety surrounds you, hovering over you and holding you up.
Nothing can harm you in any way.
Your brother George has been transformed from enemy to savior,
from the devil into Christ.
Rejoice in the peace, love, safety, freedom, and relief
your forgiveness of him has given you.
Both of you have been released.
Both of you are saved.
Hand in hand, walk together with your holy brother George
into the everlasting light of God.