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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Forgiveness and Making Amends 101

I found the following passage in Richard Carlson's "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and its all small stuff," a pithy little book of practical spiritual wisdom. Dealing with reaching out and making amends for so-called "normal people," the topic is doubly applicable to the alcoholic addict for whom addressing resentments effectively and making amends are spiritual imperatives upon which the whole of recovery hinges.

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Be the First One to Act Loving or Reach Out

So many of us hold on to little resentments that may have stemmed from an argument, a misunderstanding, the way we were raised, or some other painful event. Stubbornly, we wait for someone else to reach out to us - believing this is the only way we can forgive or rekindle a friendship or family relationship.

An acquaintance of mine, whose health isn't very good, recently told me that she hasn't spoken to her son in almost three years. "Why not?" I asked. She said that she and her son had had a disagreement about his wife and that she wouldn't speak to him unless he called first. When I suggested she be the first one to reach out, she resisted initially and said, "I can't do that. He's the one who should apologize." She was literally willing to die before reaching out to her only son. After a little gentle encouragement, however, she did decide to be the first one to reach out. To her amazement, her son was grateful for her willingness to call and offered an apology of his own. As is usually the case when someone takes the chance and reaches out, everyone wins.

Whenever we hold on to our anger, we turn "small stuff" into really "big stuff" in our minds. We start to believe that our positions are more important than our happiness. They are not. If you want to be a more peaceful person you must understnad that being right is almost never more important than allowing yourself to be happy. The way to be happy is to let go, and reach out. Let other people be right. This doesn't mean that you're wrong. Everything will be fine. You'll experience the peace of letting go, as well as the joy of letting others be right. You'll also notice that, as you reach out and let others be "right," they will become less defensive and more loving toward you. They might even reach back. But, if for some reason they don't, that's okay too. You'll have the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your part to create a more loving world, and certainly you'll be more peaceful yourself.

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The passage above illustrates some truisms: (a) that most of us have a compelling, yet unexamined, need to be right, (b) that some people would rather die than reach out and make amends, (c) that reaching out to make amends most usually heals distorted relationships, and (d) that, even if it doesn't, making amends wherever possible will nevertheless give peace of mind to the person who reaches out and makes the effort.

"The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others," we read in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous. "Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough."

Forgiving others for harm done, and then reaching out lovingly to make amends for where we have been at fault are first but necessary steps in cleaning up after such "tornado damage." A lifetime of work may remain to fully rebuild some shattered relationships, but "clearing away the wreckage of our past" is a necessity if we are ever to begin reconstruction.

1 comment:

  1. ...i feel lucky and grateful to have found your blog Bhuddini..thank you for taking the time and effort to help us...