We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
- Philippians 2:3,The Message
“The people who gave you the consequences are not your enemies. By seeing those who give you consequences as the enemy, you keep yourself stuck in justifying your behavior. Your real problem is your denial and self–delusion.”
- Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. Facing the Shadow, page 16
True forgiveness is something that we can give and something we can receive but we can never force it on others or demand it from others. Forgiveness does not condone, excuse or minimize wrongdoing. Forgiving simply means to look directly at the wrongdoer, knowing full well the destructive impact of their actions, recognizing them for who they are and what they have done and then offering to them a mercy and grace that is completely undeserved.
The giving and receiving of forgiveness is an act of humility. When we forgive, we see others, even the most disturbed, with a kind of empathy that is fundamental to our deepest humanity. It is the way God created us to be. With empathy and forgiveness, we see others as people whom God loves. We see them as people God wants to be close to. We honor God by seeing the people He created, no matter how undeserving they are, as worthy of love and respect. This doesn’t mean that forgiveness guarantees that all of our relationships will go back to the way they were before. Forgiveness, after all, does not excuse inexcusable acts. It sees the facts and sets healthy parameters for the future. This is needed for both the offender and the victim to move forward and live a better life in the future.
We need to be careful not to “ask for forgiveness” when what we really want is to be excused for our wrongdoing. Wrongdoing is never an accident. Accidents can be excused, but selfish people that do selfish things need forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is an act of repentance as well as an act of confession. Repentance doesn’t debate; it never bargains or rationalizes. Confession makes no claim, nor does it minimize or argue. We are not here, after all, to make excuses. We are here to make a simple request for undeserved mercy. We should never dispute the facts when confronted about wrongdoing we have done. Let the criticisms and the charges be what they are. We are responsible for the way that we forgive others. How other people forgive us is their business, not ours. We may never again experience the same respect and freedom we had before. We may never again enjoy the unmitigated trust of our families. Other people will invariably adjust to how they relate with us in the future. The boundaries that they impose on us are a direct result of the pain and hurt we have caused them. Being committed to love others unconditionally, we should accept these limitations, committing ourselves to respect the lives of others in the same way that we would like to be respected.
If we struggle to forgive others, we should pray for those who have hurt us or let us down. Prayer helps us to overcome the resentments that inhibit our emotional growth. We should pray, asking that God will give both our enemies and our loved ones hope for their life, help for their difficulties, grace for their struggles, and the courage to live abundantly. We should pray for our enemies in the same way that we should pray for ourselves.
Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Nine Segment Three
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
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