The Holy Spirit uses the very dynamic of projection that the ego has used to crucify us, and keep us in a prison of guilt, and turns the tables on the ego itself.
True forgiveness is impossible without the Holy Spirit. This is true from two points of view. First, we are not the ones who forgive; we are not the ones who undo guilt. Strictly speaking, when ACIM speaks of forgiveness, it is really speaking of the decision we make to let the Holy Spirit’s forgiveness come through us.
In and of ourselves we can never forgive, because in and of ourselves, at least in this world, we are the ego.
We cannot change a thought system from within the thought system. We need help from outside it- help enters into the thought system, and then transforms it. That help is the Holy Spirit, and He is the one who will forgive, but through us, we must invite Him in, to be our Teacher, guide, and voice.
The second thing is even more important, forgiveness is the most difficult thing in the world, which is why hardly anyone does it, and why the whole concept of forgiveness that Jesus gave was so bitterly misunderstood from the time he gave it.
The reason is that when we truly forgive, as the course speaks of it, we are really letting go of our own guilt. And no one who identifies with the ego wants to do this. Without God’s Help; the Holy Spirit, there is no way that we can get through some of the deeper problems of guilt that will confront us.
The ego again gets us to first deny guilt and then project it onto another person or persons. The reason I do that again is because I am following the ego’s instructions that this is the way to get rid of my guilt. Now there is no way that I can deal with all my guilt myself.
There is no way to look at on the face of guilt and live; it is too devastating a thought. But the very thing that the ego has used to attack me by reinforcing my guilt in the guise of letting it go- this very mechanism of having my guilt placed outside of me- also gives me the chance of letting my guilt go. Seeing in you the guilt that I cannot confront myself gives me the opportunity of letting it go.
And that is what forgiveness is, pure and simple. Forgiveness is the undoing of the projection of guilt.
The sins and the guilt that I overlook and forgive in you, are really the very same sins and guilt that I am holding myself responsible for. This by the way has to with the Content of sin, not the form, which might be different.
By forgiving it in you, what I am in effect doing is forgiving it in myself. This is the key idea in the whole Course. This is really what all those words are about.
We project our guilt onto other people, and so when we choose to look at that person as the Holy Spirit would have us look through Christ’s Vision- we are able then to reverse our thinking about ourselves.
What I have done is project my own darkness onto you so that the light of Christ in you is obscured. By making the decision to say you are not in darkness- you are really in light, which is the decision to let go of the darkness that I have placed on you- I am really making the same statement about myself.
I am saying that not only does the light of Christ shine in you but also it shines in me. And, in fact it is the same light. That is what forgiveness is.
What this means, then is that we should be grateful for every single person in our lives, especially those with whom we have most trouble.
The ones we hate the most, that we find the most disagreeable, the most uncomfortable to be with, are really the very ones the Holy Spirit has “sent” to us and can use to show us that we can make another choice about the person we first were tempted to project our guilt onto.
If they had not come into our lives, we would not know that this guilt is really in us. The only chance we ever have to be free from it is to see it in someone else and to forgive it there.
By forgiving it in that other person, we are forgiving it in ourselves.
Forgiveness then, can be summarized briefly in three basic steps. The first step is recognizing that the problem is not outside of me. The problem is inside my mind.
The first step says that anger is never justified, even though my anger says it is in the other person, my anger is saying that you must change, so that I do not have to. Thus the first step says, the problem is always in me.
The reason this step is so important is that God placed the answer to the problem of separation inside of us; the Holy Spirit is not outside, He is inside us, in our minds, where the problem is.
By keeping the problem outside of us, as we do by projection, we are keeping the problem away from the answer. This is exactly what the ego wants, because if the problem of the ego is answered by the Holy Spirit, then there is no ego.
Now the second step, which is the most difficult one, the step that we would all do anything in the world to avoid, is to now deal with our own guilt. That, once again is why we all have such a strong investment in justifying and maintaining this anger and attack, and in seeing the world as split into good and bad.
As long as we do that we do not have to deal with this second step, which is to look at our own guilt and all our feelings of self-hatred.
In the first step, I say that my anger is a decision that I made to project my guilt. Now in the second step, I say that this very guilt itself also represents a decision.
It represents a decision to see myself as guilty rather than as guiltless. I must acknowledge instead that I am the Son of God, rather than a son of the ego, that my true Home is not in this world but rather that my true Home is with God.
We cannot do this until we first look at our guilt and say this is not what we really are. We cannot say that until we first look upon someone else and say, “You are not what I made of you; you are really what God created.”
The Course is very deceptive if you are not very careful. On one level it talks how simple it is; how we are all really “home in God dreaming of exile”(T-10.I.2;1); how all this will be done in an instant if we just change our minds, etc.
What happens is that we see these passages and we forget about all of the other ones which talk about the terror that this process will entail; the discomfort, resistance, and conflict that will come as we begin to take these steps to deal with our guilt.
No one can let go of the ego without dealing with one’s own guilt and fear because that is what the ego is. Jesus said in the gospel; “unless you take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciples” this is what He meant; To take up one’s cross is to deal with one’s own guilt and fear, transcending the ego.
There is no way that one can go through this process without difficulty and pain. Now this is not God’s will for us; this is our own will. We choose the guilt and fear, now we must look at it and choose against it.
We must first look at it, and then let it go, this can be very painful.so the second step is really a willingness to look at our guilt and say that we made it up, and that the guilt represents not God’s gift to us, but our decision to see ourselves as God did not create us.
ACIM is very clear in emphasizing that because we made guilt, we are the ones who can undo it. We need help that comes from outside the ego in order to do this.
This help is the Holy Spirit. And the one choice we do have is to invite the Holy Spirit to correct the thought system of the ego, and have him take the guilt away from us. This is the third step.
The second step, in effect, says to the Holy Spirit; “I no longer want to see myself as guilty; please take it away from me.” The third step belongs to the Holy Spirit, He just takes the guilt away because, in effect, He has already taken it away.
Our acceptance of this is the only problem. So to restate the tree steps; the first step undoes the projected anger by saying that the problem is not outside me; the problem is inside me.
The second step says that the problem that is inside me is one that I made up, and now it is one that I no longer want.
The third step occurs, then, when we have handed it over to the Holy Spirit, and He takes it away from us.
These steps sound very nice and simple, but if you are lucky, you will get through it in a single lifetime. You should not believe that this will be done overnight.
Some people have a magical hope that by getting through the workbook in one year they will be in the Kingdom.
Well that is fine until you get to the very end of the workbook and read; “This Course is a beginning, not an end” (W-pII.ep.1;1). The purpose of the workbook is to get us in touch with the Holy Spirit, and from then on operate with Him.
It is a lifetime’s work to undo our guilt, because the guilt is so enormous, and if we confront it all at once we would be overwhelmed, believing we would be struck dead, or go insane.
Therefore we have to deal with it chunks at a time. The various people and experiences and situations that comprise our lives can be used as part of the Holy Spirits plan to lead us from guilt into guiltlessness.