Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. – Matthew 6:12
Last night I had an opportunity to share in a small group how spirituality and recovery have intersected for me, the opportunities for healing in those successful moments and the obstacles created when they have not intersected. I have done this exercise some in writing, but this time was the first I have actually verbalized what this means.
As an alcoholic I was unable to forgive anybody for anything. I was unable to forgive the world around me for its seeming lack of care. I was unable to forgive family not for the lack of understanding but their unwillingness to make the effort. I was unable to forgive the church composed of people who still carried their own spiritual and sometimes mental dis-ease. I was unable to forgive God for being silent. I was unable to forgive myself for the consistently poor and insane choices I made, for lack of courage in facing the reality of who I really am.
All told, that is one heck of a lot of baggage to carry around, yes?
I still struggle at times with forgiveness, usually when another person fails to make that effort to stick with me, to at least try to understand. I’ve started to learn to forgive myself for a disease beyond my personal control and for my unwillingness to continue to live in painful inauthenticity. Sometimes I still wish I’d had the foresight and the courage to not lose all those years.
But forgiveness is an arc stretching from the beginning of creation into a future that I can only anticipate. Forgiveness is a day-to-day affair just as is recovery. Forgiveness is a spiritual exercise and discipline which requires effort and attention on my part and an acceptance that it does not require that same effort on the part of the divine. That particular battle is already fought and the verdict for grace is in. It would be easier to understand maybe if there was a to do list to check off to achieve forgiveness and to express forgiveness. But would it be real?
And so today, when a hurtful thought occurs to me, some perceived injustice, some pill of bitterness which makes my spirit grimace, I will remind myself that I can and will make amends where I can, within and without, and where I can’t, I will depend on that which I cannot always do for myself…forgiveness.