When Unforgiveness Holds You Prisoner


When I started writing on how God brought me to examine the role of forgiveness in my own life, I didn't realize I was starting what could easily be a book.  There is so much that I am exploring and God is showing me so much, connecting dots, loving me, guiding me through a fairly painful process.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the long list of names I had written in my journal.  The names of all those who had hurt me in one way or another.  The grudges I held silently within, all the while denying their existence.

I certainly hold on to hurts.  I have vivid images in my head of times when I was teased, belittled, mocked, abused and used by others.  I have a perpetual "victim" that survives in my head.  I was proud I had survived all those onslaughts, but somehow, I turned them into - well - almost badges of honor.  

I was quick to recite the way people had hurt me.  Many of my "remember when" memories had to do with the times others had hurt me.  I'd think I had forgiven - but I certainly never stopped thinking or talking about those times.

Over and over I would rehearse them - little realizing I was being just as abusive to myself by rehashing and reliving those old hurts.

So, what to do?

I turned to an old friend.

The 12 Steps.

(And here I ask that you put aside whatever thoughts might be in  your head, if you are thinking, well … I’m not an alcoholic, this doesn’t apply to me, I ask you to keep reading as there is application for most everyone in the steps.)

Some of you will know that those steps were created by alcoholics for alcoholics to recover spiritually from their disease.  The alcohol? Only a symptom of a greater illness - life without God.

I like that.  Recover spiritually. Many poo-poo the way the steps have been watered down - but their original intent was to point addicts to God - the true God.  I've not enough time here to go into the in's and outs of it all - but it didn't take me long to realize, as one married to an abusive alcoholic, and then raising children with addiction problems, that the 12 Steps were key for me.

You may or may not know much about the steps.  I value them so highly that my never-published manuscript about living life as a Christian  when life becomes unmanageable (fr me, the death of my daughter) is based on those steps.  They apply to most everyone who is spiritually sick in one way or another, with that sickness manifesting itself as addiction, or the need to control, or being the perpetual victim, and well ... Most anything that masquerades as God in our lives.

I knew, as I stared at my list, that I needed Step Four - a personal and fearless moral inventory.  A framework to help me know what to do with this list of names, hurts, and abuses.  And I knew where to find it.

But, before I go there, I want to quickly list the first three steps that I had had to take to get to this next step.

Step One - slightly revised from the A.A. Version

We admitted we were powerless over people, places and things - that our lives had become unmanageable.

I substitute the words “people, places, and things" in the place of alcohol.  For some it might be drugs.  For others, food - for some sex, others perhaps spending money or other obsessions.  For some, it was just an intense search for love and happiness.  Whatever it might be - nothing changes until we recognize our powerlessness over others.  The only person we can ever hope to change is ourselves and only through God’s power.  And if we harbor unforgiveness?  Well, the only person we are hurting is ourselves and our relationship with God.

Step Two

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

For me that Power is the triune God.  God, the Father, and His son, Yeshua Adoni - Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Without God in my life, there is no hope.  There is no where else for me to go but to Him.  That much I know.

Step Three

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

I used to think that this meant becoming a Christian.  Now, for me, it's different.  It's giving my whole life over to Him.  It's surrender ... It's abandon ... And I find myself here over and over at continuingly deeper levels.

And then ... Step Four

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

And that is where I am.  I'm in the uncovering place.  Uncovering the ugliness that continues to dwell in me.  The ugliness, the darkness that needs the light to dissipate it.

And ... once again, I need to continue this into tomorrow, where I will present the fourth step itself, and how I am using it.  I felt it was unfair NOT to give you this background information - and I hope and pray that, if you in any way need to deal with forgiveness in your life ... Of others or of yourself, that you'll be here for the next post.

Father God, for those of us who harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, help us to learn to forgive freely, just as we have been freely forgiven.  Amen and amen.

 © deni weber 2010-2015