Excerpt from “The Arch of Forgiveness”
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
This Excerpt is taken from the book entitled The Arch of Forgiveness, which is available at our Online Store by clicking here.
Forgiveness in the Work Place
Q: There’s a man at work who is like the town crier —he loves to talk badly about everyone. Not very many people come into my office and sit down and talk to me, so when he comes in, I’m happy to have him pull up a chair. Yet it feels like he is spreading poison. There are times when I don’t like it and times when I do. I do not really want to stop him from coming in and talking to me, but is there a “good” way I can be with him and listen to him? Since this is a work relationship, I want to stay on good terms with him.
A: Why don’t you just love him? No one would walk around bad-mouthing people unless he felt terrible about himself. So when he is sitting there, why don’t you go beyond his words to the pain he must be feeling, and let your heart go out to him? Make him right; don’t make him wrong.
Q: Okay, but one other thing about this situation. There is one person whom he talks really badly about, and the other day someone told me such good things about this same person.
A: Perception lies, right? Obviously, the person that said the bad things is lying, as is the person who said the good things. They are all lying. Therefore, just make this person right. As you see this going on in your office, feel the pain that has to be there. People could not attack anyone if they came from a place of love inside. And so if someone is attacking, as this man seems always to do, he obviously is not coming from a loving space. There is no other alternative. If love is not present, then hate, guilt, and pain must be. Feel his pain, and let him know he is right and that you accept him. All he wants is to be accepted, to have someone say to him: “You’re okay.” That is all. Simply tell him: “You know something? You’re okay.” That’s the message you give, regardless of your words. On a larger scale, no heads of state could make a decision that adversely affected so many millions of people unless they were in deep pain, and thought in their insanity that the only way to escape from this terrible self-loathing is to beat up on some group halfway around the world. The pain is there, no matter what side of the political fence you are on. The political party does not matter, because everyone comes from the same split mind.
Now that you have mastered that, we are ready to take another step. You have to do this with everyone. Practice with this man; but once you see how well it works, how good it makes you feel, how good it makes him feel, ask yourself: “Why can’t I do this with everyone? What stops me from feeling everyone’s pain?” Don’t force yourself to do it with everyone, but just stop and think about why you would choose against such happiness and joy. And as you practice with one situation and see how well it works, look in the mirror and do the same thing with yourself. The parts of you that you find abhorrent and do not like are also coming from this place of deep pain. Again, there is not one of us walking this earth who does not experience the pain of self-hatred, born of the idea that we destroyed Heaven’s love and thus will never be able to return to it. And even if we could, the door would be forever closed to us.
Therefore, practice with certain people in your life and see how the love your forgiveness expressed would naturally extend to everyone, and then see how you seek to prevent its flow. Watch how you pick and choose, believing that some are easier to forgive than others. Start with the “easy” ones, but recognize that if you really wish to feel good within yourself, be healed, and awaken from the dream, you must allow your non-judgmental acceptance to embrace all people. Finally, forgive yourself when you say you will let the grievance go here, but not there.
Make everyone right because everyone is right. Everyone is also wrong, but don’t say that. People may not be right on the level of form, yet on the level of content you make them right, which means you understand where they are coming from and you do not judge. If you are teaching children arithmetic, for example, and they say 2 + 2 is 7, you are not helping them if you say: “That is a brilliant answer.” You can correct the form by still making the children right. If you are running an office and people make mistakes, you may certainly point out the errors and try to help them be avoided. People do make mistakes—indeed, bodies were made to make mistakes—and there is a way of pointing these out that is hateful, humiliating, and punitive, and a way that is loving, kind, and gentle. The latter makes people right as Sons of God who have simply made a mistake.
Who, then, does not fall into that category of being wrong? We are all Sons of God who made a mistake in the beginning by betting on the wrong horse. As one Son we placed our bet, and it bankrupted us. As I once said in a workshop, we bet on a horse that dropped dead in the starting gate, and yet we still ride the same horse, beating it and trying to get it to run, while it goes nowhere. We are so blind that we think the horse is actually moving. Again, all of us have done the same thing. Our task, therefore, is to tell people they are right as Sons of God, and not terrible sinners because they made a mistake. Sometimes our content of forgiveness corrects the form; other times it is more important to let the form of the mistake pass. When our minds are free of conflict, we would automatically know what to do, and so there is nothing in this course that would tell us how to behave. Jesus does tell us, however, Whom we should bring with us into the office, the classroom, and everywhere else. If we have invited the Holy Spirit, we will not act out of anger or judgmental thoughts, regardless of our behavioral responses.
Helen had a good friend from graduate school whom she asked to serve as a consultant for an institute for retarded children with which Helen was involved, a position that required her to write a report important to the organization. However, when Helen read the final report she was horrified to find how terrible it was. Her friend, an otherwise excellent if not brilliant psychologist, had obviously not given it much attention. Helen was all set to tell her friend off, but decided first to ask Jesus what she should do. His answer was for Helen to rewrite the report and never tell her friend. In other words, to make her right but correct the mistake because Helen did not want to hurt the institute of which she was so fond. Helen thus rewrote the report and the friend never knew.
While this was an example where the error was corrected behind the scenes and the woman never knew, it certainly could have been that the most loving thing would have been to tell her, so she herself could correct the error. There is no right or wrong way of proceeding in terms of form, which always depends on the circumstance and situation, but the content of love is constant. To ensure that the form is loving, you have to be willing not to make the other person wrong. If you come from the non-judgmental space under the arch, you will inevitably know the best and most loving intervention.
