STEP EIGHT CONTINUED Seek forgiveness from those we hurt unless doing so would cause further harm.
Instruction: Consider the means.
The way we go about seeking forgiveness is important. I recall a famous TV evangelist who, after it was discovered that he was guilty of immoral conduct, made a tearful, televised display for the world to witness his confession and his repentance. Perhaps I border on judging the man, but I wonder if his act of contrition would have carried more weight had it not been such a public spectacle. In the Christian tradition, there is a passage of Scripture where Jesus says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1a NIV) Seeking forgiveness from someone we have harmed could be considered an act of righteousness in that it is trying to make right something we have done wrong. The wisdom of Jesus in not making a display of our good deeds should be followed when it comes to seeking forgiveness. Should we decide to make restitution where possible, this should also be done in quietness and without a public spectacle.
The means we use to seek forgiveness should also be in keeping with the principle of love. Does it repair a relationship or does it put more strain on it? Does it need to be done in person, or can a card, letter, or phone call achieve the same results? Does our seeking forgiveness make us look good at the expense of the people we ask to forgive us? And, what if the person we seek forgiveness from isn’t ready to forgive us? Wouldn’t it be wise to find a better way to make amends than to bring up old wounds? Step Eight can be complicated, and we don’t want to incur a new battlefield or inflict new wounds. Sometimes the desire to be forgiven by an individual should be put on hold until enough time and healing has occurred so that we are sure we will not do more harm.
As we consider this Step today, let us try to remember that what we are suggesting is a spirit of discernment. Consider whether your apology will hurt or harm the one receiving it. Let’s not be selfish and try to force forgiveness on someone else. For the time being, we might need to accept forgiveness from our Higher Power and from our self. At the same time, we also might want to be open to the possibility of seeking forgiveness at a later time when the offended is ready to receive it.
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