We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
- Ephesians 4:32, NIV
“To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
- Alexander Pope
Forgiveness brings us home to be with God, spiritually. Forgiveness is God’s standard practice for healthy living, and where we live spiritually affects where we are emotionally and psychologically. This is why forgiveness is so important to our overall mental health. It is the framework of compassion and empathy upon which our future healthfulness is built. As we breathe in and breathe out forgiveness, we are inhaling and exhaling God’s most life-giving antidote for sin and destruction. Why do we forgive others? Because God forgave us first. Why does God forgive us? He forgives us so we can have life. God knows that nothing is more important for our emotional, psychological and spiritual health than forgiveness, and nothing will help us to make the most of God’s gift of forgiveness like forgiving ourselves.
Forgiving ourselves begins with understanding our own human frailties and shortcomings. This will help us to have a more compassionate perspective. After all, our addictions did make sense to us at the time that we were doing them, didn’t they? God understands this, you see. He understands why we have done the things that we have done. He understands that, as silly and as stupid as our actions were, they somehow made sense to us at the time that we were doing them. God understands the insanity of addiction. He understands that while we are responsible for making good use of the help He provides, we are not completely at fault for all of our insane thinking. We don’t know everything and our decisions and thinking have suffered from faulty and misguided beliefs. Because of His complete and total understanding, He is willing to forgive us for the things we have done. For example, even when Christ was being crucified, He didn’t hold anything against the people who were killing him. In Luke 23:34 Jesus, while being crucified, is quoted as saying, “Father, forgive these people for they don’t know what they are doing.” Our attitude should be the same. As God forgives us we are called to forgive those who have hurt us. This begins with a compassionate understanding of our failures and addictions.
Many sponsors and counselors will encourage us to include our own names on the list we make of the people we have hurt. After all, no one has been more hurt by our addictions than we have. Unless we forgive ourselves we will never fully enjoy the forgiveness that God and other people offer to us. Forgiving ourselves connects us more closely with God and the world around us. As we forgive ourselves, like God does, we will be better able to escape the resentment we have had for other people, for God and for ourselves, too. Self forgiveness helps to increase our appreciation for just how connected and interrelated to all of God’s creation we are, ways that we will never fully understand until we are with Christ in eternity. Forgiving ourselves helps us to participate with God’s creation in healthy and dynamic ways, ways that will far exceed our greatest expectations and assumptions.
Steve and Mattie are a young married couple who had previously lived lives of addictive sexual immorality, until they made the decision to give their lives to God by pursuing an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Together, they began working a 12 Step recovery program which included long-term counseling. Their counselor gave them an assignment, which was to read some Christ centered recovery literature after which they wrote this statement.
We struggled to survive life for many years. Everyday we felt like victims because we had both been severely abused when we were children. But now, we don’t think of ourselves as victims anymore. With God’s help, a change is underway inside of us. We think differently than we used to think – our attitude is different. We don’t need to destroy ourselves or each other with anger and hate like we used to. We don’t need to think thoughts of revenge anymore. God knows what has happened to us and He is in the process of making it all turn out good. He knows the truth. He will make the correct judgments and He will give mercy as He sees fit. We leave all of our hurts and mistakes in his hands.
We now know that God will not judge us for what happened to us, but we will be judged by how we live our lives and how we treat others. We are responsible for our actions. We are responsible for what we do with what we know. We have no power to change the past, but as God is our strength we can change our future. So, we have decided to make the most of the opportunities to experience healing and grow. As we experience God’s power working within us, we will pass this healing onto our children, our family and to others, even to those who have hurt us. The ripples of healing in the pond of our lives will spread throughout future generations.”
-- Steven and Mattie, 2007 In recovery for 2 years
How have we hurt ourselves through self-resentment and self-destruction?
This was an excerpt from Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The People of Operation Integrity
Chapter Eight Segment Three
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
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