Most of us have heard somewhere or another during our lifetimes that we must forgive our enemies. If we were brought up in a family that attended a church, synagogue or mosque, we may have been exposed to teachings encouraging us to forgive. Perhaps we even made an effort at forgiveness. If so, we probably discovered that forgiveness is not an easy task. In fact, the bigger the hurt, the harder it is to forgive.
For most of my life, the concept of forgiveness seemed confusing and difficult. I even felt a bit of guilt about my lack of success at forgiveness. It seemed so impossible to accomplish that I was too overwhelmed to put much effort into trying. My father ran the Sunday school in my childhood church and my mother worked in the church office. In short, we were “a good Christian family.”
In my early life, I never questioned the teachings of my church. I believed the lessons about Jesus and love and I tried to be a good girl. I really did make an effort to incorporate Sunday school lessons into my life. Even so, I could not figure out forgiveness. In Sunday school, they taught us that forgiveness is simply dropping the angry feelings we have towards another. We were often given the example of Jesus washing the feet of his adversaries.
In reality, those angry feelings don’t just drop away, even if you try . . . even if you try hard!
Forgiveness is the dirty little secret of many Christians, spiritual people and truth seekers everywhere. We all nod our heads and agree that forgiveness is important but, when it comes right down to it, most of us have no idea how to really do it.
The good news is that forgiveness is a process that can be learned. With a little practice, we can all get good at it. Like most things in life, the more we do it, the easier it becomes and, with forgiveness, the more we do it the better we feel.
My First Act Of Forgiveness – Meet Mr. Ogre When I first became a serious student of “A Course in Miracles”, it became obvious that the Course wanted me to practice forgiveness. Throughout the Course, forgiveness is a constant topic and if you study the Course, you simply can’t miss it. In fact, the Course goes as far to say that you cannot really make significant progress on your spiritual path without forgiving. I knew I had to do it. And, of course, as is the way with the Course, at the very moment that I finally started to realize that I would have to learn to forgive, I was presented with a really big “forgiveness opportunity” (as Course students like to call the painful challenges and difficult people in our lives).
The most despicable man I have ever met showed up in my life. Let’s call him Mr. Ogre. Mr. Ogre suddenly owned a company to which I had paid a large sum of money for future services on behalf of a client. In fact, he had cheated the company away from the previous owner, a man whom I had been happily working with.
From today’s viewpoint, looking back at what transpired, I see that the fact that Mr. Ogre was almost a cartoon version of an evil character helped this whole incident play out perfectly. He was vicious and combative. He was verbally abusive yet with a high level of intelligence that helped him to implement sneaky tactics. “Mr. Ogre” was even physically ugly. He was the perfect evil character and his actions were so harmful from my perspective that he became the very best possible learning example for my first really big forgiveness lesson. It was so clear that I was wearing the white hat and he was wearing the black hat in this particular instance. Of course, I see now that in the classroom of life, there could be no room for greyness in between. Otherwise, there would have been less to forgive.
Ultimately, Mr. Ogre never provided the services I had contracted for or paid me the money he had taken, and I had to reimburse the client out of my own pocket, despite a court settlement made in my favor. It was one of those situations in life where you are so clearly in the right and the other person is so clearly in the wrong and, yet, you are the one who is harmed. On the surface of things, it often seems like good does not always prevail. (More about this later.)
So there I was, a new student of the Course, knowing I had to forgive, and being given the “gift” of this “horrible ogre” man to begin my forgiveness practice with. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to do it. It was utterly baffling. And, I might add, the thought of forgiving him was very distasteful. He had been so truly disgusting, so immoral, so vicious and selfish in all my dealings with him. I couldn’t imagine how I might possibly think any forgiving thoughts about him, let alone wash his feet as Jesus did. Unthinkable! Impossible! And yet, I felt that I must try to forgive.
I tore apart A Course in Miracles, looking for a nice little concise “How to” on forgiveness. However, it didn’t seem to be there. I did, however, find some sets of “forgiveness” words and some suggestions for ways to look at people and events in our lives that were helpful. I found some more understandable information and suggestions in The Disappearance of the Universe, by Gary Renard (who is one of the best known Course teachers today.) These bits, along with some kind assistance from members of my A Course in Miracles discussion group helped me fashion together a simple beginner’s forgiveness process. It didn’t work quickly or easily, yet I used it over and over and, lo and behold, the anger and hurt feelings gently lifted.
Of course, I did ultimately forgive Mr. Ogre completely and I don’t think of him as “horrible” at all these days. I really do see him as a “gift,” because he was the first person in my life that I really, truly and deeply was able to forgive. Thank you, Mr. Ogre.
Falling In Love With Forgiveness Now I am a forgiveness addict. The moment I realize I have something to forgive I can’t wait to release it. I savor the process of forgiving it. And afterwards, I get to enjoy the peaceful, lightening feeling of letting it go.
“When a brother acts insanely, he is offering you an opportunity to bless him. His need is yours. You need the blessing you can offer him.”--A Course of Miracles, Text, Chapter 7, VII2
Forgiveness raises our vibrations. It releases us to love, joy and peace. According to “A Course in Miracles”, forgiveness is the single most important thing we can do to bring us closer to God. Not meditating, not prayer, not reading spiritual books or attending meetings and services . . . forgiveness is more important than all of that.