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A Course in Miracles on Forgiveness: 3 Steps to Forgive Yourself and Others

Forgiveness is one of the fundamental teachings of A Course in Miracles. It is a theme that emerges consistently throughout the course, but how, exactly, can you learn to forgive?

In this post I’ll outline the core path to forgiveness as given in ACIM, and help you take the steps to forgive yourself and others for any challenge you might be facing.

Read more about how to apply these teachings to your daily life.

What Does Forgiveness Mean in ACIM? The Course’s Definition

Before we can understand the 3 step process for forgiving yourself, it’s important that we take a moment to consider how A Course in Miracles defines forgiveness, and what, exactly, it means to forgive.

Fortunately, ACIM provides a clear definition of forgiveness:

“Forgivenessrecognizes 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.”

This quote is taken from the Workbook, Part II, 1.

This definition goes back to the core idea of the course that only love exists. If anger, frustration, or hatred is a response to some action that needs forgiveness, then one must understand that these emotions are not real. They represent not a sin, in the traditional sense of the word, but rather a lack of awareness of unconditional love.

Forgiveness, then, is the process of coming back to unconditional love.

The 3 Steps to Forgiveness

Now that we have a clearer understanding of what forgiveness means in ACIM, we can look at the process to overcome it. The course offers 3 steps.

  • Step 1: Seeing The Origin of the Problem
  • Step 2: Deciding to Forgive
  • Step 3: Receiving Forgiveness

In the first step, you must recognize that the origin of any problem is always within yourself. The course teaches us that the external world is merely a symbol, or a reflection of, your current beliefs and understandings.

In order for you to have an experience to forgive, you must have believed that some other person or force caused a negative event to happen to you. However, this is never the case. All individuals are always acting in service to you, and can only reflect your current attitude.

Therefore, before you can forgive any other, you must recognize the challenge always lies within yourself.

Once you understand this concept, you can proceed to the second step of forgiveness, which is the decision to forgive.

To make this decision, you must understand that you are already making a decision about the event in question: currently, you are choosing not to forgive yourself or the other person.

You are only making this decision because, on some level, you believe that the frustration or anger caused by the experience is worth perpetuating. By not forgiving, you continue to exist in the old energy. But, since this energy (which represents a lack of love) isn’t real, it is an error in your thinking.

Choosing to forgive, then, is simply the decision to stop withholding forgiveness. It is the decision to choose love over fear. When you prioritize love, you will change your decision, and forgiveness will be yours.

This brings us to the third step, which is not your work. In the third step of forgiveness, you let go of your problem and turn the solution over to God, or universal energy.

This surrender happens instantly, as soon as you allow it to (by completing steps 1 and 2).

In other words: when you are truly ready to forgive, All Is Forgiven.

Learn more about the key points from A Course in Miracles.

Prayer and Meditation for Forgiving Yourself and Others

One of my favorite Forgiveness Prayers from A Course in Miracles comes from Lesson 62, which reads:

“Forgiveness is my function as the Light of the World.”

Whenever I feel I have a blockage I need to forgive, I invoke this phrase as a simple affirmation,

Read more about how to use affirmations.

You might also like to try this guided meditation for forgiveness, based on a reading of Lesson 68. The music contains binaural beats in the background, to help you enter into a trance state and internalize the words read from the course.

Quotes on Forgiveness from the Course

The following are some of my favorite A Course in Miracles forgiveness quotes.

“You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment.”

“The only meaningful prayer is for forgiveness because those who have been forgiven have everything.”

“Forgiveness is the key to happiness.”

I also love this quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Forgiveness releases the past to divine correction and the future to new possibilities. Whatever it was that happened to you, it is over. It happened in the past; in the present, it does not exist unless you bring it with you. Nothing anyone has ever done to you has permanent effects, unless you hold on to it permanently.” – Marianne Williamson

To learn more about the teachings of A Course in Miracles, sign up for our daily lessons and insights from the course.

Kyle Greenfield

Kyle Greenfield is the Founder and CEO of The Joy Within, where our mission is to help you win the fight against stress and negativity by harnessing the power of your natural, inner joy. Kyle has been teaching on meditation, mindfulness, and how to eliminate negative thoughts since 2016. He currently resides in London. You can follow Kyle on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Joe

    I have completed the Course several times. I would appreciate daily quotes to ponder.

  2. Tyler

    I needed this today. Thank you

  3. pascale reeve

    Thank you for this post : )

  4. John S

    I studied the course diligently for several years, and do not believe it stands up well to critical thinking in many details. It teaches an unhealthy and totally unjustified level of self centeredness, implying that everything is all about you. As stated above,
    “You must recognize that the origin of any problem is always within yourself. The course teaches us that the external world is merely a symbol, or a reflection of, your current beliefs and understandings.

