by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
Many years back, comedy legend Jack Benny was being honored with a distinguished humanitarian award. Upon receiving the award he said, “I don’t really deserve this award, but then I have arthritis, and I don’t deserve that either. Thank you very much.”
When tough things happen in our lives, we often silently ask, “Why me?” Ironically, when good things happen, we often ask the same thing. It is not a question of whether we “deserve” the things we experience in life, but rather, “How will we handle them, now?”
A Course in Miracles’ counsel would be: don’t handle them alone. This entire classroom of life is teaching us our purpose and our function. In the Course, we are told the proper function of the mind is to be in service. Since the Course reminds us our function in this world is forgiveness, it would only be logical that we would need to allow the Holy Spirit to direct our minds and thereby our actions. After all, when was the last time extending or accepting forgiveness was an easy thing for you to do?
We all have areas of our lives in which we have less resistance towards extending forgiveness: “Please forgive me for stepping on your toe,” or “I’m sorry for… (insert any small infraction or little error in thinking).” But we also have areas in which we feel justified in our feelings of anger, injustice, or attack — biggies like war, murder, robbery, or even personal slights, disrespect, and plain rude behavior. It becomes clear that we can’t handle this process alone. We need help.
Many of us have read workbook lesson 193 from A Course in Miracles, “All things are lessons God would have me learn.” This lesson does not say God puts lessons in our way. Rather, it indicates that every experience in life is an opportunity or “lesson” to remember the presence of God. Every event is a steppingstone to the awareness of God and His peace for us. All things, therefore, are an opportunity to allow forgiveness to lead the way (meaning we allow the Holy Spirit into our error-filled thinking). All experiences are an opportunity to remember the unity we share with another. As the Course so poignantly reminds us, “When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter.” (T-8.III.4) … as you see, think, or treat others, you do the same to yourself. “Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself. Whenever two Sons of God meet, they are given another chance at salvation.” (ibid)
Perhaps there’s a situation in your life right now where you can’t see forgiveness as a practical answer. And yet, the Course tells us forgiveness is the only answer that will finally transform our lives and end the cycle of pain we (and the world) seem to find ourselves in. As we read in lesson 193:
“Each lesson has a central thought, the same in all of them. The form alone is changed, with different circumstances and events; with different characters and different themes, apparent but not real. They are the same in fundamental content. It is this:
Forgive, and you will see this differently.
Certain it is that all distress does not appear to be but unforgiveness. Yet that is the content underneath the form. It is this sameness which makes learning sure, because the lesson is so simple that it cannot be rejected in the end.”
It is not up to us to figure out how forgiveness could work in this or that situation. We are asked to trust God’s Voice which assures us forgiveness is the answer and allow Him to show us the way. Forgiving does not mean the situation will magically change; it means the way we view the situation will be transformed. A willingness to forgive opens our hearts and minds and allows us to see as God would have us see a situation or person ….with love and compassion. “Forgiveness is the only thing that stands for truth in the illusions of the world.” (W-134)
The following article was sent to me years ago by a reader of The Holy Encounter who lived in Cortland, New York. A story was published in a New York newspaper about a woman who had struck and killed a little boy with her car. There had been a lot of negative press and letters about this woman and the incident, so much so that the mother of the child who was killed finally sent the following letter to the Editor of the newspaper:
To the Editor:
I am very distressed by the letters I have read and heard aired by the news media concerning the death of my son, Russell. I am afraid that many people are using this tragedy as license to express their lower instincts.
My small son is dead. There is no waking moment that I am not acutely aware of this. The only relief I feel in my grief is in finding some kind of positive action to occupy my days. There is little I can do now for Russell except in spiritual ways, but this letter is written to ask everyone who is aware of this tragedy to help me safeguard the memory of my little boy.
Please try not to be judgmental concerning the person whose car struck my son. Being compassionate and non-judgmental toward her does not mean condoning her action; it is simply accepting her humanity with an awareness of our own weaknesses.
Please expend your energy and release your feeling of helplessness in the face of this irreversible tragedy by doing something positive. Please hug your children more or stop smoking, give your beer money this month to UNICEF, or rake an elderly neighbor’s leaves. Just do something in a spirit of love for little Russell’s memory instead of letting his death be the cause of vindictiveness. If you need inspiration to help you change your attitudes, look to Christ’s teachings or the Baha’i writings.
My little boy was so full of light and love. Help me to spread the joy of his life to light up the world a little bit. Let me know what you are doing. Seriously, it will give me strength to go on.
We can forgive, because we do not do it alone. The strength of God awaits our little willingness to let Him help us. Let us together forgive by allowing the Holy Spirit to enter any confusing or distressing issue, and begin the process of seeing the world differently. Let the miraculous transformation of the mother in the above story, the example of the life of Jesus, and the many seemingly small awarenesses (miracles) I know you have experienced, be the igniting spark to let forgiveness find a home in your heart.
Whether or not we feel we “deserve” the things that happen to us in this world, we all are entitled to the peace of God. Forgiveness is the means by which we escape the pain, suffering, and random happiness of the world, and find the eternal peace and consistent happiness God has promised us. Is there really any anger or seeming “rightness” worth the peace of God?
Let us affirm: “I will forgive and see this differently.”
When anger begins to find a home in your heart, say: “I will forgive and see this differently.”
When feelings of injustice cause you to question the value of God’s children, say: “I will forgive and see this differently.”
When you begin to value the projection of attack over the extension of mercy, say: “I will forgive and see this differently.”
The words are not magical. What they do is allow you to stop the frenzy of your mind for just a moment, cause you to question the value of maintaining anger and separation, and allow the presence of God to return to your awareness to help you even when you may see no hope.
The goal is not to change the world and the circumstances we find ourselves in, it is about being willing to change our minds and allow God to show us a peace that passes all worldly understanding. This awareness will bring us the kingdom of Heaven here and now, and that IS what you truly deserve.
“Please continue to send me The Holy Encounter. I read it on the internet, but a mailed copy is great appreciated; I save them all and re-read them often!” – Elaine in Savage, Minnesota