Forgiving Yourself

by Allen Watson

Overall comments

When we get into A Course in Miracles, we soon find out that the word "forgiveness" means something different than it does normally. We find out that our brother didn't really do anything to us. And we find out that forgiveness is ultimately for ourselves. Given all this, we quite naturally think that, rather than focusing on forgiving others (since they didn't really do anything in the first place), we should instead focus on forgiving ourselves.

However natural this assumption may be, and however helpful it may be to directly forgive ourselves, that is not the Course's focus. Its main focus is that we forgive ourselves in the act of forgiving others. Yes, forgiving another is an illusion, but so is forgiving oneself. Both are helpful illusions that lead us to the realization that there was never anything to forgive. And the main way in which we achieve the illusion of forgiving ourselves is through engaging in the illusion of forgiving another.

This issue has come up so many times in my interaction with Course students that I finally decided to do a study of it. I looked at all passages in the Course that speak of forgiving yourself (ourselves, myself), in order to determine how the Course sees that idea. Here are the results:

  • 1 reference to "when we forgive ourselves we will be saved"
  • 2 references to "forgiving ourselves enables us to forgive others"
  • 4 references to "forgive yourself for your mistakes so you can then let them go"
  • 13 references to "we forgive ourselves by forgiving others"

Obviously, the bulk of references to forgiving yourself are in that last category: we forgive ourselves by forgiving others.

Passages and commentary

When we forgive ourselves we will be saved (1)

You have no function that is not of God. Forgive yourself the one you think you made. Forgiveness and salvation are the same. Forgive what you have made and you are saved. (W-pI.99.10:4-7)

Summary: If you forgive yourself for the function you made for yourself you will be saved.

Forgiving ourselves enables us to forgive others (2)

The unforgiven have no mercy to bestow upon another. That is why your sole responsibility must be to take forgiveness for yourself. The miracle that you receive, you give. (T-25.IX.9:5-10:1)

Summary: You must take forgiveness for yourself, for only then will you have mercy to give to another.

As I look about, I condemn the world I look upon. I call this seeing. I hold the past against everyone and everything, making them my enemies. When I have forgiven myself and remembered Who I am, I will bless everyone and everything I see. There will be no past, and therefore no enemies. And I will look with love on all that I failed to see before. (W-pI.rI.52.2:2-7)

Summary: When I forgive myself and remember Who I am, I will no longer condemn the world and will no longer see enemies.

Forgive yourself for your mistakes so that you can then let them go (4)

There is no road that leads away from Him?…Where could it go? And how could you be made to travel on it, walking there without your own reality at one with you? Forgive yourself your madness, and forget all senseless journeys and all goal-less aims. (T-31.IV.11:1)

Summary: Here you forgive yourself for your mad idea that you could travel on a road away from God so that you can relinquish the senseless attempt to journey away from Him.

All the world of pain is not His Will. Forgive yourself the thought He wanted this for you. Then let the Thought with which He has replaced all your mistakes enter the darkened places of your mind that thought the thoughts that never were His Will. (W-pI.99.7:4-6)

Summary: You forgive yourself the thought that God willed this world of pain for you so that

you can let Him enter your mind and replace your mistaken thoughts.

To ask that what is false be true can only fail. Forgive yourself for vain imaginings, and seek no longer what you cannot find. (W-pI.200.3:4-5)

Summary: Forgive yourself for your vain imagining that you can find truth in falsity, and stop seeking to find truth in falsity. Here again, forgiving yourself is the first step in a two-step process, the second step being the letting go of the thing you forgave yourself for.

Let us therefore be determined, particularly for the next week or so, to be willing to forgive ourselves for our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day's idea. (W-pI.95.8:3)

Summary: Forgive yourself for your failures to practice so you can get back to your practicing.

We forgive ourselves by forgiving others (13)

But forget not this: When you become disturbed and lose your peace of mind because another is attempting to solve his problems through fantasy, you are refusing to forgive yourself for just this same attempt. And you are holding both of you away from truth and from salvation. As you forgive him, you restore to truth what was denied by both of you. (T-17.I.6:5-7)

Summary: When you condemn another for trying to solve his problems through fantasy means, you are simultaneously condemning yourself for the exact same thing. Forgive him, and you forgive both of you.

Quickly and gladly is His vision given anyone who is but willing to see his brother sinless. And no one can remain beyond this willingness, if you would be released entirely from all effects of sin. Would you have partial forgiveness for yourself? Can you reach Heaven while a single sin still tempts you to remain in misery? Heaven is the home of perfect purity, and God created it for you. Look on your holy brother, sinless as yourself, and let him lead you there. (T-22.II.13:2-7)

Summary: Unless you are willing to see every brother as sinless you will not experience complete forgiveness of yourself. By seeing sinlessness in your brother, you will be led to the realization that you belong in the place of perfect purity.

