Endigar 687 ~ Forging Forgiveness

A few weeks ago, my counselor suggested I consider and blog about forgiveness. Implied by the context of our session, this should especially include self-forgiveness. This entry is my attempt to fulfill that tasking and I hope you will find my musings helpful.

The Big Book says resentment is the number one offender for the alcoholic, and that it is a deadly hazard and that dealing with resentment is infinitely grave because it runs counter to the power of our spiritual experience. I gathered these thoughts from pages 64, 66, and 117 in Alcoholics Anonymous. I think everyone maintains an internal courtroom with open cases of those who have offended us.  This is the Courtroom of Resentments. Victim’s cards are printed and issued liberally. The docket is focused on hearing cases over and over, sometimes improving the arguments made but never providing any kind of resolution. Painful memories are rehearsed and wounds are re-opened. The primary fear that keeps the complainants locked in this limbo is the fear that they will forget what has been done and therefor fall prey once more to the same person or to a similar situation. This self-torture of reinforced distrust works to cut one off from possible help. More work is spent building walls than accepting risky connections. Those who opt to hold their place in this state of unforgiving resentment become intimately acquainted with  powerlessness and unmanageability in their lives.

The 4th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous presents a way to escape this loop of traumatizing vigilance. We must change the way we look at resentments and find our part in the event or interaction. We use the resentment to find the point where we surrendered our power to an outside entity. We seek to change that aspect about ourselves so that we retain possession and responsibility for our lives. The 10th Step helps to reinforce this as a habit.

Once I know what MY PART is I no longer need the memory of what was done to me. The knowledge of my part allows me to transform into someone who does not invite or is not sensitive to offense. This takes overcoming fear because change involves becoming vulnerable and taking risks to achieve self improvement. It is in the Crucible of Courage that a better life is forged.

If I am my own resentment, then I am also burdened with guilt and shame. I must connect with others to identify what is legitimate guilt and what is the paralyzing shame of unforgiveness toward myself. I may think that maintaining a memory of my wrong or my short-comings will cause me to never behave in the offending fashion again and will protect me from future criticism. My experience is that I will find others who will exploit this internal pain to manipulate me for their own purposes. I will return myself to situations that insure I will fail again and again as I try to rewrite history and become something I was never intended to be.

When I am actually guilty of hurting someone else or violating my own code of living, I identify it specifically and make amends where possible. I connect with my Higher Power to live in a way that will keep me from repeating that hurt or offense. That is all I can do, and I am not responsible for how others react to me. If they want to stay in the courtroom of resentment, I cannot pull them out. I must have enough survival-selfishness to desire a good life and to do the work to achieve that, even if it involves letting go of relationships or situations that keep me living in shame. Survival-selfishness keeps us coming back for help and isolating-selfishness kills us. I must not get the two confused. I need a healthy dose of survival-selfishness.

I do want to live an enjoyable, useful life. I want to be able to close the cases I have against me and depart from the courtroom of resentment. I want to work with the GOMU (God of my understanding) in Steps 6 and 7 to release my short-comings. A fish must relinquish the character defect of trying to climb trees or the transgression of running cross-country. The fish’s Higher Power would help it see that it was made for the water, and says to it, “To thy own fins be true.” If I remove traditional religious self-loathing from Steps 6 and 7, I will find that God wants to introduce me to me, maybe for the first time in my life. Then I will know a new freedom and a new happiness.

 

My Part

 

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