II. The Atonement as Defense, P 7
7 The Atonement is a total commitment. You may still think this is associated with loss, a mistake all the separated Sons of God make in one way or another. It is hard to believe a defense that cannot attack is the best defense. This is what is meant by “the meek shall inherit the earth.” They will literally take it over because of their strength. A two-way defense is inherently weak precisely because it has two edges, and can be turned against you very unexpectedly. This possibility cannot be controlled except by miracles. The miracle turns the defense of Atonement to your real protection, and as you become more and more secure you assume your natural talent of protecting others, knowing yourself as both a brother and a Son.
Like most people, I used to believe that forgiveness was a sacrifice. I thought it meant giving in and inviting people to walk on me. For instance, if I forgave my husband for some perceived mistake, then he would just do it again because now there would be no consequences to his actions. But really, he did anyway, so holding the grievance never helped me in any way, but since it was the only defense I knew, I couldn’t afford to let it go.
Then I began to learn, as I studied the Course, that my defense (making him guilty and making sure he knew he was guilty) not only didn’t work, but was actually hurting me instead of him. Every time I projected guilt on him I reinforced the idea of guilt in my mind. It is not just a single thing that I want to forgive, a single act by any one person, but the idea of guilt itself. This is the reason the Atonement is a total commitment. If I hold anyone in guilt, the idea of guilt grows stronger in my mind rather than being healed.
Eventually, what has happened is that by letting go of many little and big grievances over a period of time, I have learned that grievances don’t really come in degrees. Either someone is guilty or they are not. Either guilt is real or it is not. If guilt is real then sometimes I am going to see myself as the guilty party, and even if I project guilt so thoroughly that I always see the other person as guilty, I will be unconsciously aware of guilt in my mind which seems to grow the more I try to get rid of it.
So the cycle goes like this. I feel guilty. Even if I don’t yet have a reason for the guilt, I feel it because the belief in guilt is in my mind. It’s like an ugly stain, or a nasty taste and I want it gone. It’s worse than that because I think that guilt calls for punishment, so I need it gone. I project the guilt outward and people show up, things happen, and I decide that I now see the reason for the guilt. If I now see a mistake made by myself I can figure out how to avoid that mistake in the future and so now I have convinced myself I am safe from guilt.
Or I will actually punish myself for the mistake and so feel safe from further fear of punishment. I get to choose a punishment I can stand and avoid some imagined (or worse, unimaginable) punishment hanging over me, the ultimate being, death, or maybe hell, which punishes me even after death. But this doesn’t work either because now I have taken what I think of as God’s prerogative for myself, so I feel or repress even more guilt.
Another way the cycle continues is if I place the blame on someone else. Now they are guilty. But it’s the same result. Even if I make enough proof to convince the whole world that the guilt is on someone else, I have simply reinforced, for myself and the whole world, the belief that guilt is real and deserves punishment. And no matter how deeply into denial I go, there is a part of my mind that knows what I am doing. It knows where the guilt actually came from, no matter where it seemed to land.
This is a vicious cycle with no way for me to win, and it seemed like there was no way out of it. The Holy Spirit is a very gentle teacher, though, and I moved through this process slowly, a step at a time. I would notice a guilty thought in my mind and ask the Holy Spirit to heal it.
I would notice a grievance and would tell the Holy Spirit I was willing to forgive it. Then if it turned out that I was not quite ready to forgive it, I would be given another chance when I was ready to try again. Eventually, I reached the place where I knew that there was no grievance I wanted to keep, and no reason to keep it. The process moved more quickly at that point.
The place I am now is that I recognize that the appearance of guilty people in my life, myself or someone else, is just an out-picturing of the guilt in my mind. I forgive the person or situation as symbolic of forgiving the idea of guilt. That is why when my roofing material was stolen, it never occurred to me to make the thieves guilty.
This is what they did because they feel so far from Love that they must steal to get what they think they need. This is a clear cry for love. I intend to give them what they asked for. So now instead of picturing the guilt outside of me to get rid of it, I am picturing it outside of me so I can see it and forgive it.
If my mind is not always so clear on this, and I become confused about, it is usually when I have not forgiven myself or when I feel threatened in some way that still holds meaning for me. the most recent and profound healing was with my relationship with my children. This attachment to these special relationships has taken a long time to be released. That was because I thought still needed them, and so was afraid of losing that specialness.
This Mother’s Day is the first one that was not dedicated to specialness. Always before, I sat back and waited for gift wrapped reassurance that I was, in spite of my fearful beliefs to the contrary, a good mother. This year was different. I was grateful for the gifts and for the love that is represented by the gifts. I enjoyed the day very much, much more than before. The reason it was such a joyful day was that I no longer need the expressions of love. I am both loved and am free of the need for proof that this is so.