The holidays are usually joyful and blessed times, but in every family, there can be intense tension from negative history, hurt and pain that never healed and even outright cruelty and rejection. What is the mechanism that makes forgiveness possible? It is love and putting the other person before ourselves. Selfishness and self-centeredness breed pettiness, anger and cruelty.
I have had to forgive many people in my life including family members and other people in my life. I definitely hurt a lot of people though my 28 years of addiction. It was my fault, and I am sorry for my sins. I was able to make amends to most of them. Some of them forgave me and some did not. Some of them pretended that they forgave me, but never did. All we can do is to extend our hand of friendship, love and forgiveness and if they reject us, then we move on to repairing other relationships. We do not chase after people who hoard their own resentments and anger to fuel their spirits. These negative and hateful people are toxic to us, and we should forgive them and move on.
I have been sober by the Grace of God for 18 years, and there are still relationships that remain damaged, because people refuse to drop the stick of judgement, resentment, fear and hate. Of course, resentment eats its own container, like a powerful acid burning through our stomach. None of it is good for us, and all of it leads to our own destruction. For addicts, we cannot afford to harbor hate, resentment and anger because ultimately they will destroy us, and lead us down the path to relapse. Relapse is death for us. Therefore, all of this is important life and death stuff, and we must respect it and take intelligent and sacrificial action. Many addicts and even some non-addicts feed off of anger and resentment like it is a life-giving elixir. Sometimes we hang onto our anger and our resentment like it is our baby, our child and we cling to it for dear life! Some people feel like they will become like the hole in the doughnut, if they give up and release their anger and resentment. They are prisoners.
In my life, I was like that. I used my intense anger, rage and resentments to drive my insanity, my hate and my addiction. I also used it to manipulate people. I did not want to give it up because hate, anger and resentment made me feel powerful. However, this acid destroyed my world and it came close to taking my life five times.
I believe that God was just waiting for me to humble myself, surrender and ask Him for help. Getting help from God is as easy as a simple prayer, and at the end of my addictive journey, my prayer was: “Jesus Please Help Me!” Two days later, I went from the streets of Denver, Colorado to Minnesota at Hazelden Foundation for chemical dependency treatment. My second surrender came when they strongly recommended that I complete nine months of treatment because my condition was so bad.
I said, “Yes, I am willing to do whatever it takes to be free of drugs and alcohol. I never want to go back to that living hell.” So I had to humble myself and make many sacrifices to get well and I had to trust God with my life! If I had chosen not to go to treatment and to surrender my life to Jesus, I would have died the ugly, lonely, painful death of an addict alone on the street. I would never have the life that God has given to me today.
God always had a plan for my life. When I got sober I began to help other addicts and I found that I have a passion and a talent for touching people’s hearts. After I was sober for 15 years, I wrote and published a book entitled, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace–Dungeon To Sky“. This book is an intense story of my addiction and recovery. I shared absolutely everything that I experienced over 28 years of addiction, including my one year of homelessness in Denver, Colorado. I experienced jails, hospitals, living outside, violence, terror, fear and a bone-aching loneliness as I approached certain death.
I described what it is like to be both an untreated addict and a manic depressive at the same time which made recovery near impossible. I ended up going to 13 treatment centers over 28 years. I was reckless, and filled with rage and emotional pain. I became a wild raving lunatic panhandling for money and shoplifting whenever I could. I was no stranger to county jails and detox units. I was the poster child for self-destruction. My final treatment center, Hazelden, finally coordinated treatment for both my manic depression and my addiction. This was the key that was missing all of those years, treatment for both conditions.
What would we rather have, a relationship that is wounded and fragmented and burning with resentment, or a relationship that is healed and repaired and glowing with love and forgiveness.
There are actions and choices and sacrifices that must be made to bring a relationship out of the smoldering ashes of the past, and into the promise of a loving future. The ugly head of selfishness and self-centeredness may continue to come to the surface and try to sabotage your loving efforts. It is a battle that you must win through love, sacrifice, patience and courage.
So what if I have to humble myself and admit my wrong-doing, my sins and how I hurt the other person. We must take the lead and be the better person. We must swallow our deadly pride and become more like a servant, just as Jesus humbled himself and became our servant here on Earth. Jesus is the ultimate good example and He led the way for us. The reward for us is that we can often create a new relationship that is free of all poison and which is based on love and respect. All of this takes time, but sometimes one honest, heart-felt conversation can turn the tide and turn a new page.
We cannot wait for the other person to make the first move. We need to be the leader who is willing to sacrifice his or her own pride and become emotionally real and vulnerable. We talk about our “side of the street” and focus on our shortcomings. We do not criticize or judge the other person because that will only lead to conflict and additional resentment or even an explosive encounter. We focus on our fears, our resentments, our disappointments, our insecurities and our faults. In the process of making ourselves vulnerable, we allow the other person to become emotionally real and forgiving, and then progress can be made. Repeat: We do not criticize or attack the other person, because we are coming from a perspective love, not selfishness and hate.
If our desire is to repair the relationship and to enjoy a new freedom and a new happiness with this person, then we have to give something up, we must make sacrifices. Do we love the person enough to put them first and ourselves second? Do we have the courage, strength and wisdom to become a servant? Remember this: the devil wants there to be hate, resentment and anger in the relationship, because that is the river that he controls. He will always fight against love and reconciliation. He is the destroyer, and sometimes he is at play in some of our relationships.
But there is a simple and easy solution to that– pray to Jesus every day and just ask for His help! In fact, make sure to pray a lot before having a relationship encounter and then leave the results up to Jesus.
It is always worth it to humble ourselves, put our pride to the side, and heal the relationship with sacrificial love. Of course, God is the great healer, but remember that we are his messengers!
Never give up on a person, but there might be times and certain relationships where you just need to back away for a time, and just focus intently on your own life, your own goals, and your own family and let there be peace.
”I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Peace, Love and Blessings to you!