Grace & the Trance of Worthiness

Do you believe you deserve grace, that you are worthy of grace?

Mel Villiers recently sent me a thought-provoking article entitled Amazing Grace:  How Unconditional Forgiveness Assists Recovery written by Rita Milios. It focuses on why unconditional forgiveness, and particularly, self-forgiveness, is essential in any type of addiction recovery, because without it, we believe we are underserving of grace:

Understanding that you, too, like everyone else, are entitled to be granted grace – an ability to receive an unmerited favor from your Higher Power to assist you when you cannot assist yourself – this is perhaps the most powerful insight you can gain from a Twelve Step program. In Step Seven it is written that “We would like to be assured that the grace of God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

 Milios says learning that you are deserving of grace is a turning point:

Coming to believe and accept that you are worthy of grace can be a real turning point in your recovery. Shame, guilt and remorse often hinder the progress of recovering individuals. Forgiveness is recognized as a key factor in working the Steps. Unconditional forgiveness is a deeper, more compassionate forgiveness of self and others that can only come from connecting with your Higher Power and asking for its grace. But when you do, you free yourself from the self-destructive spiral of feeling unworthy and then seeking relief from the pain through the use of drugs or alcohol. If you unconditionally forgive yourself as well as others, you can experience both health and emotional healing.

Clients frequently tell me they do not feel worthy, that they have never felt worthy.  Buddhist teacher Tara Brach call this “the trance of unworthiness” which many of us fall into at an early age.

When unworthiness surfaces in forgiveness work, it is identified as a core wound, the healing of which is pivotal. As healing occurs, positive changes, often seemingly miraculous, soon follow. It makes sense. How can we receive life’s abundant blessings, if we do not believe we are worthy and deserving? 

As long as we believe ourselves to be unworthy, nothing can change. As Mel Villiers says:

The inability to forgive means that we are constantly stuck in the past, running over old ground, and unable to develop as people. This is especially true when we cannot forgive ourselves. If we have done something which we feel is shameful or wrong, we cannot cut ourselves off as we might had someone shamed or wronged us. If we cannot treat ourselves with a degree of compassion then we will forever be re-hashing that old ground, and damaging our psyches in the process. . . . Self-forgiveness and self-compassion are not the same as arrogance and narcissism. They are positive attributes which will help us to become the kind of people we would like to be.

About Eileen Barker

EILEEN BARKER has been writing and speaking on forgiveness, and guiding people who need to either forgive themselves or someone else, for many years. A practicing litigation lawyer who rejected the traditional adversarial role, Eileen has focused her practice on mediation, helping thousands of people resolve disputes outside of court. This work led her into a deep exploration of forgiveness as it relates to resolving conflict and making peace, both with others and oneself.

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