Friday, March 14, 2008


  • Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I've often wondered how differently the Church would look if it followed the 12 Steps to Sobriety. Could the Church admit its powerlessness over its lust for self-preservation, its co-opting the ways of the world in the administration of its affairs, the employment of "God-speak" to justify actions that are from anything but God? And then do so all in the name of the One who, this Holy Week especially, reminds us of his essential nature by giving himself away?

How differently would the Church look if it was quick to confess and make amends? Keep in mind, the Church has only officially apologized to Galileo in our lifetimes. The United Methodist Church's apology for slavery is only within the past few years, and it was a poor one.

I wonder what the Church would look like if it sought to follow the basic tenets of these steps with the same passion that elements of it claim belief in the historic creeds, virgin births, literal bodily resurrections and return determines if you're a Christian or not.

Oh, sure, it would be easy to say that "the Church" needs to get its act together. And it does. But as you know, those who "protesteth too much" about what somebody else needs to do is usually hiding the spirit work they need to be doing on the very same issue.

Project our shi-uhh, I mean "stuff", on others much?

I've come to believe that sisters and brothers who have arrived at a place of brutal honesty about themselves and are working their way through these steps, while dis-eased with their addictions, but in recovery, are among the most spiritually healthy people there are.

There's no further need for pretense. They've been laid bare. They've hit the bottom. All there's room for now is truth. That truth, be it good, bad or indifferent (and truth is never indifferent) is the foundation on which a new life is built.

Now I'm going to make a wild guess here for all you readers, especially those of you who have never worked the 12 steps at all. I'm going to bet that if you were brutally honest with yourselves that you could construct a list of persons you have harmed. It's not about what you intended, or how you were misunderstood, or blah, blah, blah.

What does your brutally honest list look like? How far back does it go? And are you ever able, ready to make amends, provided that doing so doesn't perpetuate the injury and make it worse?

Most of us live with "out of sight, out of mind" on the things we've done in our past. We use time and distance to insulate. But rest assured, as my friend Dan is always quick to remind me, "unresolved conflict always resurfaces."

It remains there - in the shadows.

Yes, I'm talking about me.

Last week, I was reminded by someone else of a singular moment in my life that occurred, you ready for this?- 28 years ago. For perspective, my oldest child is about a year and a half younger now than I was then.

It was not my finest hour.

It is something that I've never talked about out loud with any other person. The moment itself did involve others - people who have meant much to me. What of it I remember is tempered by the passage of time. It is also tempered, if a shaky memory serves, by what was a liberal supply of PGA (and if you think that means Professional Golfers' Association, then you might best move on).

I've lived with the recent recollection of this moment at first out of surprise - "Oh God, somebody I once knew remembers it and is letting me know they do," and then a sense of not knowing what to do with its re-introduction to my thinking. My re-acquaintance with the episode also reintroduced profound shame and sadness that my actions let people I have cared about - people who are integral to a particular chapter of my life - down. It was the shame that is the lingering memory of what happened so long ago.

Granted, I'm no saint. Never was. But it has always been my practice to attempt to make right things I've done wrong. This is one thing left undone - and the reality is that it will probably always have to be.

The moment itself, for all about it that was problematic (and there's more than a little bit problematic about it) was a pivot point for me. Whatever I was going to be with the rest of my life it was not going to be that. In fact, so clear was that moment for me that only a few months later would I declare my intent to enter ministry at the ripe old age of 17 (something that before then was not even remotely in my thoughts).

Sure, I came to a moment of clarity about what the moment would mean for me, but I've never dealt with the real impact of the moment on everyone else involved - so much time has passed, so many perceptions now real in memory even if not in facts - of what good would efforts be to try?

I mean, really, don't we get a pass for our "youthful indiscretions?"

And then it hit me. Maybe the person who I'll need to tell them my story to is the one who's surely going to want a pass from me when I have to deal with his.

1 comment:

Doctor J said...

How true it is! We all have done things in the past that haunt us. There are things we did in your youth for which we are eternally sorry. My list for those I have wronged during my lifetime is so long that I would never be able to work through it. Perhaps it would be as long as "Earl's".

It's amazing how wrongs done in the past come up from out of nowhere! Some of the people I have wronged are no longer living. So I have to find a way to forgive myself.

Is brutal honesty always the best policy? Sometimes people aren't ready for the truth. I believe truth has to be tempered with a little grace.