    In order for you to have an experience to forgive, you must have believed that some other person or force caused a negative event to happen to you. However, this is never the case. All individuals are always acting in service to you, and can only reflect your current attitude.”

    Since the Course is about application of ideas, how then does a teacher of children (or police officer) attempt to solve the issue of one child or person bullying another? Does he hand the child being bullied or person being abused a copy of the Course, and tell him “you are doing this to yourself” “Forgive the other, for what you projected”? What about the child or person who is doing the bullying or abuse? This is the stuff that on a psychological level can lead people to be easy prey for bullying, manipulative people and narcissists. There are people that want to abuse and take power from others (likely because they were abused themselves), and the Course teaches anybody they have hurt or taken advantage of that it was their own fault, removing any responsibility from their abuser. This is how a narcissist or bully would want someone to think, in order to endlessly use them and make them into a doormat. That’s just plain nonsense, and I have suffered tremendously in this regard, having dealt with someone who is that category and trying to adjust to the Course “thought system”. I have never bought into some notion that any person is responsible for everything that befalls him. Some things we have control over, others we do not. The choices of others may have something to do with you on some level, but ultimately you do not make their choices for them. By all means, forgive others when possible. But to attribute yourself to be the cause of everything that others do is brain washing/madness, and is not going to make yours or anybody’s life better. I would go so far as to say it is an incredibly dangerous and unsound psychological practice.

    If I hurt someone out of my own anger, the Course as it applies to them would tell them that it is their issue, not mine. Clearly this is crazy talk. Which begs the question as to who the real author of the Course is. It is surely not perfect in its details, and there is no reason at all for anyone to use it while abdicating their responsibility to themselves and others to think critically about what it is that they are being led to believe. I see people defend it, deferring to the Course itself rather than allowing logic or common sense to have intelligent dialogue that might lead people to embrace only what is true and sensible within it, and disregard what is false and potentially very dangerous.

    1. Josine

      I hear ya, and can easily go there with others DOING harm and VICTIMs yet -Keep it simple with a “reflection of your current attitude” so a child can choose or be coached to see the “bully” as a friend. My children had dreams of monsters and we worked on just giving them ice cream in the dreams as a choice instead. Also some ice skating girls were ignoring my daughter, who was born with Cerebral Palsy and I coached her to offer to make friends with them -so she skated up clumsily and taught them how to play “crack the whip” – it was ingenious. Her creative shift was miraculous for her, for them (they had a gas) and for me to see play out! Basically the current attitude shift changed the whole movie of life.
      Let me know if you can remember such manifestations in seemingly adverse situations in your life….

      1. zed

        Hello John,

        There are two main ideas that lead to the misunderstanding that you’ve expressed.

        1) The Course can be applied to others. It cannot. In truth, the Course is only for ME. This is true for every person that takes it.

        The Course’s ideas can only be applied to *our own thoughts that disturb our own peace*. For example, the entirety of your post was once an idea in your mind, and from there, you would apply the ACIM workbook idea for the day.

        Upon realizing the loss of peace this idea you’ve held onto has caused you, you could say, “These thoughts don’t mean anything.” From here, you would allow the meaning of this ACIM idea to be revealed to you, somewhat miraculously, this simple willingness to apply the idea lets the whole story we had created unravel, and we find ourselves just at peace. You do not have to ‘make’ the ACIM idea work, but simply apply it to the disturbing thought.

        It is experiential. It cannot be readily talked of, but experienced. The little willingness to apply the workbook idea for that day onto the ideas that create a loss of peace in us will heal them all. It is a simple and beautiful process, that when we look back, we are astonished at the change in our thinking and beliefs.

        2) There is something for us to ‘do’. There is not. In truth, the application of ACIM ideas upon our thoughts that disturb our peace leads to the letting go of our own projections, and there is revealed love for all beings and all things. All is seen as the same. What do you do then, in this perfect love? This is where surrender to the Will of God naturally flows through you, and you find the perfect things to do or say in any situation.

        The Course removes our projections, our own ideas of any situation or anything, and in that love that is revealed, and the movement in this love is the Will of God, as we allow ourselves to be an instrument for the Love of God.

        The more we apply the Course and allow it to change our minds, we will see the world as an alright place, then a good one, then a wonderful one, then a joyful one, and then a loving one. In this change, as we let ourselves be an vessel for Love, what we say or do does comes naturally. This applies in the example you gave of the child in trouble – with wondrous love for all there, we act in a way that carries out the Will of God.

