The Key to a Successful Recovery.
Wouldn’t a forgiveness vaccination be a great invention? In the beginning of my recovery journey, I viewed forgiveness like a flu vaccination. I had an attitude about it– “get it done and move on.” I assumed that no maintenance was required. Once I took the initial step of willing to forgive and I felt the relief of letting go, I tried to file away the pain as if that event of forgiveness was a one-time fix. The problem with this approach is that the symptoms of my unforgiveness seemed to always come back. It never failed that another round of pain and pressing would roll in from the very same situation.
Forgiveness is not a one time event. I have found it more helpful to think of forgiveness like other lifestyle choices such as sobriety, exercising, or continuing your education. It is a choice that requires maintenance and persistence. So what are some basic benefits and steps to entering the lifestyle of forgiveness?
To start, we must believe operating in forgiveness is a benefit to yourself more than to anyone else. When we don’t practice forgiveness, we will be the one who pays most dearly. Holding on to an offense is like living in a prison cell, but you are the one who has the key. Often, we do not understand that we have the keys to release ourselves from the pain and torment of broken relationships and missed expectations until we choose to reflect on our past through the lens of forgiveness.
In the Big Book, we see that being responsible and sorrowful for our past while also being generous with forgiveness for others is the key to a life of hope and success in recovery.
“If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience.” (Big Book, page 70, line 8)
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of pain and bitterness can make way for happiness, health, and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
Greater spiritual and psychological health
Less mental anxiety, physical stress, and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Less symptoms of depression
Improved heart and whole body health
Higher value of others and self-esteem
Keys to beginning the journey of forgiveness:
Use the following key to help you identify areas of your life where forgiveness is needed.
Who are you holding an offense against?
What did they do that you will not forgive?
How did you contribute to the situation?
Why did you react with a resentment instead of reconciliation?
Simply adopting the “forgiveness vaccination” mentality is not enough for a successful recovery and peaceful life. Instead, we need to decide we are going to make forgiveness a lifestyle. We must decide to live in forgiveness as a minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day choice of your will. Whenever we choose to let forgiveness be one of our daily disciplines, we can live with the keys to surviving and thriving in a world filled with other hurting people and previously painful expectations.