Is it ever appropriate to forgive ourselves directly?

Q. You say that the Course’s main focus is on forgiving ourselves in the act of forgiving others. Does this still mean that it’s still sometimes appropriate to forgive ourselves directly? Such as if we are experiencing jealousy, or feelings of lack, or any other negative stuff that’s going on in our mind.

A. It’s absolutely appropriate to forgive ourselves directly. If we and others are really one, why would we treat ourselves in a way that’s totally different than how we treat them? Lesson 46 even has an exercise in which we say to ourselves, “God is the Love in which I forgive myself.”

I think the Course’s concern is that we do not work on forgiving ourselves in isolation from forgiving others, or as a substitute for forgiving others. We can see this particularly clearly in two key passages. One is in Chapter 4 in the Text

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)

As long as we retain our hurtful thoughts about others, those thoughts will remain as a source of guilt. Even while we may feel righteous and vindicated on the surface, below that we will be whispering to ourselves, “The Atonement cannot release me. I deserve to stay in my chains.”

Lesson 46, which I mentioned above, also emphasizes the need to forgive ourselves in conjunction with forgiving others. In the first part of that lesson’s exercise, we identify a number of people we have not forgiven and then to each one say, “God is the Love in which I forgive you, [name]” (4:4). The lesson tells us that the purpose of this first phase “is to put you in a position to forgive yourself” (5:1). And so, only after you work on forgiving them do you then move on to directly forgiving yourself. The implication is that forgiving others first puts you in a position to truly forgive yourself.

The logic here seems to be similar to the first passage I looked at. In both cases, letting go of our condemnation of others is the way through to feeling released from our own past mistakes.

So, yes, of course we should work on forgiving ourselves directly. But we should combine that with forgiving others, in the realization that the most sincere and powerful way to let ourselves off the hook is to let them off first.

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