Notes from the Forgiveness Workshop offered in Sarasota at the 2012 SIS Conference for women.
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FORGIVENESS and the TWELVE STEPS
Close your eyes. Picture someone you want or need to forgive. Once you've got that face in mind, shout out how you feel.
Hurt? Used? Abandoned? Angry?
These are some of the feelings that people at the SIS Conference connected with.
Do you like feeling that way? If not, can you see that forgiveness is for YOU. It's intensely practical for the recovering person.
What is forgiveness?
The decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.
Better yet, what is forgiveness NOT?
- It is not denial of the person's responsibility;
- It is not minimizing or justifying the wrong done;
- It is not approval or excuse;
- It is not reconciliation. Sometimes it can be, but it's not a given. In fact, some true forgiveness means the loss of a relationship, as when forgiving an abuser;
- It is not a feeling. Forgiveness is an act of the will. You may never feel it.
Are there physical benefits?
According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiveness lowers blood pressure, lessens the symptoms of depression, and lowers the risk of alcohol or substance abuse.
Emotional and spiritual benefits go even further. They'll be revealed as the workshop continues.
It's difficult to move on after being wounded. We finally begin to heal and develop a scab, and someone comes along and picks it. And we begin again.
DO NOT LET YOUR DISEASE DEFINE YOUR LIFE BY HOW YOU'VE BEEN HURT!
The 12 Steps are all about WE. But for this run, let's look at the microcosm of YOU. We are aiming to find the ability to forgive, and sometimes, we have to look at our individual histories to get there.
Step One: You see you are powerless - and that your life has become unmanageable.
Step Two: You come to believe that a Power Greater than Self can restore you to sanity.
Step Three: You make a decision to take the rest of the twelve steps - thereby turning your will and your life over to the care of your loving Creator . . . even if you aren't on speaking terms with this Source yet.
Now, it gets interesting for those trying to forgive.
Step Four: You make a searching and fearless moral inventory, and the reason you can be fearless is because you know that instincts are driving your train. Which one are you trying to get met? Sex? Security - either financial or emotional? Society?
These basic needs are knit into the DNA of mankind, and everyone has them. They drive us and dominate us when left unchecked. Check them now. Are you holding onto a grudge because someone got in the way of your satisfaction of these instinctive needs? 'Fess up NOW, on paper. We want tangible evidence you want to get better.
Step Five: You admit to God and to another person the nature of these wrongs. This is not a grocery list, for goodness sake. When you listed the wrongs on paper, seeing them should tell you how low you will limbo to get your needs met. Will you steal to gain financial security? Will you cheat to get ahead at work? Will you profess love in order to have an orgasm? How low are you personally willing to limbo? Tell someone the Truth about your record. What have you done to make sure you got yours?
Step Six: You become willing. That's it. God does the heavy lifting in this step. Your job is to become willing to let HP remove the stuff that's blocking your from the sunlight of Spirit.
Step Seven: You are so darn aware of these faults now, that when you fall into them from time to time, they make you feel bad. This is how you get humble enough to ask for them to be removed.
That gets us to Step Eight, which is the beginning of our work on relationships, and therefore, the intensive spot for those to focus if unable to forgive.
"The Holy Spirit does not seek to use memory as a means to keep the past, but rather a way to let it go. The miracle comes quietly into the mind that stops and instant and is still. In an instant's stillness, the memory of God returns."
- A Course in Miracles
Step Eight asks us to find out more about ourselves by uncovering the patterns that are responsible for our troubled relationships. These patterns are like default settings in our emotional response system. Some that you may identify with are: quitting, competing, depending upon, entitlement, controlling.
Two specific patterns are obstacles to being able to forgive. They display in actual stances. One is the Victim, and the other is the Survivor. If you have one of these default settings, or patterns, operating in your life, it will be very difficult to come to forgiveness. Let's look at why that is.
To be a victim, there has to be a perpetrator. The victim ONLY exisits INSIDE a relationship. If there's no one around to "do you wrong", you cannot be victimized. The Victim's war cry is, "I can't do it without you!" The translation is: I'm your responsibility.
To be a survivor, there has to be a hardship to overcome - usually ALONE. Survivors ONLY exist OUTSIDE of relationships. The Survivor's war cry is, "I don't need you!" Roughly translated, it is: And I didn't ask for your help.
Are you suffering from one of these patterns? Let's take a look.
|*Confuses wants with needs
||*Needs & wants are nobody else's business
|*Demands immediate help - can't tolerate waiting
||*Doesn't have to wait; didn't ask for help
|*Can't arrive at God-consciousness alone
||*Arrives at God-consciousness when looking in the mirror
|*Shoots for highest good, but settles for whatever is available without personal work
||*Decides how to attain highest good, and then strategically engineers its arrival on scene
|*"You do it for me!"
||*"I've got this covered!"
Both have relationship issues . . . just at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The key to their spiritual freedom (so they can finally forgive) lies in the thing they fear the most . . . RELATIONSHIP.
Lies that Keep Us Away from Relationship with Higher Power & Forgiveness
- "You have to be holy to hang out with God."
- "Relationship with God is hard work!"
- "God is busy, and wouldn't know me if I called."
- "Have you seen the judgmental people working in the name of God? I don't need that!"
- "I don't need God. (I've got these flying monkeys to do my bidding.)"
- "I don't know if I even believe in God."
These statements are riddled with FEAR. Relationship with the Higher Power is all about LOVE. Follow these simple suggestions:
- No one can keep you in your current state but you.
- Seek REAL power - not the man-made kind you've been settling for.
- Take responsibility for your relationship with Higher Power.
- Stop blaming people, places and things for your own error. Truth will set you free, but you have to TAKE ACTION.
- Open yourself up to ONE person and learn how to trust.
- Let go, and let God. Self-sufficiency is a false god. It was an important tool when you were younger, and it may have even saved your life . . . but now, the tool has morphed into a weapon and is inflicting pain.
- Develop a relationship with Source. This will take time and an open mind. If you feel resistance to this, lean on the experience of others who have tried it and found it works. Give God an inch and God will bless you a mile.
- Stop assuming you know the Truth. Lack of trust comes from FEAR, not LOVE. Don't worry. You'll recognize YOUR TRUTH when you hear it.
Read Freedom from Bondage, a personal story in the back of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (lovingly called the Big Book). Now, say the prayer with meaning.
For example: if you are praying for an ex-spouse, don't just pray that they have happiness, joy, and abundance. Ask for the very things you want.
God, give my ex a co-parent who steps up and takes responsiblity for the kids.
God, give my ex a co-parent who does the right thing with the money.
God, give my ex the honor of respect for the things he did right, instead of the constant replay of the things done wrong.
Do you get it? Who am I praying for now? MYSELF! Yes, the only person I can ever change! That's why and how it works.
In closing, forgiveness feels better than holding resentment. It's a God-quality, so it moves you toward spiritual progress, and away from obsessive thought and behaviors. Peace comes through connection. Resentment brings only separation. Forgiveness frees you up to love others.
From g.o.d. (group of drunks) speaks, volume one: "I've been allowing someone to make less of my life than I deserve." Is it you? If so, move to forgive. It is an act of you will.