During the past weeks I have touched on the importance of Forgiveness as one works through their recovery process, and focused on the need to forgive others as well as ourselves. Today I would like to draw your attention to a more introspective aspect of Forgiveness, that of Making Amends to those we have harmed.
Living with an addict can be much like being in the path of a tornado or hurricane and having to hunker down until it blows over and then trying to pick up any pieces the remain once the crisis de jour is over. Unfortunately, I say this out of experience. Experience gained, not as the survivor, but as the hurricane. I say ‘hurricane’ because the destructive effects of my actions impacted those around me over a long period of time, punctuated with occasional tornadoes being spawned out of the larger storm. At the height of these storms I was such a mess that I could not perceive the emotional and spiritual hurt that I was inflicting on my wife and, honestly, I was in such a selfish and destructive state of mind that I probably wouldn’t have cared if I had known. That is the nature of addictions: IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!!! It took her persistent prayers and the threat of losing my family before I was finally able to see and admit the hurt that I was inflicting on her through my activities.
This is where rubber meets the road, and we cannot flinch from drawing closer to God and asking His help in taking that “searching and fearless moral inventory” of ourselves and identifying those we have wronged. Like last week, this is a difficult process and one that should not be taken lightly or without the assistance of good, solid accountability partners and sponsors.
For many, myself included, the key to this step is to perform an HONEST evaluation of my action and how they impact ALL of my relationships (personal, professional, etc.). Then comes the hard part of owning my actions rather than trying to minimize them, justify them, or shift the blame onto someone (or something) else. Again, for those of you familiar with the various 12 Step programs, this is where Steps 8 & 9 will come into play:
Step 8: We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
While we often encourage this type of forgiveness based upon Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (NLT), just remember the purpose of making these amends is not to receive forgiveness from the person to whom you are making the amends. This process is for YOU and is an integral part of YOUR recovery process. The benefits obtained from this process will be readily apparent, regardless of whether or not the other person receives the apology and it DEFINITELY does not depend upon a reciprocal offer of forgiveness.
The importance of making amends is underscored in Scripture where we are told to “[bear] with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also [must do]” (Colossians 3:13 NKJV). Not only does this help restore or maintain our relationships with those around us, but also serves to ‘clear the air’ between us and God so that we can be restored in our fellowship with Him and He will accept our offerings and praises:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV).
As we prepare to move into yet another New Year, what better time to Make Amends and start 2015 with a clean slate and an unburdened heart!
Taking Every Thought Captive!