Be not deceived about the meaning of a fixed belief that some appearances are harder to look past than others are. It always means you think forgiveness must be limited. And you have set a goal of partial pardon and a limited escape from guilt for you. What can this be except a false forgiveness of yourself, and everyone who seems apart from you? (T-30.VI.6:4-7)

Summary: If you think some appearances of sin in the world are harder to overlook, this means that your goal is partial forgiveness of yourself (as well as everyone else).

Those who forgive are thus releasing themselves from illusions, while those who withhold forgiveness are binding themselves to them. As you condemn only yourself, so do you forgive only yourself. (W-pI.46.1:4-5)

Summary: Those who forgive others are really releasing themselves from illusions. They are really forgiving themselves.

God is the Love in which I forgive you, [name].

The purpose of the first phase of today's practice periods is to put you in a position to forgive yourself. After you have applied the idea to all those who have come to mind, tell yourself:

God is the Love in which I forgive myself. (W-pI.46.4:4-5:3)

Summary: The purpose of forgiving a list of other people is to put you in a position in which you can forgive yourself.

Having forgiven, I no longer see myself as guilty. I can accept the innocence that is the truth about me. (W-pI.rI.58.1:3-4)

Summary: When I forgive others, I will release my guilt and see my own innocence.

Illusions about yourself and the world are one. That is why all forgiveness is a gift to yourself. Your goal is to find out who you are, having denied your Identity by attacking creation and its Creator. Now you are learning how to remember the truth. For this attack must be replaced by forgiveness, so that thoughts of life may replace thoughts of death.
Remember that in every attack you call upon your own weakness, while each time you forgive you call upon the strength of Christ in you. Do you not then begin to understand what forgiveness will do for you? It will remove all sense of weakness, strain and fatigue from your mind. It will take away all fear and guilt and pain. It will restore the invulnerability and power God gave His Son to your awareness. (W-pI.62.2:1-3:5)

Summary: Your goal is to let go of your illusions of sin about yourself and remember your true Identity and its real strength and invulnerability. You do this through forgiving others, through letting go the illusions you hold about them, through replacing your attack-mode with a forgiveness-mode.

Nothing the body's eyes seem to see can be anything but a form of temptation, since this was the purpose of the body itself. Yet we have learned that the Holy Spirit has another use for all the illusions you have made, and therefore He sees another purpose in them. To the Holy Spirit, the world is a place where you learn to forgive yourself what you think of as your sins. In this perception, the physical appearance of temptation becomes the spiritual recognition of salvation. (W-pI.64.2:1-3:1)

Summary: The Holy Spirit looks on all the temptations to condemn what you see with your body's eyes and sees a different purpose in them. He sees them as an opportunity to forgive and thereby forgive yourself and recognize that you are saved.

Then let him offer you the light you see in him, and let your "enemy" and friend unite in blessing you with what you gave. Now are you one with them, and they with you. Now have you been forgiven by yourself. (W-pI.121.13:1-3)

Summary: How do you forgive yourself? You see the light of holiness in an "enemy," then let his light transfer to a friend, then let the two join in blessing you with the light you gave them. "Now have you been forgiven by yourself."

This lesson is not difficult to learn, if you remember in your brother you but see yourself. If he be lost in sin, so must you be; if you see light in him, your sins have been forgiven by yourself. Each brother whom you meet today provides another chance to let Christ's vision shine on you, and offer you the peace of God. (W-pI.158.10:3-5)

Summary: If you see your brother as lost in sin, you will see yourself that way, too. If you see the light of holiness in your brother, your sins have been forgiven by yourself.

Does pain seem real in the perception? If it does, be sure the lesson is not learned. And there remains an unforgiveness hiding in the mind that sees the pain through eyes the mind directs. God would not have you suffer thus. He would help you forgive yourself. (W-pI.193.7:2-8:2)

Summary: When you see pain as real, as thrust upon you by an objective outside world, this is really an expression of your own unforgiveness. God would help you let go this unforgiveness and thereby forgive yourself.

Forgiveness-to-destroy is death, and this it sees in all it looks upon and hates. God's mercy has become a twisted knife that would destroy the holy Son He loves.
Would you forgive yourself for doing this? Then learn that God has given you the means by which you can return to Him in peace. Do not see error. Do not make it real. Select the loving and forgive the sin by choosing in its place the face of Christ. (S-2.I.2:5-3:5)

Summary: How can you forgive yourself for your attempts at forgiveness which are really just attacks in disguise? You do the opposite of false forgiveness. You truly overlook the errors you see in your brother. You do not see them as real and then forgive them. You see them as unreal from the start.

As prayer is always for yourself, so is forgiveness always given you. It is impossible to forgive another, for it is only your sins you see in him. You want to see them there, and not in you. That is why forgiveness of another is an illusion. Yet it is the only happy dream in all the world; the only one that does not lead to death. Only in someone else can you forgive yourself, for you have called him guilty of your sins, and in him must your innocence now be found. Who but the sinful need to be forgiven? And do not ever think you can see sin in anyone except yourself. (S-2.I.4:Heading-8)

Summary: You can only forgive yourself by forgiving others, for the sins you see in them are really just your own sins projected onto them. You see your sinfulness in them and not in you.

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