“In the place where repentant sinners stand, even the completely righteous cannot stand.”   – The Talmud, Berachot 34b

I was captivated by the profoundness of that quote. We know what a difficult journey our lives have been, but when we do recover, G-d, or our Higher Power, forgives us.

Why then shouldn’t we forgive ourselves?

When I first entered SAA, my shame and guilt were so overwhelming I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. The weight of the past was heavy on my heart, I had hurt and damaged the people I loved the most, including myself. I had gone against everything I believed in, morally and ethically, as I was taught as a child. My acting out had reached dangerous levels and the urges, compulsions, and memories were eating away at me.

The Promises say that “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it”, but I was full of regret and couldn’t bring myself to face my past. All I wanted to do was to shut the door on it, after all, what would be regurgitating my past achieve? Why go there, I’m in recovery now and there’s nothing I can do about the past.

Then, at one SAA meeting I decided to share about the agony I was going through. I had been beating myself up so bad I hadn’t slept for days and I was losing weight because I wasn’t eating either. Not until a fellow SAA member came up to me after the meeting did I have a breakthrough. He said, “you have to forgive yourself; a life lived without forgiveness is a life of pain.” Everything I was hearing at the meetings about living in the present suddenly made sense; I was still living in the past!

It was a G-D SHOT. By acknowledging that I am not perfect and that the wounds inside me needed healing, I was able to see that who I had become (a sex addict) wasn’t who I truly am. The baggage of my past needed to be confronted and dealt with, and forgiveness was the key. I needed a Sponsor and I needed to start my Step work to face that baggage in a structured, healthy manner. I also had to deal with real feelings of anger and betrayal for all I had done. This was going to be a long process of change and making amends but I had to forgive myself if I was going to move forward. So I did just that, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I forgive you”. I cried and reached out to my brothers and sisters in the program. They comforted me and reassured me that my life would get better.

It has gotten better. The Promises have come true by working the Steps and forgiving myself and today I have found who I truly am, a person of honor, integrity, and trustworthiness.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Anonymous

11 thoughts on “Forgiveness

  1. I need to memorize this quote – put the quote on my mirror and on the steering wheel of my car. It’s an awesome quote. I need to remind myself constantly. Today has been an extremely tough one as far as self-forgiveness. I was reminded of my past partly by a conversation I had on a phone conversation with my wife this morning. I’ve felt like total shit since then. I’ve been trying to work preparing for the week, and it’s been hell. It’s especially hard since I was reminded that in all probability, some of my daughter’s problems are related to the trauma she suffered growing up with a periodically absent father, and three times separated parents. Who knows how much is attributable to that but, of course – more than enough to make me feel like a complete and total scum bag. Not a good feeling. I wish I could make it to an actual meeting tonight but not possible. So……this is as good as it gets. And man did I need this. No, forgiveness won’t change the past but I can only hope and pray that it will enlarge my future because I sure need – especially right now – to believe that it will. The present and hopefully the future is all I’ve got. I need to read this post every single day from now until eternity. I mean it. And especially today – God – please give me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the courage to change what I can. Change dammit – change – and the promises that I hear several times a week. That’s my hope.

    • Emil hang in there man. Put the bat down, it does absolutely no good. I am giving you this advice because it is the exact advice that I need to take for myself. 🙂

  2. This is a great topic and excellent shares. I, as an addict, am quick to forgive myself and never wanted to reflect on the damage, the strife and suffering I had caused, not only in my life but all the other lives I had touched. It still is difficult to not shut the door on the past. But I know I do need to acknowledge the past, truly forgive myself knowing that if there were a GOD he or she would forgive me. At the same time I need to do some forgiving too. Yesterday, we had a theft at our place and lost some valuables and electronics. My 1st instinct was anger at my wife, for being very careless. Then I realized I need to take responsibility too. There was a lot of anger towards the thief who had done this, invading our personal space and causing distress to me and my family. But I somehow was able to find the courage to say a quick prayer and forgive. I did my part by taking the proper actions. Calling the police, opening a bank locker and everything else I needed to do. I leave the rest up to GOD. This is a brand new way of living for me and it is refreshing. When I know I am not in CONTROL and GOD is, I just need to do my part and GOD will take care of the rest. I, just a month ago, was incapable of forgiving myself or others and it’s amazing how I am able to let go and let GOD do what I can’t do on my own. Thank you GOD and thank you SAA and thanks to my sponsor and other members.

  3. Still working on this one. I do remember that I was happy most of the time when I was very young. Verbal & emotional abuse shut me down when I was about 13, I think. Since then, it has been extremely difficult do maintanin enough of a self-image just to function around other people since then. It takes a monumental effort not to isolate myself all the time and it’s getting harder all the time. I have rare glimpses of a happy existence so I know it’s possible. I want to let the people in who want to help me, but it has been difficult so far. God, please, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Thanks for reading my thoughts and please say a prayer for my recovery and I will pray for yours.

