The Seeker of Peace

Egocentric Forgiving?
October 22, 2008, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Forgiveness | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been working hard to become a more forgiving person. As I wrote on the day after Yom Kippur, I can see a perfect symmetry between guilt and blame. Once I realized that there’s no difference between forgiving others and forgiving myself, I redoubled my efforts.

However, today I read something in A Course in Miracles that makes me wonder if I’ve been going about forgiving the wrong way. The text seems to say that the way to forgive is not to perceive others’ errors in the first place. In contrast, perceiving the error, and then decided to overlook it, is an egocentric way to forgive.

I have to admit that I’ve tended towards the egocentric approach. I’m not even sure how to not perceive others’ errors. Perhaps I should retract everything I wrote yesterday; maybe I do need some breakthrough in perception.

At least this gives me some new clarity on Byron Katie’s approach. In her book Loving What Is, she makes the non-dualistic point that everything we blame others for is a projection of ourselves. Her “four questions” are a way to illustrate this. Until now, I’ve missed the full significance of this: her technique doesn’t help us forgive, but makes us see that there’s nothing to forgive.

At some level, I think I’ve understood this for some time. However, my ego didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to understand. And why should it? Having my ego nobly overlook someone else’s misdeed is pretty satisfying. (“Look ma! No blame! Aren’t you proud?”) My ego has tricked me again, leading me into the kind of forgiving that gives me the illusion of forward progress, while actually reinforcing the ego instead.

I had a brief flurry of activity with Byron Katie’s “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” a couple of months ago. (It’s simply a worksheet with her four questions on it, which you can download here if you don’t have her book.) While the process seemed very productive, I moved on to other things. I’m now sure that was because the process deeply threatened my ego. That’s a good sign it’s worth my time to revisit it!


3 Comments so far
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“I’m not even sure how to not perceive others’ errors.”

I’m not sure either, but I think saying a prayer to “see X’s innocence” before engaging with them can help at least reduce the number of errors seen. In the heat of the moment though … much trickier.

Comment by Sarah

I’ve noticed the more judgmental I perceive someone else to be, the more judgmental I am of them. I’m not sure what to make of that.

Comment by Sarah

Sarah –

If everything we see in others is a reflection of ourselves, then it makes sense you’d feel that way. Byron Katie made some comments to the effect that our relationship with someone is entirely up to us – the other person effectively has nothing to do with it!

That’s where I find her four questions can come in useful. Suppose I take someone and say, “He should be less judgmental.” Then I go through the questions, and then turn it around to say “I should be less judgmental,” and realize that’s just as true. That helps drive it home that it’s me who has to see things differently.

Comment by The Seeker of Peace

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