STEP NINE CONTINUED: Forgive ourselves for all harm we may have caused, even if it was well-intended.
Instruction: Forgive but remember.
We mentioned this principle in Step Seven, Day 47, but it bears repeating with Step Nine. Just as we remember that a hot stove will burn us, or a growling dog might bite, we remember the situations from our past that brought us pain and misery. It is important to separate the pain from the situations that may have caused it. We separate our emotions from the past trauma as best as we can, so we can examine the past with as little bias as possible. We deal with facts whenever possible and let emotions go. We try not to place a value judgment on the incidents by claiming something like, “the reason I did that was because I’m a bad, evil person.” It is also a good practice to eliminate words that carry negative emotional connotations like guilt, shame, sin, and depravity. The way we word things is important. I made a mistake,” is acceptable, but “I am a mistake” is destructive to our self-worth. “I was wrong,” is not destructive when it is meant in the sense of having made a mistake, and there is also an implied apology that often goes with it. “I am wrong,” however, can be harmful if meant in the sense of not being good enough and perhaps I never will be.
In dealing with the past, we also examine our motives. I once held to a strict religious belief system that had more rules than grace, more restrictions than freedoms, and more guilt, shame, and pain than peace. I believed that system was the right way and the only way to The Divine and to eternal life. I was taught that I should help everyone to see things as I did and come to the light. According to my beliefs, it became my responsibility to reach out and “save” the world. In the process, I used emotional and manipulative tactics to “win the lost.” I scrutinize my former life, and I can see where my intentions were well-intended, but often the results were hurtful and abusive. I can choose to think that I was stupid, wrong, or hurtful, or I can choose to give myself grace and say things like, “I was doing the best that I could under the circumstances and with my knowledge at the time.” I don’t want to forget who I was before, because it helps me to see others who are still using those same tactics with grace, love, understanding, and forgiveness. They are doing the best they can at this time.
Today, let us consider ways in which we try to force our beliefs on others, not just religious beliefs, but any belief. Is it our place to do this? Are we pushing people instead of letting our light shine in order to guide them? Are they doing the best they can with the knowledge and information they have, and if so, is it right for us to try to disrupt their path? Perhaps the only one we need to work on is ourselves, and as we do, others might be drawn to our love, light, peace, and joy. Love is tender, kind, and forgiving.
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