Forgiving the Past, Freeing Ourselves
A RECENT magazine article linked two subjects that to me ordinarily seem unrelated -- forgiveness and addiction. ``Emotional illness can be said to be caused by the inability to forgive,'' the author said. ``It isn't the trauma that causes the illness; it's the repression of the trauma, the refusal to talk to anyone about it. We keep the pain inside and don't ever look at it -- and if we can't even look at our pain we cannot forgive the ones who hurt us.''1 At first the analysis seemed interesting, though not necessarily connected to spiritual healing, which is my particular interest. But then I read the following, written by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science: ``Evil which obtains in the bodily senses, but which the heart condemns, has no foundation; but if evil is uncondemned, it is undenied and nurtured. Under such circumstances, to say that there is no evil, is an evil in itself. When needed tell the truth concerning the lie. Evasion of Truth cripples integrity, and casts thee down from the pinnacle.''2
As I thought more about it, the relationship between spiritual healing, prayer, and the honesty needed to confront ills of the past, began to make sense.
With certain addictions, and with certain kinds of abuse, there is sometimes an unwillingness to admit, even to oneself, that someone is being held in bondage. One way to bring this recognition to consciousness, so it can be dealt with, is through spiritualizing thought. The specific treatment of prayer identifies man as actually the likeness of God, good. This has an effect of releasing the individual to discover his God-derived ability to confront the evil that has kept him captive.
Addiction, abuse, fear, self-depreciation, resist exposure for what they are -- blatant evil. By recognizing that harboring such confusion extends and condones its influence, a Christian often is able to summon the moral courage necessary to confront the past and claim his spiritual right to be free of its effects.
Whatever is destructive, Christ Jesus taught, has no real authority, no cause, because it is not of God. Seen in this light, the error of abusive behavior may begin to drop its masquerade as love. In the face of truth-telling it loses any power to manipulate others into acting against their own integrity, and mental and physical health.
From the standpoint of Christian Science, sin is healed by destroying the belief that God knows either a sinner or the god of sin -- materialistic satisfaction. This scientific approach identifies the specific, deadly nature of sin. At the same time it identifies the spiritual, eternal nature of man -- created, as the Bible says, in God's image and likeness, male and female, and very good -- that destroys evil and its effects.
The disastrous results of accepting sin as real and disregarding man's spiritual nature are counteracted by vigorous, persistent prayer. Once an individual can recognize the mesmeric tendency of sin to hold its victims in bondage, he is better able to withhold his conscious consent to suffering and to accept and act on his own sinless, spiritual identity. The man of God's creating is spiritual -- neither a sinner nor the victim of sin.
Shame or pride often tries to persuade families that an addiction is so awful that they dare not admit it. But that willingness to hide wrong is part of the cover-up by which sin works to deny the need for healing.
By contrast, seeking the power of divine Love, God, to direct and to comfort is a viable step toward restoration. It simply is not in conformity with Christian teachings, or common sense, to harbor a thief. It's equally unwise to perpetuate the effect of wounds received in childhood, or adulthood, whether due to ignorance or malicious behavior. And yet by continuing to believe that the past has irrevocable power to influence attitudes and actions in the present, we often shut out the need to forgive. Then we harbor that mentality which so easily can steal our prospects for well-being.
We don't have to repress the knowledge of wrongdoing or perpetuate our own pain. Because we can claim intelligence and individual worth as children of God, it is possible and correct to remove ourselves from the clutch of terrible memories. The ability to forgive is always within reach. Taking the step of realizing the impersonal, mesmeric nature of addiction is a help. All sin is truly forgiven as it is overcome and we have a perfect precedent in the example of Christ Jesus.
When confronted with wrongdoing of all kinds, Jesus responded with spiritual responsibility. He forgave and advocated forgiveness--in the highest, most healing sense. At the pool of Bethesda when Jesus healed the man who had been crippled for nearly forty years, the Master's compassion was clearly evident. Yet he also counseled the man, ``Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more...''3
Candor about uncovering and admitting the presence of sin, trauma, and addiction can sometimes be a crucial step in telling the truth that destroys the lie. Prayer -- and the willingness to love God and His sons and daughters more even than self-righteousness or pride or suffering -- is effective in strengthening the forgiveness that reflects God's love and restores the individual's spiritually natural ability to be whole.
1John Bradshaw, ``Our Families, Ourselves,'' Lears, March l989. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 448. 3John 5:14.