Forgiveness, by definition, is the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. To forgive, as defined by Oxford, is to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” The Mayo Clinic approaches forgiveness with a twist: “In general, forgiveness involves an intentional decision to let go of resentment and anger.”
To stop. To be. To let go.
So, as a verb, forgiveness calls for action. And, action starts with a decision.
We wouldn't care so much about forgiveness, save the fact that they bear resentments that can harbor within and morph into relapse. We care about that very much.
Resentments are like omnipresent nails on a chalkboard or a metal utensil scratching up against a porcelain plate; They seem to crawl under our skin and take hold of our central nervous system. They are relentless until we release them. We have to stop the scraping. We must act lest we go mad.
Since attempts to “forget” have yet to produce relief, we have turned to simple logic and healing action to assist in resolving the antipathy disorder.
Straightforward reasoning ensures that holding onto bitterness is like consuming poison ourselves in hopes that another person dies as a result. Frankly, it makes no sense. When we allow anger and hostility extended-stay privileges in our head, it is but us who suffers.
Usually, the offender has little notion of our torment – and even if they did, we do not possess the ability to change their hearts or habits. The venom slowly destroys us as the screeching noise ruthlessly continues.
So, the rational response is to process the problem. There needs to be immediate and effective de-escalation to avert a crisis. We need to find courage and address the concern head-on. Understand it for what it is as opposed to what we perceive it to be – Identify truth and take hold of our role, our responsibility in the situation. Direct accountability is the first order of business, and this is where a trustworthy partner-in-life comes in handy. What was my role, and can I rectify the situation and bring about resolve with an apology? It amazes us that what often occurs when we take this approach, is immediate and complete resolution.
As peace and serenity cannot exist during conflict and unrest, it becomes imperative that we see the resentment through to its rightful conclusion. If the above approach does not lead to mental satisfaction, we quickly turn to a power greater than ourselves to balance our being. We turn our bitterness over to our God, praying for the situation and its participants. We earnestly pray that the advisory receives the peace that we steadily pursue. This step defies reason as our instinct demands due judgment – as we see it.
Fitting our round emotions into this square space takes effort and causes expected discomfort. We force love where hate exists. We hug when we want to hit. We pray for the reconciliation of a soul, all while feeling revengeful. We force a smile through our tears. We lean toward acceptance, pressing back against rejection. We pray until the unnatural becomes natural. Our hearts must catch up to our heads for this approach to have the intended outcome.
So, what starts as a decision to act in the spirit of resolve develops into a self-assessment process and concludes with a selfless prayer. Healing replaces hurt and peace exchanges pressure. Relationships are righted, and the potential for relapse removed.
Our basis for forgiveness is as follows: We have been so forgiven for the missteps in our lives that we owe the universe and others the same opening for grace. The gift of forgiveness becomes a currency that is changed over and exchanged in kind. It is the give that keeps on giving. We can't afford to be without its power in our overall health.
For those seeking a ceasefire within, we offer two prayer templates that have worked in our lives. The first is from page 552 of the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
'If you have a resentment you want to be free of if you will pray for the person or the thing you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free...Even when you don't really want it for them, and your prayers are only words, and you don't mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.'
Or the second model that has worked repeatedly for us is found on page 175 of the Emmet Fox book “The Sermon on the Mount”:
“I fully and freely forgive XXXXXXX ( XX mentioning the name of the offender XX). I lose him and let him go. I completely forgive the whole business in question. As far as I'm concerned, it is finished forever. I cast the burden of my resentment upon the Christ within me. He is free now, and I am free, too. I wish him well in every phase of his life. The incident is finished. The Christ truth has set us both free. I thank God. -- Then get up and go about your business and on no account repeat this act of forgiveness. Because you have done it once and for all, and to do it a second time would be to repudiate your own work (and God’s work). Afterward, when the memory of the offender on the offense happens to come into your mind, bless the delinquent briefly and dismiss the thought.”
Whatever approach works, work it! Our sobriety depends on it!
What will we let go of today?
On this day, we will pray for our friends and past advisories to be blessed to the measure of our heart desires.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a sober.coffee podcast titled #31 Exploring "Forgiveness" in Sobriety w Karen..” The podcast dropped on 11/03/2021. Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.