Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Fundamentals of Forgiveness

We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
Luke 6:37-38, NLT

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
- Anonymous

“For my part, I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.”
- Adlai Stevenson

The Fundamentals of Forgiveness

One of the great miracles that we will experience in our 12 Step recovery process is how God will meet us more than halfway. Throughout Scripture we are told that even our smallest commitments and efforts will be met and rewarded with a return that far exceeds what we have invested. What God gives us in our recovery efforts should really be considered more like a gift, because it is not based on the magnitude of our efforts, but more on the sincerity of our hearts that is expressed through our efforts. We can be assured that even our greatest failures will be turned into good things if we have done them with a sincere heart that seeks to know God and the love that He gives.

One of the ways that God turns our failures into something good is by helping us, when we are willing, to let go of the anger and resentment that we have had. To the degree that we are willing to forgive those who have hurt us, we will be able to receive the forgiveness that God gives, especially the forgiveness that other people have to give us. For you see, healing damaged relationships – forgiveness - is a two way street. We have to be willing to give forgiveness before we can be ready to receive forgiveness. Forgiving and being forgiven is the fundamental footing that must be in place before we can build a life that is relationally solid. As we already know, we can’t build a forgiven life by ourselves. We will have to have help. We will need help from our sponsors and our counselors because every situation will be different. Even as we grow, we will have blind spots in our thinking. We need an enlarging point of view in order to take the best course of action, and our sponsors and counselors will help us to gain this much needed increase in perspective.

There is no doubt that some of the people we need to make amends to have been guilty of hurting us, too. Once again, these are situations where we should consult with our sponsors and our counselors in order to know the best way to proceed. One thing we know for sure is that in each and every case we are called to forgive. Forgiveness is the ultimate of God’s command. It is the ultimate obedience, too. When we forgive others, we become willing to let them “off the hook” at the emotional and psychological level. God commands us to forgive so that we can live better, ourselves. Forgiveness is an act of love, not only for others but most of all for ourselves. The people who have hurt us will hold us hostage forever as long as we are unwilling to let go of our anger and resentment. For some of us there have been circumstances where someone hurt us with a criminal act. In such cases we should refer to our advisors. Most certainly we must be willing to alert law enforcement to what we know. We do this in order to put a stop to the damage that was done to us and, more importantly, to take responsible actions that will help protect others in the future. While it is a good thing to see a dangerous person held accountable for his crimes, this does not excuse us from the necessity of forgiving the offender at a personal and spiritual level. Forgiving someone for hurting us does not mean that we excuse their bad behavior, either.

Who do we need to forgive and why?

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Eight Segment Two
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629

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