I had a conversation with a friend who asked me a direct and blunt question, “Would there be anything in your book on why one cannot get over what was done to them by the one who was the alcoholic?”
The Big Book tells us that when we, as alcoholics, make amends with the ones we have harmed in Steps Eight and Nine, that not everyone will be ready, if ever, to forgive us for the wrongs we did to them. I had a conversation with her about the Big Book being about making the alcoholic a better person, and that we know we wouldn’t get forgiveness from everyone who we had harmed during our destructive life. This conversation led into what forgiveness is about in life and what the Bible teaches us as children of God. Although I didn’t get into religion during the conversation itself, my responses were faith based. This shows how universal the teachings are and how they can cross boundaries and are healthy ways of life that everyone can relate to.
Step Eight : Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step Nine : Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
We, as alcoholics, can be very apprehensive of these steps, because they may bring up many embarrassing and regretful decisions and actions we have committed against others in our lives. In this case, the person I spoke with had a gun pointed at them by the alcoholic, and was struggling with being able to ever forgive the alcoholic for his actions. The alcoholic was making amends, and was thankful to the person for pushing them to get the help they needed.
In his journey to complete his Twelve Steps and make himself a more complete and better person, he was faced with what every alcoholic in AA will be faced with at some point in their recovery, rejection of forgiveness. We aren’t taught to seek forgiveness, but to make amends. Yes, we crave forgiveness, but that is a selfish notion, because forgiveness isn’t about you, it’s about the person forgiving.
Our process of making amends is twofold. One is to make amends to the people we harmed, and to make amends with God by asking for forgiveness for our sins. As children of God, we are broken and in need of repair, and in that, we don’t always have the ability to forgive. Although, God is a merciful and forgiving God who just wants us to admit what sins we have committed, and come to Him for repair. So, we can always count on God to forgive us for our sins, because He knows we are imperfect and in need.
In my conversation with her, we discussed who benefits from the forgiveness of another human. Forgiveness, like was said earlier, is of benefit to the person who is forgiving, because it frees your mind from being controlled by the actions of the other person, in this case the alcoholic who pulled a gun on her. I talked with her about forgiving someone, and how it allows you to have peace of mind and resolution from the wrongs done to her.
She also stated that she might be able to forgive, but never forget. She said, “I can forgive him, but I can never get over the fear.” My first response to her was, “Just because you forgive, does not ever mean you have to forget, or even be around him anymore, it just means you are freeing yourself of the hold his actions had on you.”
When you deal with an alcoholic, forgiving them doesn’t mean you get over it, but how you handle your thoughts and emotions after the fact is what really matters, and what God is watching for.
We are to make amends for the wrongs we have done to people. We are not to expect forgiveness from all of them, just peace in knowing we have attempted to make amends for the harm we have done to those around us while were weak and under the influence of alcohol. We are taught to make restitution in the Bible, and we are to ask God for forgiveness for our sins, the only One we can rely on to always forgive us for our wrong doings. We can not get upset or hostile to those who are not ready or willing to forgive us, as this would build up resentment, and would defeat the purpose of Steps Eight and Nine. We benefit the most from these steps, because we are able to release the hold and power our wrongdoings have over us everyday.
We may begin to build up another list in our heads as we complete our list of the people we have wronged, and that’s a list of people who have wronged us. That is not the point or purpose of this program. The Bible tells us we are to forgive, but forgiving others is not a step in our progress, it is a lesson we learn as children and from the Bible. More on forgives and its benefits can be found in the “Affected” standpoint below.
The Bible teaches it is important to take responsibility for our actions. God doesn’t see us as hopelessly bad. We need to consider those we have harmed by being destructive in our lives and the lives of others. We are forgiven in the eyes of the Lord if we just ask for it and admit our wrongs, hence making amends, to not only the ones on earth we have wronged, but for our sins which we have committed and making amends with God for them.
“If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the LORD that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal. “If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.
Exodus 22:10-15 (NIV)
Forgiveness is never an easy thing, but we are taught to forgive because God is such a forgiving and merciful God who gave his Son to wash away our sins. It is healthy to forgive people for the wrongs they have done to you, so that it may free your mind from the hold that the actions have over you.
Forgiveness is about the person forgiving so that they may move on. Forgiving an alcoholic is never an easy task because of the wrongs they have done to you, but is necessary in the eyes of God, for us to continue on in a healthy life respectable of the teachings of the Bible.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
We forgive by faith, out of obedience. Since forgiveness goes against our nature, we must forgive by faith, whether we feel like it or not. We must trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done so that the forgiveness will be complete.
I believe God honors our commitment to obey Him and our desire to please him when we choose to forgive. He completes the work in his time. We must continue to forgive (our job), by faith, until the work of forgiveness (the Lord’s job), is done in our hearts.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV)