It definitely hurts when someone wrongs us. Sometimes we don’t quite understand why it is necessary for us to forgive them. It’s not like we are going to seek them out and tell them we forgive them for their actions. If anything we are the aggrieved party. They should be the one coming to us and asking for forgiveness. What exactly is the point of our saying to ourselves that we forgive a particular person for a perceived wrong which was committed.
Forgiveness does have purpose. When we forgive someone, as long as it is sincere, we short circuit any resentments that we have. To an alcoholic or drug addict, resentments are like pouring gasoline on a fire. They are the springboard for the launch of all of our other character defects. The ultimate outcome of a resentment is a slip or a major dry drunk episode. When we are able to release those resentments, we help maintain physical, emotional and spiritual sobriety.
On those occasions when someone comes to us with an amends, in most instances we should immediately forgive them. The process of forgiveness helps us maintain our humility. It also gives us an opportunity to take a look at our part and where necessary make amends as well.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to work on being more forgiving?
In the old days we wore our resentments on our sleeves. There were so many people who we felt had wronged us in some way. We viewed life as hard and unforgiving so we decided to respond in kind. We were negative, bitter and unhappy people.Then we entered the program. We started to realize just how many resentments we were carrying around with us. It was almost like we were wearing a suit of negativity that weighed us down wherever we went. But that suit wasn’t permanent. We could shed layers of bitterness by beginning to forgive others for their perceived wrongs against us. Along the way we realized that we couldn’t even remember what some of those perceived wrongs had been. Then there were others which were actually minor in character but had been magnified by us while we were in our victim mode. Even where a real wrong had occurred; forgiveness was in order. The real breakthrough came as we began to forgive ourselves for all of our humanness and imperfection. This could only have taken place once when we became able to honestly look at ourselves and see our character defects; without buffering our weaknesses. Yet at the same time beginning to display a degree of compassion which had previously been unknown to us.
Personal Reflection: Where do I still need to practice forgiveness in my life?
In the world prior to program there was a lot of “collision of instincts”. Hardly a day went by without someone stepping on our toes, or our stepping on someone else’s. As a result, many of us walked around holding onto resentments for days, months and often years. When we spoke to our sponsor about these resentments, his advice was to pray for the person who had offended us. “Surely you jest”, we queried. “You mean I have to pray for the person who wronged me”? Our sponsor with a smile nodded his head yes. Over the next few days and perhaps weeks we begrudgingly prayed for the person. It certainly was not easy. Every time we thought of them it reminded us about how they had wronged us. In frustration, we went to our sponsor and asked, “exactly how long do I have to pray for this person”? He looked at us and said, “until you mean it”. In that moment we realized that prayer wasn’t only for the other person. By praying for a person who had wronged us, we created change in ourselves. Resentment was transformed into forgiveness. By seeing that they too were sick and suffering, we learned about empathy.
Personal Reflection: Do you need to pray for someone today?