Seek forgiveness from those we hurt unless doing so would cause further harm.
The struggle in Step Eight is for balance. There is the desire to be forgiven, but also the greater need to do the loving thing. That could mean that we are not able to acquire forgiveness because seeking it would cause further harm to the injured party. Weighing our needs against another’s possible injury is where the balancing act occurs. If there is ever a doubt, then we err on the side of not causing further harm and finding other ways to receive forgiveness.
Many religions believe that the Ultimate Being is ready, willing, and able to forgive whenever we ask, and that the Ultimate Being will not deny any sincere request. At least one religious belief system I’ve encountered doesn’t believe that The Divine forgives, because, as they teach, The Divine doesn’t condemn His children and therefore there is no need for forgiveness. We are the ones who must forgive others, and when we were the injuring party we are the ones who seek their forgiveness.
Whenever it seems wrong to seek forgiveness for fear of opening old wounds and causing further harm, then we can forgive ourselves and also seek forgiveness through a surrogate—someone who stands in for the injured party and tries to see things from their perspective. Often this is a trusted friend, a spiritual individual, or a religious leader. A third party has the advantage of being neutral, and they can help us see things from a different perspective.
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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.