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The 3 levels of forgiveness

The choice for peace is ours.
The choice for peace is ours.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

In her spiritual healing courses, Robin Duncan shares with her students that forgiveness is the key to healing. She reminds her healers-in-training that all emotional and physical pain comes from the false idea that we are separate from our Divine Source.

Robin Duncan is both a student and highly regarded teacher of A Course in Miracles, which is a self-study, spiritual psychology course that teaches how to find inner peace through forgiveness. Having experienced profound transformation and healing in her own life as a result of her practice of A Course in Miracles, in conjunction with her practice of hypnotherapy and other healing modalities, Robin created the Miracle Center of California to teach others the way out of pain. Her products and services guide people back to their peace of mind and full potential so that they can remember that they are, as the Course states, “the light of the world.”

When we are in conflict with ourselves, another person or institution, we certainly do not feel like the light of the world. In fact, we may feel that there is no light in the world to be found during these times. We may observe our minds creating even more separation as we launch into a mental conversation of “I’m right, the other person is wrong!”

In the physical world, we experience duality. For every up, there is a down and for every true there is a false. This is the Universal Law of Polarity, which suggests that everything has an equal opposite. However, on the spiritual plane, there is no duality – there is only Oneness. It is on this plane of consciousness that the healing of our minds can occur.

The Higher Mind is the spiritual level of consciousness that corrects our false perceptions of separation so that our shared identity with One Presence (God, if you will) can be experienced.

Forgiveness is the key to this correction. A Course in Miracles, defines miracles as being the result of a shift in perception. The shift is from fear-based thinking back to love.

Robin explains that when it comes to practicing forgiveness in our daily lives, we may encounter our own ego getting in the way. Because this is a natural part of being a human being (or an individual – “in dualism”), we can therefore explore forgiveness in 3 levels and choose the one that best serves our current level of understanding.

The good news is, we do not need to master the art of forgiveness – our willingness to forgive is all that is required! The Holy Spirit (which in A Course in Miracles, is described as the part of God that acts as a communication link between our ego self and the world of Spirit – it bridges the gap between knowledge of Oneness and the ego’s perception of separation) actually performs the miracle of forgiveness for us. Our part is to simply ask for the miracle by being willing to let go of our grievance – especially when we believe we are justified in holding that grievance.

Below are the 3 levels of forgiveness with an example scenario to help illustrate the concepts.

Let’s say that you invest your life savings in a friend who is starting a business that has great potential to be successful. Your friend swears to you that you will make all your money back and more within 5 years. You are fearful about parting with the money that you worked so hard to save, but want to support your friend and you want to be wise about allowing your money to work for you. Your friend needs the money right away, and so without taking as much time as you would like to decide, you choose to go for it and give your friend the money – in spite of your gut feeling to do more research first. Within a few months, your friend has disappeared along with the business and your life savings. You feel enraged, betrayed and that life is very unfair.

Many would agree that this is a justifiable grievance. But you are walking a spiritual path and know that holding any kind of grievance delays your own happiness in the long run and so you choose to forgive your friend. But how? Here are 3 options:

  1. Let Go & Let God: This option is a great first step – especially when we are really upset about the situation and can’t find it in our own hearts to forgive the other party. We do not condone the situation, but we release the burden of carrying it mentally and emotionally by giving the whole situation to God to deal with it for us. The prayer may sound something like: “Dear God, I am so angry with this person and I just can’t let it go. Please take this from me and heal it for me so that I do not co-create any more experiences of suffering. I lay this person and their actions in your hands and trust that this is between you and them. I choose peace and I am released from carrying the burden of this situation. Amen.”
  2. Discover & Embrace the Gift: In Richard Bach’s book, Illusions, he writes: “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.” The second level of forgiveness is the realization that you are a co-creator in your experiences – both the good and the bad. This step requires us to let go of being the victim of our situation and become a willing student who can use the situation to learn a powerful lesson that will help them evolve spiritually. The beauty of this level of forgiveness is that it removes the grievance instantly because it changes the context. When you see the gift in your problems, you realize that you have lost nothing and instead have gained something wonderful. How can you be angry with someone who gives you a powerful gift?
  3. Dissolve the Illusion & Stand in the Truth: This is the highest level of forgiveness and the most challenging to practice when new to A Course in Miracles or other spiritual practices. It requires you to remember that in Truth, there is only God, and that nothing we experience on Earth is real. What you think happened to you never occurred because you are not of this world. The Truth that you must stand in, in order for this to make sense to you, is the idea that you are One with your Creator and there is nothing outside of you – there is no other party that wronged you. It’s all illusion. Therefore, how can you be angry at something that never happened? It’s like when you have a nightmare that someone robbed your home and when you wake up, you are relieved to see that it was only a dream and you still have everything. You don’t carry the anger and feelings of violation of having been robbed in your dream with you throughout the day. You let it go completely because you know that it was not true. You see the other party as an extension of your own spiritual self – the part of your mind that held a belief in separation but that is now ready to be One with Itself. Again, this level of forgiveness is helpful to the advanced spiritual student, and if you feel intense resistance or even anger when applying it, please refer to steps 1 and 2 to experience the peace you seek.

And just for fun, Robin Duncan always jokes about the existence ofLevel 0 for Forgiveness,” which is "I forgive you because I am spiritual and you are .... well, less than spiritual."

Be mindful of this “Level 0” as the Course would say that forgiving someone because you feel you are better than them is a form of arrogance and not truly forgiveness. It stems from the ego’s view of separation.

Finally, here is a quote from A Course in Miracles that sums up the idea of forgiveness as taught in its Manual for Teachers:

“How lovely does the world become in just that single instant when you see the truth about yourself reflected there. Now you are sinless and behold your sinlessness. Now you are holy and perceive it so. And now the mind returns to its Creator; the joining of the Father and the Son, the Unity of unities that stands behind all joining but beyond them all. God is not seen but only understood. His Son is not attacked but recognized.”

(A Course in Miracles, Manual for Teachers, page 80.)

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