Download (direct link):
Affirm, “I am compassionate toward myself,” “I did the best I could at the time of my regret,” “I am sympathetic and loving toward myself,” and “I am proud of what I am becoming.”
Use your confidant to explore your past, to help you see that you did the best you could under the circumstances, and that you are deserving of compassion.
On some days, you may feel more compassionate toward yourself than on others. But you should strive, over time, to build a strong and generous compassion for yourself, one that recognizes, appreciates, and even honors the difficulties, struggles, and defects of character that led you to the actions you now regret. In being compassionate, what you are attempting to do is to understand your inappropriate behavior in the context of your life and circumstances at the time of your regrets.
You are not now who you were then. The past belongs to the past. What happened cannot be changed, but you can be changed. You have changed. You are changing even now through these steps of letting go. It is time to look back on the past as an earlier period in your life in which you struggled with problems that were sometimes beyond your ability to manage well. It’s time to close that chapter of your life and move on.
You did the best you could. You could have done worse. You didn’t. For that, you can be grateful, giving yourself some credit for what you did right and what you did well in a difficult period of your life.
Take a deep breath. Breathe in compassion and sympathy for who you were. Breathe out blame and condemnation. Take another deep breath. Breathe in acceptance and gratitude. Breathe out resentments and disapproval. Take a third deep breath. Breathe in love for who you are now. Breathe out anger at who you were not then.
Now, if it is possible, go for a walk outside. Observe the flowers and the trees. Notice how each tree is different, even trees of the same species. Notice how each has been shaped by different forces, how some have been scarred, some are bent, and some have holes in their canopies from lost limbs. Observe how each tree, despite its defects, provides shade and adds beauty to the street. Then see how perfect each tree is, in its own way, even in its imperfections. You are like the trees, shaped by many different forces, scarred in some ways, but still beautiful to behold, even in your imperfections.
With the greater compassion developed from working Step Seven, you will turn your attention to Step Eight and the process of forgiving those who have hurt you in the regrets of your life. Step Eight is the door to freedom from regret. In Step Nine, you will forgive yourself and walk through that door.
Step Eight: Forgiving Others
With the completion of step seven, you have reached the door to freedom from regret. You have only to open it and walk through.
The door to freedom has a brass plaque engraved with a single word: “Forgiveness.”
In Step Eight, you will open the door by forgiving those who have hurt you.
In Step Nine, you will walk through it to freedom by forgiving yourself.
Forgiving those who have harmed you is the objective of this step. It is mandatory if you want to let go of your regrets. Nonforgiveness is the last chain that binds you to your regrets, to the past, and to the pain.
The Meaning of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is an often misunderstood word. Enduring myths about forgiveness have distorted its meaning in many people’s minds, creating stumbling blocks that keep them in their unforgiveness. Forgiving is the process through which we come to terms with our regrets intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually so that they no longer have power over us. In forgiving, we let go of our resentments and our blame, our guilt and our shame, our anger and our sadness. We neutralize the power of
what has happened in the past so that it no longer interferes with the present.
Forgiveness is not an event or a by-product of something else but a deliberate choice. It is not a casual act or an offhand statement made without forethought but the result of an intellectual and spiritual decision that we support with our feelings.
Forgiveness is not something that we can be coerced into giving. It must be given freely, or it is not forgiveness at all. It is an act of generosity that, like all such acts, is a greater gift to us than to the recipient. It is not for others that we forgive. It is for ourselves. We are our primary concern in forgiving, although it is commonly thought to be the other party. The forgiveness we grant to others may have little or no effect on them, but it doesn’t matter. It will have a powerful effect on us.
Forgiveness is a paradox that, like other paradoxes, does not seem to make sense. Why should forgiving others help us when it is the other person who is being forgiven? Why should we forgive when there is no apology or amend from the offending party? How can we forgive acts that are “unforgivable”? The answer to these and similar questions is the same: We do it because it is what we must do to be free ourselves—free of the anger, the pain, the person, or the events that have harmed us. We do it to free ourselves from their power to hurt us still. That is the primary reason we forgive.