Step 9 is all about making amends (forgiveness), but before we can make amends (forgive)in a meaningful way, we have to work our way through steps 6,7 and 8. It is rarely appropriate to do something or take a stand without doing our necessary preparatory work. We not only have to become willing to work on ourselves and our own character defects (the log in our own eye), but once recognized, we need to prepare ourselves to change. Step 7 tells us to ask God to remove all our defects of character. The word all is important as that gives God permission to work on our defects, recognized and unrecognized, as needed. Then, only after we have become willing and have asked God for help are we to make a list of people we have hurt or behavior patterns that need to change.
Jim Wallis writes: “While reform thyself should be the starting point for any calls for public (and private) reform, it is often passed over completely. How can we ever act upon the truth to change our public life when we deny or ignore the same truth in ourselves or don’t even see it? Humility is always a prerequisite for truth-telling. Otherwise, we become blind to the meaning of the truth we claim to be for.”
“My friend Richard Rohr describes the plank in your eye as embracing your shadow. And he shows how much of our lives are lived in the shadow (of denial). Indeed, the shadow becomes the working and living space for too many of our political leaders, but also for some church leaders and, of course, in our own lives, because it is harder to see and recognize the truth in the shadows.”
Steps 6,7,8 and 9 are all about taking the plank out of our own eyes. While none of us will deny that there is great evil in the world, we may not agree on what that evil is. Thus it becomes even more important that we work on that log or plank in our own eyes before we criticize or judge anyone else.
Just writing this blog reminds me that I carry great anger at the Alt-Right, Trump, and his many followers. Each time I try to watch Fox News or talk to someone who is a Trump supporter, my anger gets in the way of my active listening. Is their fear and anger toward minorities and “socialists” any different than my anger at them? Or my willingness to write them off as hypocrites and less than?
A number of years ago, we made a banner for our church that pictured three crosses and all sorts of things representing our materialistic society. The caption read: “No one said it would be easy.”
Precisely because self-awareness and humility are so difficult, it behooves us to find a church, 12-step meeting, or group that is willing to be honest and help us grow. That is why I keep going to 12-step meetings and attend our little church. I absolutely need others to help me become a better person.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can (beginning with myself), and the wisdom to know the difference.