Three Steps of Forgiveness:
1) “Outward Picture of an Inner Condition”:
What if the real source of my pain/discomfort/anxiety is not coming from the world? What if it’s coming from somewhere deep inside me (a place the Course calls my mind)?
What if it is coming from internally pushing away the Holy Spirit and choosing the ego instead? And now I somehow forget I even have a mind, much less that I’m choosing the wrong teacher. What if that’s why I’m really in a state of conflict, whether it’s anger, fear, depression, or whatever that’s not peace? What if it has nothing to do with anything external?
If it were possible to see past my brother’s “sins” and my judgements of him, and experience his true innocence as a son of God, would I be willing to ask the Holy Spirit’s help to do that?
Workbook Lesson #5 says ” I’m never upset for the reason I think.” What if that’s true?
The Course reminds us: the seeming “outward” source of pain is simply my projection of the guilt for pushing God out of my own awareness. This real source of all pain and guilt is always in my mind.
The ego has been described as “edging God out.”
2) “The Made-up Inner Condition in my mind”:
What if I could not really push Jesus or the Holy Spirit away and choose to be a make-believe separated self, even if I thought I wanted to?
What if in spite of all the bad I think I have done to others, to myself, to Jesus… all my hateful judgements, all ‘my stuff’… what if Jesus is in my mind right here, right now, smiling at me… telling me in his smile he still loves me and my innocence is still intact?
If it were possible to see past my own “sins” and my judgements of myself, and experience my true innocence as a son of God, would I be willing to ask the Holy Spirit’s help to do that?
When I’m willing to “go there” in my mind, and feel Jesus presence, I begin to realize that nothing I thought or did (which I begin to experience wasn’t really real after all) has ever affected my true essence, or kept Jesus away.
3) “State of Peace”:
This is experienced after the first 2 steps in which the Holy Spirit removes my own blocks to peace of …
(1) my external blame and condemnation of others and (2) my own internal guilt and self loathing.
I now realize that God not only loves the person’s true reality, who was seeming to cause me grief… but God also still loves my own true innocent self.
I then experience the awareness that our seeming separated selves were not our true selves at all, and that we are actually the same one Self, God’s innocent Son still intact. (Even tho I’m still seeing images of seeming separation…)
This awakening is the real miracle.
In the first two steps we need to willingly and actively ask Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit for help in the process of letting go of blame (first of others, then ourselves). In the third step we simply experience peace through the Holy Spirit.
He clears us of all our made-up pain from our belief in sin, guilt, and fear in the first two steps. These were our own make-believe “blocks to the awareness of love’s presence” (mentioned in the Course’s opening Introduction to the Text on page one).
The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence…
The Holy Spirit helps us to let go of and remove those blocks. Then what’s left is our experience of true peace.
Course References to The Three Steps of Forgiveness:
Here are some Course places that mention the three steps…
(The first one is the shortest but probably the most succinct:)
1) WB Les. 23 p.34 par. 5
The idea for today introduces the thought that you are not trapped in the world you see, because its cause can be changed. This change requires, first, that the cause be identified (Step One), and then let go (Step Two), so that it can be replaced (Step Three). The first two steps in this process require your cooperation. The final one does not. Your images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so.
2) WB les. 52 p.84 par.2
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. (Step One) When I have forgiven myself and remembered Who I am (Step Two), 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. (Step Three)
3) WB les. 56 p. 92 par.2
Recognizing that what I see reflects what I think I am (Step One), I realize that vision is my greatest need. The world I see attests to the fearful nature of the self-image I have made. If I would remember who I am, it is essential that I let this image of myself go (Step Two). As it is replaced by truth, vision will surely be given me. And with this vision, I will look upon the world and on myself with charity and love. (Step Three)
4) Text p.90 par.6
5) Text p.131 par.5
5 Do not be afraid of the ego. It depends on your mind, and as you made it (the ego) by believing in it, so you can dispel it by withdrawing belief from it. Do not project the responsibility for your belief in it (the ego) onto anyone else, or you will preserve the belief. When you are willing to accept sole responsibility for the ego’s existence you will have laid aside all anger and all attack, because they come from an attempt to project responsibility for your own errors (Step One). But having accepted the errors as yours, do not keep them. Give them (our belief we are a separated self) over quickly to the Holy Spirit to be undone completely (Step Two), so that all their effects will vanish from your mind and from the Sonship as a whole (Step Three).
6) Manual p.86 par.6 (Lyn Corona’s favorite)
6 This is the shift that true perception brings: What was projected out (step one) is seen within (step two), and there forgiveness lets it disappear (step three). For there the altar to the Son is set, and there his Father is remembered. Here are all illusions brought to truth and laid upon the altar. What is seen outside must lie beyond forgiveness, for it seems to be forever sinful. Where is hope while sin is seen as outside (step one)? What remedy can guilt expect? But seen within your mind, guilt and forgiveness for an instant lie together, side by side, upon one altar (step two). There at last are sickness and its single remedy joined in one healing brightness (step three). God has come to claim His Own. Forgiveness is complete.
(There are other references that we may find that will stand out more to each of us… and when in doubt, ask Jesus for help to be lead somewhere in the Course he may want us to look…)
One, Two, Three…
Another way of briefly describing the three steps of forgiveness is the following…
- What if the real source of my not feeling peaceful or happy… is not something external in your behavior or even my own behavior… no matter how bad that behavior may seem.
- What if the real problem is internal in my mind… where I simply have chosen to believe I could push Jesus and peace away… and that’s why I’m unhappy.
- When I allow myself to hear Jesus tell me your innocence and real identity as God’s Son is still intact, and so is my own, then I truly feel his love and presence and I know what he’s telling me is true. And from this happy and safe place, I will intuitively know what to do next, in any given situation.
2 Real choice (in the mind) is no illusion. But the world has none to offer. All its roads but lead to disappointment, nothingness and death. There is no choice in its (the world’s) alternatives. Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped. Be not deceived by all the different names its roads are given. They have but one end. And each is but the means to gain that end, for it is here that all its roads will lead, however differently they seem to start; however differently they seem to go. Their end is certain, for there is no choice among them. All of them will lead to death. On some you travel gaily for a while, before the bleakness enters. And on some the thorns are felt at once. The choice is not what will the ending be, but when it comes. (Ch. 31, p. 653, par. 2)
Ken Wapnick used to say that projecting our internal made-up guilt onto the world and our bodies… was “a maladaptive solution to a non-existent problem.”
The solution that didn’t work (maladaptive) was projecting our guilt onto others to try to get rid of it. All that did was reinforce that guilt was alive and well…
The real problem was always our own belief in sin and guilt in our own mind (which was actually ‘non-existent’ in the first place).
To actually ask Jesus to help me see and experience that he didn’t go anywhere, and he is still right here, right now, still loving me and all of us (in spite of the seeming differences)… is the Course’s process of forgiveness.
For further discussion on the three forgiveness steps,
listen to Ken Wapnick’s CD set or MP3 download on
“The Meaning of Forgiveness”