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Understanding what ACIM really means by forgiveness

  • By Paul West
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In ACIM the definition of forgiveness is not well understood. I did not understand it for many years.

I especially got caught up in this seemingly 'better than just theoretical' wave of 'you need to APPLY the course', which typically then means you need to 'do forgiveness' through some kind of process, and that this is what forgiveness is. And then you hear terms like 'quantum forgiveness' and 'true forgiveness' and stuff thrown around like this describes 'what you do to forgive', which most people take to mean the process of applying it.

But that's not it.

There were also phrases like "Forgiveness, on the other hand, is still, and quietly does nothing ... It merely looks and waits and judges not." and "I need do nothing" which seemed to totally contradict this idea of 'doing' forgiveness.

And it continues with "he who would not forgive must judge" which then leads to further confusions like 'well that means I must stop judging'.

That's not it either.

There are really two different vantage points and it depends on which vantage point you're currently taking as to what forgiveness means for you or what your role is. You could think of it as two different levels. On the ego's level (level 1) there is no forgiveness, only unforgiveness. On the Holy Spirit's level (level 2) there is absolute forgiveness.

Much of the course, when it speaks of forgiveness, speaks of how the Holy Spirit perceives, such as "forgiveness is the light in which I see" and "forgiveness is still, and quietly does nothing". For the Holy Spirit, he is in a state of BEING FORGIVING. Now, this has absolutely nothing to do with some kind of activity. Activity is not needed. Because Holy Spirit is BEING forgiving, he is looking from above the battlefield upon everything and is recognizing that there is only innocence. He is only SEEING innocence because He is in the light. He is not seeing guilt, he is not seeing projections. He is in effect in a state of perfect, constant forgiveness. And here forgiveness is not a 'doing word', it's a 'being' word.

The Holy Spirit's forgiveness is proactively forgiving, SO THAT there is nothing that needs to be done. He overlooks error SO THAT there is no messy errors to clean up. He sees WITH light so that he does not SEE darkness. He has a forgiving attitude, which does not mean that something happens and then He forgives it. It means, he is FORE-giving, giving ahead of the need to forgive, which is a kind of blessing, in order to MAKE CERTAIN that there is nothing TO forgive. If he were to stop having a forgiving attitude, he would enter into error, create illusions, invent guilt, and then there would be 'work' to do. Correction would be needed, and He would NOT be in a forgiving attitude any more.

Forgiveness, in terms of the Holy Spirit's state of perpetual forgiveness, forgives SO THAT judgement does not arise. He sees that all are innocent and knows that there is no sin. "In that view, are all your sins forgiven." So the Holy Spirit doesn't have to 'do forgiveness', because there is nothing to forgive when you ARE ALREADY FORGIVEN. He knows that nothing has happened and forgiving in order to correct something that's happened is not required. He looks, is still and quiet, and does nothing. And this also does not mean that he undoes ego. There is no ego to undo while His attitude is still perfect forgiveness. This is a perfect, pure state of total forgiveness, the atonement, in which there is only innocence recognized everywhere. It's described also in how you will see 'the forgiven world' which will sparkle with innocence and no guilt anywhere. That's what BEING FORGIVING really means, it has NOTHING to do with any kind of process of correction or sorting out perception or changing your mind. It's the FINAL STATE where there is nothing left to forgive.

Now, this isn't typically the state we find ourselves in. Instead, we find ourselves in a state where we have already failed to be forgiving, and we now have an 'unforgiving' attitude, which results in judgement. And that judgement encapsulates all belief in separation, sin, guilt, fear, projection, victimhood, punishment and death. That's the state we find ourselves in most often. In this state, we are NOT being forgiving. So now we ask ourselves, how do I get out of this state and return to innocence? And usually the answer to that is, "you need to apply forgiveness".

No, not really. You can't suddenly take Holy Spirit's 'forgiveness is already accomplished' attitude and 'use it' in the midst of 'level 1' ego bullshit. And you certainly can't use it like a weapon to be used ON the ego's bullshit or TO it.

Remember Forgiveness, per the Holy Spirit, is not a process of doing something 'to' an illusion to make it go away. It's a state of it having not existed in the first place. We need to get INTO that state, and return to having a forgiving attitude. And only AFTER we have returned to that forgiving attitude will we be able to SEE innocence. "Forgiveness is the light in which I see" literally means that you CANNOT see clearly when you're in the middle of unforgiveness, and you cannot see the innocence of yourself or your brother while you still believe something has HAPPENED that needs forgiving.

