STONE TWELVE CONTINUED
Thank: I am grateful. Gratitude helps me bring out the positive in my life and also makes room for The Divine to bring additional positive situations, people, and spiritual experiences into my life. I thank those who have guided me on my path.
Instruction: Let gratitude lead to forgiveness.
Many people find it difficult to forgive themselves. Perhaps they find the consequences of their behavior too horrific to imagine that anyone would or could forgive them, and they have decided that they have no right to forgive themselves either. Maybe their actions, directly or indirectly, caused someone to lose their life. Maybe more than one person died. Sometimes these deaths might be justified by acts of war, and sometimes the acts were done out of anger or evil intent. People will sometimes refuse to forgive themselves out of extreme guilt, and perhaps they feel that by holding onto the guilt and shame they are punishing themselves for what they did. In addition to punishment, their refusal to forgive keeps the memories ready to be replayed in a nanosecond of time. Helping someone who holds onto guilt and shame is certainly not easy. So, where do we begin?
Perhaps the practice of gratitude is one place to start. We are certainly not saying that those who cannot forgive themselves for hideous deeds should be grateful for what they’ve done. What we are suggesting is that even though they find it impossible to forgive themselves, they will discover that others will grant them forgiveness — not everyone, but some will have that ability. Ministers, priests, and other religious/spiritual individuals are likely to extend love and forgiveness. At times, even the friends and family members of those who were hurt will find it within their hearts to forgive. And, of course, most religions believe that their Higher Power grants forgiveness. One place to start is to be grateful for those who extend grace through forgiveness.
Another place where gratitude can help is in recognizing that we are free to choose a better path. Regrets may fill our minds when we consider the past, but we can be grateful that this present moment, influenced by the past only with our permission, is ours to do with as we please. While regretting the past, we can be grateful that we can be a different person and that this moment and all future moments can be what we want them to be. The past can serve to make us committed to be more loving, caring, patient, and kind. We can be grateful that the past is behind us, and we don’t have to revisit it or repeat it.
Our misdeeds, large or small, often allow us to forgive a lot of things we see in others, because if we can be forgiven for our atrocities, surely we can be less judgmental and more forgiving of those whose misdeeds pale in comparison. Our past then becomes a lesson in grace, and we can find a measure of gratitude in that we have become better than we were. Our heart’s desire can be to right our wrongs and perhaps help another to avoid the mistakes we made. Thus, gratitude often comes before forgiveness, leading the way that will allow us to find opportunities to make amends and to live a grace-filled life.
A SPECIAL NOTE: There are also individuals who struggle to forgive themselves for mistakes they perceive as their own, when, in fact, they were not the responsible party. One example is a child abuse victim who was taught by their abuser to blame themselves even though they were the innocent victim. This subject is sensitive, and I don’t want to give an answer that is too simplistic. My first suggestion would be to seek help from someone that is probably better equipped than I am, but at the same time, I want to point out the value of what is taught in the Steps and Stones.
Today’s Assignment is to take charge of your spiritual path, and that includes your recovery from any abusive situation. Feel the pain, but also recognize what was self-inflicted and what was NOT your fault. Release yourself from pain for a situation you were not responsible for and place the blame where it belongs. When you are strong enough, forgiveness comes next, but I recognize what a huge step this is, so give yourself plenty of time to work through this process and don’t rush things. Gratitude can help. Be grateful to those who come alongside to help you. Be grateful when you discover you were not to blame. Be grateful for each step of the healing process. In time, you might be able to be grateful that you can help someone else.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.