    • Yes…
      Forgiveness of myself is the hardest thing to wrap myself around. How…it seems overwhelming. But I know that continued self – rage and punishing myself will serve nothing. Accept the things I cannot change and change the things I can. That’s it. I can only change the present, and hopefully the future by changing my present. I think about the promises…and decide to forgive myself because I know that is the only way to have a present or a future. I know that nothing I can do can compesate for the pain I’ve caused, but at least it may in some measure, allow me to have some measure of redemption. I pray for the day when I can see some real good that I’ve done. To be able to see what I have changed and to inspire others with that change. And finally, to be able for those I’ve hurt the most to see the change…to see that its for real. Then maybe, I’ll be able to truly forgive myself.

  4. I really needed this topic today, and I am very grateful for it. I’m not sure who I can’t forgive….my father for selling me to other men starting when I was 11, my mother for looking the other way, myself…as though somehow it all happened because I am me…with all the miserable acting out that began when I was 14. I guess deep down I have been unable to forgive myself for the heartbreak that ensued, including having to send my children to live with their father when they were in their teens. It breaks my heart still. They were so hurt by my compulsions. I do believe that God forgives me. I know that there are people who love me…yet I have been unable to get past my grief and shame and forgive myself. Right now it feels like it will take a miracle. Yet God is known to send miracles…like my therapist, my sponsor, my friends, my fellowship, the slight hints at a relationship with me kids….I am working my fourth step diligently, and I can only pray that God will help me to forgive myself.
    Thank you for listening.

  5. I have had a hard time in recovery forgiving myself. But if God forgives me, then isn’t it a bit presumptious of me to not forgive myself? Slowly, over time, I have begun to forgive myself. Like so many other aspects of recovery, self-forgiveness has been a process for me, not a sudden event. I have a lot more forgiveness for myself now than I did three years, two years ago, or even six months ago. As time marches on, and I stack up esteemable acts in the places where I used to store shameful ones, I begin to like myself more. I can see that I am becoming the person I thought I could be- the same person I not so long ago had given up on ever becoming. It turns out, I was this person all along…I was just making mistakes before. That only proves that I’m human, not that I’m bad. The fact that I am adressing the causes and consequences of those mistakes makes me a human with some character. So it turns out, I do not have to forgive me for who I am…I only have to forgive me for things I have done. That I can do.

  6. This is one of the toughest ones for me. I hold onto resentments as if my life depended on it. I’m not sure why. I realize intellectually that they only result in pain. Why is it so hard to practice forgiveness?

  7. This brilliant post touches on one of my biggest issues. Over time, I have opened the fence and ushered out all of my grudges, sending them to wander wherever grudges go when you stop tending them. I assume they’ve died from lack of nourishment, and they’re certainly not missed. Similarly, as I began both recovery and therapy, I found there were some wrongs done to me. I believe I’ve truly forgiven them. And of course I sought forgiveness from a lot of people I’d injured, all of whom were quite generous with their mercy.

    So I received forgiveness from everyone from whom I sought it, and granted it to all who needed it. Except for me. I can’t seem to get there. I don’t know if my self-loathing is so deep, or if there is some other explanation. I fully believe that my Higher Power forgives all who are truly repentant. And I believe I have truly repented for the mistakes I’ve made. Academically, I know that if all those whom I’ve offended have forgiven me, I should be able to do so as well. But I’m having trouble internalizing this concept.

    I don’t know what the answer is. But I am blessed with another day of sobriety to work on it.

  8. I was reading a section of “A Course in Miracles”, and it showed me some things that I have wrestled with for a longtime on forgiveness. For a long time after discovering that I was a long time sex addict, and that I had hurt so many people – partners, children, friends, even business contacts – that I fell into deep depression. How could I have done all the horrible things that to all these people that I thought I loved? How could I have done that to myself? The shame was immense and my belief was that I was no longer a worthwhile person – if I’d ever been one in the first place.

    The Course went on to say that no person creates him or herself – God created us as perfect reflections of himself. We are put here to learn who we are, and sometimes it takes hard lessons to learn who we were created to be. We judge ourselves, but God does not. With sex addiction, it’s a very hard lesson – but if we can accept that we were placed in a position to LEARN who we really are underneath the web of false beliefs, lies and costuming to others we learned somewhere in our past, then we are recognizing that we are “waking up” to the glorious spirit inside every living thing in God’s creation. Since realizing that spiritual life is available to all of us, and in fact, is who we REALLY are, I have begun to forgive myself. The steps led me to spirituality, and God takes over from there.

  9. life is full of changes. to me right now is important to make amends were I can. the damage of my past is fare and wide. where should I start! here I am starting by say forgive me form the thing I can not see and the knowledge to be able to see it and change it.

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