In the early days of my recovery, when people talked about "Forgiveness," and "Amends," I found the idea fascinating, and mildly repulsive at the same time. It was mostly because I didn't have a reality-based configuration for it. As a kid and teenager, I could remember apologizing or saying I was "Sorry," for stuff I did, cause I felt bad about it; but never forgiven as in "Forever given an extended grace or mercy for an unkind action." It was always having to re-hear about things at a later date, that thought and felt more like guilt and shame. It's a lot like having a credit card, with an interest payment that's set so high, there's no realistic way to pay it off or meaningfully pay it down. In our society, we have a weird way of keeping people on the hook of guilt and shame, as a method of oppression and control, just like a high-interest rate credit card.
Being in Twelve Step Recovery, trying to get a handle on the idea, I thought that stuff happened around Step Nine, and maybe Step Ten. To be honest, since I'd never really seen it, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it could look like in "Real-life," that made sense. Based on what I could figure out, based on how I heard people talking about it, those things seem like future date "Events," that probably didn't apply to me, cause I didn't think I'd stay clean long enough to get so-called "There."
Thousands of times, I've been reminded that recovery doesn't happen in thoughts. Recovery happens as a result of goodwill and creative action; having conscious contact with other addicts and others actively engaged in the process of recovery, healing, our unifying their hearts and mind. I was told by long-timers, "We're not thinking ourselves into a new way of being. We live in such a way that our behavior, changes the relationship with our thinking for the better." That said, what happened in the reality of forgiveness... fore-give... an offering of mercy... tenderness... friendliness is when I read in the Basic-Text, “If you are an addict and have found this book, please give yourself a break and read it!”
Give myself or others a break? What? Who me... them? No! You're kidding? But what about my cherished invisible baseball bat of condemnation and criticism? Set all that aside, letting go of the comfort in old familiar pain and take a risk for something better? But that would require showing myself and others mercy... grace... friendliness... Oy Vey! Yes. Forgiveness... Mercy... Friendliness... kindness... generously... is another way of saying we don't have to like or love what people do, but it's still possible to hold people with "Positive regard," without having to treat them like a P.O.S. How else could unity and solidarity be possible?
That wasn't an item on the menu of my conditioning or childhood, yet there it was in the reality of the printed experience as a young adult... "Please give yourself a break..." Let up a little... allow for some space and breathing room, so as not to suffocate on the endless loop of thoughts ricocheting in my head, like a pinball on LSD... not just about myself... but others. We can give ourselves and others a break too.
It was then and there, in discussion with my sponsor that I learned forgiveness could be a process of offering ourselves and others generosity... relief from my and they're past... and meeting people in the present moment, without a bunch of stories, or have to wonder about how things would turn out later. Present time awareness, extending mercy, and friendliness. That was doable. Just stay here in the present moment, with them. Don't relitigate my or their past, abiding by the best of our ability with compassion, positive action, respect, and empathy, in NA... and perhaps we could experience unity as a result of mercy... No judges... No juries... No executioners... No shunning... No ex-communications... No having to claim the immortal souls of others or ourselves... sharing power, instead of having to have power over others... in our present moment experience... and in this way, I found out that Forgiveness... Mercy... Friendliness... began at Step One rather than Step Nine, and just through the process got progressively bigger and deeper. That brings me to a story a Long-timer told me, that didn't make a lot of sense then, but does now. He said, "The only difference between an acorn an oak tree, is the function of time, and how the tree is cared for." So too for forgiveness. It can start small, yet grow incredibly big when taken care of.
一Fearing Less We Have Time to Love More