In this passage from the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus touches on one of his main goals, to make people believe in a forgiving God. In standard Christian belief, Jesus forgave the sins of the world and brought about a new covenant with God based on the forgiveness of sin rather than divine punishment. You need to ask yourself if this is what you experience. Do you feel that your past wrongdoing has been erased from your conscience? Have you forgiven others who wronged you in the past?
The teaching here is really about how to end suffering. Sin is the cause of suffering is the Christian model. You cannot be forgiven your sins, and thus released from suffering, unless you are aware that you have been forgiven. The message of forgiveness has to reach you, and that requires the removal of whatever blocks it: guilt, anger, resentment, lack of self-worth, and isolation. If these obstacles can be removed, you will experience divine forgiveness as Jesus promised it.
Guilt is a form of suffering, and the root of suffering is unreality. Jesus constantly emphasized that his listeners did not know who he was or where he came from. They were trapped in an unreal vision of God and human beings alike. To forgive yourself or anyone else, you must move in the direction of reality. As described by Jesus, what’s real is God’s love and forgiveness and the infinite worth of his children here on earth.
You need to reinforce this reality in any way you can.
Follow the Golden Rule and treat others as you would want to be treated. Be grateful for your life. Look for ways to appreciate others. All these things begin a process of purifying hidden feelings of guilt and resentment. Let those feelings come up. You don’t want to mask them over. Seeming to forgive when that is not what you really feel isn’t productive.
If there is something in your past that you feel especially guilty about, sit quietly and go through the following steps:
- Visualize what you feel guilty about.
- See the scene where it occurred.
- Feel the way it felt.
- Spend a few moments releasing your guilty feelings.
- When you feel that you are directly confronting your guilt, tell yourself that all the images and sensations you are experiencing are nothing but memories. As such, they have no present reality.
- Express a willingness to let go of what isn’t real.
- Ask the old feelings and stuck energies to dissipate and return to their source.
- Listen for a response.
Guilt, like any stuck energy, grows louder and stronger in the mind when it isn’t heeded. Don’t mistake this intensity for proof that you are bad and what you did will never be forgiven. The intensity is nothing more than a cry to get your attention. So pay attention, and as you do, express your sympathy and understanding.
Having gotten this far, you are at the point of forgiveness. You have seen that suffering is a residue from the past built up from unreleased energies. Forgiveness is actually release.
Adapted from The Third Jesus, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2008).