But still we seem to cling to the need for this so called 'process' to try to somehow bridge the gap, to get us from the state of suffering we're experiencing now (ego mind), to some other state where there is no suffering (Holy Spirit's mind). So then we think we have to DO something. And then we think we have to DO forgiveness. And then we think we have to go through some steps or whatever and that this is dutifully doing forgiveness, ie applying the course. This isn't what it means to be forgiving. But this is a 'process of correction'. This is the undoing of the ego. In effect, forgiveness shows you that THERE IS NO EGO (death), and in this sense only does it 'un-do' ie NOT-DO ego. But it doesn't do something 'TO' the ego. "Holy Spirit does not attack the ego."

When we are doing this process, we are not doing forgiveness, but we are doing this process SO THAT we take back judgements and projections and remove blocks to awareness so that we might become AWARE that there is nothing to be forgiven. We are lifting the illusions from our mind so that we can join with Holy Spirit in His light where, forgivingly, it is seen that all are innocent already - that nothing's really happened and therefore there is only cause for acknowledgement/acceptance of the atonement. In effect, we only get into 'forgiveness' at the END of the process of undoing, and as soon as we enter into that perfect forgiving-ness we immediate RECOGNIZE that there is nothing to forgive because everyone is already innocent and nothing's happened.

All this other ego junk, the judgements, the projections, the belief in sin and guilt, the view that we're victims, etc... this is all ego. We need to cancel this stuff out. We don't do something TO it, we don't apply forgiveness TO it. We UN-DO, ie not-do these ego things. By not continuing to DO these ego things, we are undoing the ego. It's hard to get your head around that because it's really like making the mind work backwards, retracing your steps. You need to withdraw your belief that something has even HAPPENED at all, rather than work on trying to make 'what happened' go away.

If I need to 'do a forgiveness' it really means I am being unforgiving and my attitude needs to change back to being forgiving. Only when my attitude HAS shifted to 'being forgiving', and the 'process of correction' is complete, ONLY THEN am I actually forgiving. And only then can I see innocence. And only then am I in forgiveness, with Holy Spirit. And only then do "I need do nothing", having stopped doing all the stuff my ego WAS doing to try to 'do something'. So be aware, 'doing forgiveness' is an EGO DECOY because the ego loves to 'do' as a way to perpetuate itself. Getting your mind to 'not do' seems very counter-intuitive and not at all what you are used to.

Forgiveness is the end result of stopping an unforgiving attitude.

or..

Forgiveness is the natural state of the Son of God when He has not failed in that attitude, and where any belief that there is something to forgive has been healed.

It is not what gets you TO a forgiving attitude. Correction, ie HEALING, is what gets you there. Or in a term the Course uses in the miracle principles, "miracles are everyone's right, but PURIFICATION is necessary first". Purification. That's what we seem to be 'doing', so that we can RETURN to being forgiving.

The Holy Spirit does have a function of HEALING, which is, an ACTIVE role of correction which is capable of undoing what the ego has made - "the consequences of your wrong decision". And this is also where MIRACLES come in. Miracles are the means by which Holy Spirit ACTIVELY CORRECTS the mind (thus the emotions and body also), by blessing it with a forgiving attitude. Holy Spirit is miracle minded. He has miracle readiness. He has a role to play of LIFTING YOU UP to His state of forgiveness, where all that needed to be 'forgiven' is already healed. He has a function of RESTORATION, of restoring you to an awareness of your God-given condition of innocence, holiness, and health. This extends from His forgiving attitude, through you, and on to others.

We need to no longer 'do forgiveness'. My only job is to offer up to Holy Spirit the wrong decisions I've made for HIS correction and healing, and to open up to allowing Him to heal me, so that I can enter INTO a forgiving state of mind with Him. 

"The blameless cannot blame, and those who have accepted their innocence see nothing to forgive."

"Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin. And in that view are all your sins forgiven."

See here that it says forgiveness RECOGNIZES that nothing occurred... which is a state where the idea of that 'something happened' has ALREADY BEEN UNDONE, a state where innocence has ALREADY BEEN RESTORED. Forgiveness sees WITH forgiveness in order to see that there IS nothing to forgive. It doesn't look at 'things still to undo'. We need to join Holy Spirit in this state, and 'getting there' is really a matter of stopping avoiding being there, which is what the ego's distractions are for.

Also recognize that once you are IN forgiveness, it is automatic to RECOGNIZE a pre-existing innocence and atonement. There is no effort involved, and the innocence you see is simply REVEALED to you, because it was always there and always true. You have removed the block to the awareness of its presence. Getting yourself into the Holy Spirit's state of mind is the only seeming 'task' that we seem to have to 'do' and really it does not involve doing... but rather recognizing all the ego things we are 'doing' and STOPPING THEM.

Yes, stop judging, but moreso, stop being unforgiving. Stop projecting. Stop believing in sickness and death. Stop hating yourself. Stop believing in sin. Stop being separate from God. Say no to the ego by giving it no power or energy. Stop buying into illusions. And start opening up to your relationship with God based on love and innocence and a forgiving attitude that recognizes, and shows you, that Christ is still innocent.
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