“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”
A key element in sobriety is forgiveness. Bill W. comments that until I have completed a 4th step inventory and then gone on to a place of showing and accepting mercy, aka forgiveness, I will not understand or achieve sober-living.
The power in this act is that it is a mutual undertaking, it’s a two-way street. I ask my Higher Power to forgive me, I ask those whom I have offended to forgive me through amends-making, but I also must forgive those who have injured me in any way by word or deed.
This is a facet of the powerlessness necessary to overcome self. When I am able to accept the forgiveness of God and of other people, I am giving up that sense of pride which has been telling me that I’m better than mercy, I’m going to accept forgiveness on my terms. “Self-will run riot” is quick to return to me unless I am vigilant. God uses me best when I am fully powerless, when I am humble. Humility is defined in the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”, pg 58, as “….a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.” Step 5’s admission of my defects to another human is a step toward humility.
“Withholding forgiveness is a form of power over another person, a way to manipulate, shame, control, and diminish another.” cac.org
That’s a convicting indictment of my unwillingness to forgive. My Higher Power does not play that game and neither should I. In retrospect, owning up to the control freak that I can be, I should not be surprised that accepting forgiveness from God or from others has been difficult. I did not want to become powerless. Grudges are a result of this unforgiveness. Grudges justify my resentments, my need to be right, and my anger. And, yes, I have held grudges, resentment, and anger toward God. It’s part of my alcoholic personality. It’s part of that old personality which refuses to accept responsibility for myself and my actions.
“But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of harboring resentment is infinitely grave. Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT , pg.5
Forgiveness is the gift of mercy in action. I desire mercy but, I also need to extend it. In the Beatitudes, the message of Jesus compacted into the book of Matthew 5: 3-11, the author says:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”