Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the other side of resentment. But what about when we say that we forgive, but we don’t forget?

I don’t really see how I can forgive without forgetting. If I keep remembering, then I stoke the flames of resentment. On the other hand, if someone is toxic for us to be around, we MUST remember so as not to fall prey to becoming involved again. In that case, maybe the remembering must be hand-in-hand with compassion and we simply take the right action of distance from the person. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to keep someone in our life. it means that we are relieved of the albatross of resentment and time we spend ruminating on the past.

Someone mentioned that the chapter on Step 8 in the AA 12&12 begins by discussing forgiveness. Though I’ve read about, and done, this step numerous times, I always thought Step 8 was just about getting willing to apologize for my part in causing a problem without going on about what the other person did.

However, the chapter opens by revealing that this step is about repairing personal relationships. Opening old wounds (that may have been festering for years, if not decades) can be painful, but it states that this pain will be lessened as “one obstacle after another melts away.”

It goes on to say, “The first [obstacle] has to do with forgiveness. The moment we ponder a twisted or broken relationship with another person, our emotions go on the defensive … Triumphantly we seize upon his misbehavior as the perfect excuse for minimizing or forgetting our own.”

But the point made is that “alcoholics are not the only ones bedeviled by sick emotions.” So we, ourselves have behaved badly in our lives. Certainly, by now, we have acknowledged this by our hard and painstaking work through the previous seven steps. In Step 4, we certainly have turned the mirror on ourselves to look with clarity at where we have been wrong and what we have done to cause problems with others, rather than to just blame, blame, blame.

I don’t see how anyone who has done a thorough job of Steps 4-7 can possibly NOT see that he or she has caused harm to others. The section on forgiveness in Step 8 of the 12 & 12 ends with the haunting question, “If we are now about to ask forgiveness for ourselves, why shouldn’t we start out by forgiving them, one and all?”

Many people in my life have forgiven me my trespasses. And I have also seen cases where they forgave, but didn’t forget, and therefore, never truly forgave me, but used any excuse to remind me of their “not forgetting.” I’m not sure that is really forgiveness. If I want to be truly free, it is clear that I cannot afford to put restrictions on my forgiveness.

I’m grateful that this section in the 12 & 12 was pointed out to me. It really shows me how vital forgiveness is if I want to live in peace. Whether I am right or not isn’t the issue. I once heard this phrase that rings true, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?” There is no question that when I am willing to experience true forgiveness, I am far happier than when I continue to be “right” at the expense of my serenity.

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