In A Course in Miracles, Jesus tells us we are both right and wrong. Yet when he points out our mistakes, it is never with the sense of attack or judgment. When he simply says, “You are wrong,” his overriding content is “You are right.” In the section “The Correction of Error” (T-9.III), he teaches that our function is to tell our brothers they are right, even though they may be temporarily insane. This has nothing to do with words, but with the attitude of non-condemnation. We do not judge others as egos, which would clearly make them wrong; we merely accept and respect them for who they are—the Son of God who is always right, even when he chooses wrongly.
Q: My boss John is kind and intelligent, much more so than his right-hand man, Mike, who is my supervisor. I perceive a weakness in John, in that he is not firm enough and seems afraid of his authority. Mike tries to usurp him behind his back—usually with little things. I wish John would become stronger, because it would make him a better boss and it would be better for the company if he did not let the other man take over.
The other day John took his first day off in years. Mike immediately called a staff meeting in John’s office and made a personnel announcement that was totally out of place. We all felt very uncomfortable. One of the other workers took pictures and e-mailed them to John, showing Mike in John’s chair, sharing all this information with us. The e-mail was meant as a joke, but it was really more than that. John laughed, and asked Mike, whom he really trusts, what he had talked about in the meeting. Mike lied to him and attacked John. I wanted to help in some way, but I did not know how because John is totally unaware of Mike’s dishonesty. I am waiting for the right moment to bring it up. Should an employee go to the boss and tell him what went on in his absence, and can I tell John without hurting anyone?
A: The problem is that you are not talking about “poor Mike.” This whole story is about “poor John.” How about “poor Mike”? Why would anyone try to usurp his boss’ place unless he felt overwhelmed with guilt? Think about “poor Mike,” and then you will know what to do about “poor John.”
To expand on this answer, what often happens in families, including those who work with them, is that people choose up sides. Invariably they choose to identify with the victim—child or spouse—with the abuser seen as the enemy. That is exactly what the ego thrives on—making a judgment about one person that you would not make about everyone. You side with the abused because they have been abused by someone else, and in so doing you are really abusing the abuser, ending up being part of the same problem you are trying to correct.
This is a major issue in every situation—in the home, office, psychotherapy, etc.: What about poor Mike? Think about him. In your mind he is the usurper, which means he is the one who usurped God’s place. It was not poor John or poor you. It was Mike! You now tell God/John that you found out who did it. Pointedly, you are making a judgment about one person that you would not make about everyone. Needless to say, it is difficult to avoid this, especially where there is a situation of clear abuse. Yet if healing is to occur, you must ask Jesus’ help to rise above these judgments to make his one judgment: all God’s Sons are both abused and abusers, and behind this insanity is their inherent oneness as God’s innocent Son.
All of us here are miserable, living in this terrible world that is not our home. Jesus tells us the body is a “travesty” of who we are (T-24.VII.10:9), a “rotting prison” (T-26.I.8:3) in which we feel trapped. Since we all have bodies, we cope as best we can. As we have seen, some cope in socially acceptable ways, others in socially unacceptable ways. Yet no one is truly different from another. On a practical level, true perception does not mean seeing the light of Christ in everyone, the attempt that often lends itself to denial. Instead, we first see that all people have the same ego, struggling with the same insane thought system and hopeless despair from which they will never escape. Given this thought system, a concept of hell is inevitable. Regardless of our religious beliefs, we believe in hell because this world is hell. How could a world outside God’s Love be anything else? Thus we ask Jesus to help us let the veils fall from our eyes, that we would come to see everyone as the same. Scratch beneath the surface of even the most wicked person and you will see a frightened child. People could not possibly attack another unless they felt vulnerable inside. No matter how much they bluster and justify their actions, they could not hurt anyone, whether an individual or group, unless they first felt hurt, damaged, and terrified.
Practicing this course, therefore, means seeing everyone as the same. Rather than housing the secret wish to keep the separation and blame everyone else for it, we now want the right-minded wish of being proven wrong and seeing the inherent sameness in all people; and then forgiving ourselves when we do not.
Q: As a corollary to this, what about the dilemma of being a whistle blower? Young people seem to run into the dilemma of whether or not to tell on a friend involved with drugs, for example.
A: The course does not take a position on this specific form, for the only whistle blowing you should do is on the ego—the thought of separation taken seriously. When, through judgment, you separate yourself from certain people, you are merely telling them they are right about taking separation seriously; there are good people and bad people, and you are going to blow the whistle on the bad ones. Yet, the only one you should blow the whistle on is yourself, for thinking there is someone you should blow the whistle on. Again, blow the whistle on the ego—everyone’s ego—and even more to the point, blow it on all people’s decision maker that chose the ego, and then conveniently forgot what they chose.
Jesus would tell us to come to him first—above the battleground of the world—and let him help us look at the situation in which everyone is the same. Perhaps the most loving thing would be to blow the whistle, or perhaps to walk away and do nothing. Jesus would not say that whistle blowing is good or bad; besides, you cannot decide for another anyway. All you can do is present a model to the teenager—to use your example —of someone who does not judge. They will either choose to emulate you or go against you. Needless to say, on the level of form you do judge, for this is inevitable with bodies. Yet you need not make a judgment based on separation or attack. We differentiate on the level of form, but not content, for everyone shares the same split mind.