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Practicing Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a concept that can bring about a great deal of confusion.  The idea of being able to find a way to let go of the pain that you may have suffered goes against our natural instincts of fight or flight.

Forgiving Yourself

When faced with a challenging task like recovery, it isn’t surprising that we might find ourselves indulging in feelings of guilt and shame.  Pushing aside unpleasant feelings are fined tuned practices of an addicted person. Guilt and shame are totally useless emotions that must go if you are to heal.  It is important that you practice forgiving yourself before you will be able to forgive others.  A good idea would be to have a daily affirmation that will help you stay focused on the sober life you are now creating. You might try looking in the mirror and telling yourself “I let all useless activities go, I did the best I knew to the do at the time, and I forgive myself and set my heart free.  I am at peace with myself”.  The choice to forgive means that you give up the right to punish or control.   When you truly forgive you allow life to go on; freely.

Forgiving Others

Once you have learned to forgive yourself, then you are ready to forgive others.  This is where it gets to be a bit rough.  The temptation to fix someone else may cause you to lose focus on your recovery.  There may be people that have hurt you that seemingly don’t care.  That doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you set yourself free from any negative feelings about past and present relationships.   We need to get unstuck from any old negative thoughts about what he or she did to me. Just like when you forgive yourself, it is important that you assign no guilt, and never shame others.  They too were doing the best they knew to do at the time.  Can’t get past it?  Try seeing them as little children, maybe 3 or 4 years old.  I know this might seem odd, to picture someone like your parent as a baby.  But they came into this world the same way you did as a little child seeking to be loved and nurtured.  Imagine them as hurting and crying and needing to be loved.  Picture yourself all grown up and able to comfort and love that little child.  The rest of forgiving others will come to you.  You don’t have to know exactly how it happens; you only need to be willing to forgive and let go of judging.

What you can expect when you have learned to forgive

All 12 step programs have some component that addresses forgiving yourself and others.  No matter what steps you use you will know that you have forgiven when you notice that your heart is softened. From this point of view you will begin to find good in all that you have, and gratitude for the gift of life. When we forgive, we give up the mistaken belief that we are in need of someone to fix what is wrong.  When we forgive we move from being a victim to being an empowered person.   Continue to practice forgiving until you have run out of people and things to forgive.  It may take a while, but eventually, you will see less and less need to forgive because you are enjoying all the good that life has to offer.