Updated: May 14, 2020
The joy I want to talk about today is one that has many facets and one that triggers some tumultuous feelings for most anyone contemplating its place in their lives. It is difficult to ponder on either side of the emotion because it is not our natural tendency as human beings. To truly forgive requires deep internal reflection and a conscious decision to feel as though one can let go of something hurtful. To be forgiven requires both humility and patience but also, it requires the ability to admit you were wrong. It doesn't matter what side of this emotion you are on, you are going to struggle with some aspect of forgiveness until you don't.
As addicts, this is something we thought we were pretty adept at receiving because it was constantly something we had to ask for or people thought they needed to offer as we trudged through our not so emotionally successful lives. I know I have had to ask for forgiveness due to my actions while using on many occasions. Unfortunately, when using I do not believe we are capable of receiving forgiveness because we are not capable of forgiving our selves. Until we do, we can ask for forgiveness, and people can offer forgiveness but I don't know if it means much of anything until both parties are invested in the emotional sacrifice that is necessary for it to do the job it is intended to do.
The forgiver: This person has the most difficult job. If you are even in the position to offer forgiveness, chances are you have some emotional attachment to the offender. You have expended time, energy, and feelings on them. You may have years of history with them or it may be a newer connection but either way, you have built a relationship worthy of considering forgiveness otherwise you would just walk away. Considering forgiveness means you value the connection enough to want to maintain it in spite of the indiscretion. This requires trust that the offender understands the extent you are going to maintain that emotional connection. The offender must be able to respect the sacrifice you are making in order for the forgiveness to be properly received.
The forgiven: If you are reading this blog, then this is probably you. You have spent too much of your life in the position of having to ask for or receive forgiveness for the actions you committed while using. The interesting part of this position is that each time we have put ourselves in this position, we are astounded at how we could allow ourselves to be in that position once again. It's a conundrum. Each time we tell ourselves and our people it will never happen again, but it does, and we know it will, and so do they. The reason this cycle of events continues to play on and on and on is that we, the addicts, have never taken the time or had the ability to forgive ourselves. Until we do this, the circle of ineffectual forgiveness will continue to play on.
How do we forgive ourselves?
When we are deep in our addiction the thought of ever doing this seems incomprehensible. We carry within our hearts and souls so much grief, guilt, and fault we cannot fathom the possibility of ever letting all that go. But we can. It begins with taking the first step of many into our sobriety. If you are currently in stride of your journey then you are already feeling the benefit of forgiveness. It begins the moment you actively engage in your recovery. The power recovery creates stems from your own witnessing of the power you carry. Once you begin to see that you can affect the changes in your life that you desire, you begin to feel worthy of the benefits that subsequently result from those changes. One of those benefits is the ability to forgive yourself.
Once you begin to forgive yourself, you begin to open yourself up for true forgiveness and I believe the people you seek forgiveness from will see the change in you. Unfortunately, this may not happen with everyone in your life and past life; and that is okay. What is important is that you continue to forgive yourself even when others do not because by doing so you are creating open doors to your heart and soul for those who desire to maintain a connection with you and for those whom you have not yet met. The old and new connections will be stronger than any you have ever held and because of this, you will respect and cherish them more deeply as a result.
The bi-product of this change in our ability to forgive ourselves is that we will more easily and honestly be able to forgive others. When we allow ourselves to be forgiven and we actively engage in forgiving others, an enormous community of love and support begins to unfold all around us. They say we attract what we project. Looking back at my life, I can pretty honestly say this is true because I attracted chaos most of the time. While I have not completely figured out how to forgive myself for everything, I have definitely made some giant strides in this direction and I am witnessing first hand the benefits of self-forgiveness. I am drawing like-minded people toward me and I am developing some friendships I foresee as life long. I believe the following to be true.
In forgiveness, we find true connection.