To Forgive and Seek Forgiveness
From the Summer 2001 Newsletter
I am currently working on seeking forgiveness from people I have wronged or harmed. In order to do this, I had to first work on forgiving people whom I saw as having harmed or wronged me, as I had a lot of built-up animosity and hatred. I had to realize that, in order to forgive and seek forgiveness, I had to put a human face on other people. I started by forcing myself to look at everyone as a human being and not judge others by their looks or backgrounds, but to give myself a chance to get to know them.
Once I learned to look at everyone as an individual with wants, needs, and feelings, I made a list of the people that I considered as harming me. The list was small compared to the list of people I had harmed, but it seemed like it needed quick attention. Each time I prayed, I asked God to help me forgive these people. I also found some quiet time by myself and, even though the people weren't there, I talked to them as if they were. I told them how much they hurt me and discussed why I thought they disregarded my feelings in their actions. I then told them that I forgave them. I know it may sound crazy because they were not there, but this really helped me.
Next, I made a list of all the people I had harmed. The list seems to grow all the time, but by leaving this list open-ended, it makes me more conscious of my actions. Before I act, I ask myself: "Am I going to have to put this person on my forgiveness list when I'm done?"
It has been hard for me to ask forgiveness of all the people I have harmed because to ask forgiveness means I have to take responsibility for my actions. I have started with my family and have asked for forgiveness and understanding. I have had positive responses. I then went to a couple of my friends with whom I need to initiate a dialogue, but for some reason I am hesitant. The one from whom I think I need to seek forgiveness the most really doesn't want to hear from me. There was hurt on both sides and, while I have forgiven him, I think he doesn't want any contact with me, so as not to deal with his own need to forgive. Let's face it -- it's a whole lot easier to just not deal with it and harbor hate.
I still have not come up with a plan on how to seek the forgiveness of the victims of my crimes. Before I entered recovery, I didn't think I had to seek their forgiveness because no one was physically hurt. After working with my recovery program, I have come to see the real hurt and damage I have caused for everyone involved. Hopefully I will be able to come up with a plan for asking forgiveness of these individuals too.
For Reflection: Make your own list of people you have harmed. Choose one of them to start with and decide how and when you could apologize and make amends.