        As ACIM says:
        “I am here only to be truly helpful.
        I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
        I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who sent me will direct me.
        I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
        I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.”

        Blessings to you and all! May we find rest.

        1. zed

          Forgive my lack of spacing in the last comment, I don’t think it registered correctly. I hope the content itself is helpful though!

    2. KIM

      I think the Course is teaching that because we are invulnerable Spirit, then attack is actually impossible, and if we react, we must be identifying with the false ego self.
      The seeming other person does not really exist, because in truth the world is our own projection, or invention, made to be a scapegoat for our own unconscious guilt over the original separation from God.
      So, in truth, nothing is really happening.
      ACIM is a very radical teaching, that the ego does not want to accept.
      You might ask yourself how Jesus could allow his body to be crucified, in perfect peace, and forgiveness of his SEEMING persecutors.
      All authentic spiritual teachings are about how to awaken from the dream of ego, and thus be above the battlefield we seem to experience, and return to our oneness with all life.

    3. E

      You mistake the “you” for the human individual. The you is universal Self. This is what ACIM can help you realize.

  5. Jeffery Maxie

    You can’t wake up from a dream as long as you’re stuck in it.
    Awareness of dreaming breaks the hold and the more you forgive the
    more you become aware that you’re just dreaming.
    Forgiveness recognizes that what you thought your brother did has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees that there was NO sin. And in that view are all sins forgiven. True forgiveness is the purpose
    of life “Forgiveness is my function as the Light of the World.” but you have to choose it in order to make it yours. Remember
    practicing real forgiveness can’t help but lead you home.
    A simplified version of the “Forgiveness thought process”
    ” I am dreaming ”
    1- I am the dreamer
    2- you are not really there
    3- if you’re not there then the error I see in you must be in me
    4- if I am projecting my error onto you, then you are innocent
    5- however, I am innocent too because I am dreaming a dream of Separation which never happened
    6- therefore I forgive both of us for what we haven’t done.
    7- now there’s only innocence so I join with the Holy Spirit in peace.

    An accompanying thought process:
    1- There is no world
    Recognizing this fact in the events, situations and people I see is “Advanced Forgiveness”
    2- if there is no world then there’s nothing to forgive because: now I am not forgiving other people for something they’ve really done, I’m recognizing that they haven’t done anything…. I’m actually forgiving myself for dreaming them.
    3- Anger / attack is never justified… If I made the whole thing up, then who or what is there to be angry at?
    4- The Secret of Salvation is but this: that I am doing this but to myself.
    5- The world I see is an illusion of the world. God did not create it, for what He creates must be as Eternal and Perfect as Himself.

  6. Ilse Michiels

    Can you please give me some help. I have very low self asteam and feeling of selfworth. I am very bad treated at work. I am fully aware that the people at work treat me as they do because of my own thoughts of not being good enough. How can I apply the 3 steps to forgive this situation? Is there some prayer I can say for this situation? Thank you in advance.

  7. Sharon Gocke

    Dear Ilse,

    Step 1: Seeing The Origin of the Problem – The origin may be your own thoughts PROJECTED onto yourself and therefore onto others, so you can see how PROJECTION makes PERCEPTION. You think it’s so; you believe it; you and others pick up on that belief and act AS IF it were true.

    Step 2: Deciding to Forgive – What works for me is seeing my mistake of PROJECTION which makes the idea seem real. I look at my erroneous thoughts long and hard – feeling it and just allowing it without condemning it. Then it’s so important after you see it clearly to give it to the Holy Spirit saying, ” I choose FORGIVENESS.” After that, you need do nothing. (Chapter 18). Just let it be.

    Step 3: Receiving Forgiveness – The Holy Spirit will miraculously free you. We can’t do it. There’s no way I can do it. I’ve tried so hard in the past. We just need to do the first 2 steps, and what follows is a miracle. I find I may need to do this for the same things in different guise often. Just don’t get discouraged as the results are amazing.

    I hope this helps. Jesus has given all a different curriculum based on our unique circumstances, but there are universal strategies to overcome the illusions we project onto the world.

    In love,

  8. Sandra Mills

    Hi Ilse This prayer may help it soothes me when I get frantic at times,…..I must have decided wrongly because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself but I can always decide otherwise. I want to decide otherwise because I want to be at peace I do not feel guilty and I will ask the Holy Spirit to undo all consequences of my wrong decision if I will let him I choose to let him by allowing him to decide for God for me …..

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