If I feel guilty for judging another, should I forgive myself?

Q. I have been noticing lingering guilt that stems from judging someone or having a harsh reaction toward someone. From the Course’s standpoint, I should forgive myself as a way of getting rid of this guilt—am I right?

A. Letting go of guilt is definitely a major focus in the Course. We do no one any good by lugging around the heavy burden of guilt. The Course, however, has a different idea for how you can get rid of the guilt you are talking about. Note these two passages:

When you feel guilty, remember that the ego has indeed violated the laws of God, but you have not. Leave the “sins” of the ego to me. That is what Atonement is for. But until you change your mind about those whom your ego has hurt, the Atonement cannot release you. (T-4.IV.5:1-4)

Whenever you are not wholly joyous, it is because you have reacted with a lack of love to one of God’s creations. Perceiving this as “sin” you become defensive because you expect attack. The decision to react in this way is yours, and can therefore be undone. It cannot be undone by repentance in the usual sense, because this implies guilt. If you allow yourself to feel guilty, you will reinforce the error rather than allow it to be undone for you. (T-5.VII.5)

In both of these cases, you are feeling bad because of guilt. And in both cases, the remedy is to change the decision that caused the guilt in the first place. The first passage says this explicitly: “until you change your mind about those whom your ego has hurt, the Atonement cannot release you.” The second is a bit more subtle, saying that the decision to react with a lack of love “can therefore be undone,” and implies that this undoing will relieve the guilt.

This makes sense if you think about it. The decision to be unloving toward another causes guilt. Hence, as long as this decision remains in place, it will continue to cause guilt. Forgiving yourself for it, then, is mere symptom relief. It is like cleaning up the spill from a leak without stopping the leak itself.

Lesson 46 suggests a way to take care of both things—the cause and the symptom:

If you are doing the exercises well you should have no difficulty in finding a number of people you have not forgiven. It is a safe rule that anyone you do not like is a suitable subject. Mention each one by name, and say:

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;1-5:3)

As you can see, there is a one-two punch here, in which you first focus on forgiving others in order “to put you in a position to forgive yourself,” and then you directly forgive yourself.

Perhaps this is the best way to deal with the guilt feelings you are talking about. First, change your mind about the person you reacted to lovelessly. Use thoughts from the Course to cancel out your old decision and to decide that this person is worthy of your love. Then make a different decision about yourself, letting yourself off the hook for your past decision. Now you are free of the cause and its effects.

Browse the FAQ archive. FAQ Topic: . FAQ Tags: , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.