I love Richard Rohr; a Franciscan priest who founded and runs the Center for Action & Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM and the author of numerous books. Although he is a “normie” he writes prolifically about the power of the 12 Steps to transform our lives spiritually; and outside of actual A.A. literature, his is a grand interpretation of the 12 Steps. So enjoy his words on Recovery and Forgiveness. Niles
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. – Step 5 of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
When we human beings “admit” to one another “the exact nature of our wrongs,” we invariably have a human and humanizing encounter that deeply enriches both sides—and even changes lives! It is no longer an exercise to achieve moral purity or regain God’s love, but in fact, a direct encounter with God’s love. It is not about punishing one side, but liberating both sides.
If you are still inside the economy of merit—a quid pro quo universe—you will undoubtedly not understand this at all. In fact, you will find it abhorrent. Forgiveness is not a popular or easy path, but some wise ones have shown us how. Desmond Tutu’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in South Africa exemplified the economy of grace after the fall of apartheid. All had to take proper and public responsibility for their mistakes, not for the sake of any punishment, but for the sake of truth and healing. In fact, the healing was the baring—and the bearing—of the truth publicly.
This is revolutionary and almost unheard of in human history but it is biblical, starting with the prophet Ezekiel during and after the Exile and dramatically lived out by Jesus.
Ezekiel lays the biblical groundwork for truth-speaking, accountability, and restorative justice. For him, the cement that holds the whole thing together is YHWH being true to YHWH’s Self, and not merely reacting to human failure (or God would not be free). For Ezekiel, God always acts with total freedom—from divine integrity and unilateral faithfulness to the covenant with Israel, whether they keep their side or not—without this foundational message, “grace would not be grace at all” (Romans 11:6).
God resists our evil and conquers it with good, or how could God ask the same of us? Think about that. God shocks and stuns us into love. God does not love us if we change; God loves us so that we can change. Only love—not duress, guilt, any form of shunning, or social pressure—effects true inner transformation.
The ego expects this pattern: sin à punishment à repentance à transformation.
Ezekiel recalibrates this process after experiencing [God’s] purifying love for Israel. The pattern becomes: sin à unconditional love and forgiveness à transformation à repentance.
If this is indeed God’s pattern, as I believe it surely is, this is a very different universe that God is creating. Jesus called it “the Realm [or Kingdom] of God.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011), 37, 39-43.