"O Spirit of Love, enlarge our sympathies toward all troubled folk. Let us be generous of heart, that we might forgive and be forgiven.”
—Rev. Richard S. Gilbert
For the longest time, I believed that folks who had harmed me, folks who I held a grudge against, had really intended to ruin my life. It felt plain as day to me. Those folks had actively sought to do me harm. They knew exactly what they were doing, they were cold and calculating, they had bad motives, or were on some kind of power trip.
It was hard for me to understand that perhaps these folks had been hurt, too. Perhaps something had happened in their life that left them trouble that was actually deserving of sympathy rather than my anger and resentment.
I am in 12-Step recovery and am so grateful for the process of making amends and offering forgiveness that I've learned through this program. In the process of recovery, we take an honest look at the resentments we hold, the fears that run our lives, and also the harms we have caused in relationships. Taking an honest look at all of these is freeing. It has provided me with perspective, forgiveness, and freedom from the shame I've experienced.
After sifting through these resentments, fears, and harms in Step 4 and sharing them with another person in Step 5, we humbly ask a higher power of our understanding to remove the defects of character in play in each situation, and then move into the process of owning harm and making amends in Steps 8 and 9.
In this process, my heart opened up to a new kind of generosity. I learned to see myself as a human being, capable of harming others alongside those who I thought were out to get me. I was also able to offer forgiveness to people I truly thought I’d never be able to forgive.
When I was thinking about all of the harm “they” intended to do to me, it was hard to see the ways I too had harmed others. Because I had. My actions had also harmed others. How could I avoid hurting others when I was so hurt myself?
May our hearts become large enough to recognize our own shortcomings in the ways we have treated others. May our hearts become large enough to extend sympathy to those who have hurt us. May our hearts become large enough to hold the complexity of the human spirit.