Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sin is doing something wrong; Hell is staying in something wrong.

As individuals move forward in recovery, I hear enough stories of being not being able to stay clean. In psychological terms, we might describe this as failure and make reference to the stopping the acting out cycle as we move forward. In 12-step language we might describe this as relapse, and highlight the powerless needed to stop the addiction. In spiritual language, we might recognize this as sin and the need to seek forgiveness. Each of the different frameworks helps us understand the same behavior through a different lens.

Using the spiritual framework, my personal definition of hell builds on the concept of sin. If sin is doing something wrong, hell is staying in something wrong. I encounter individuals who after a relapse, enter into shame spirals, emotionally abuse themselves, and forever put themselves in negative place. For many of these individuals, they punish themselves much more than I or anyone else could ever punish them. And in my mind, the individuals are in a self-imposed hell distinguished as helplessness, frustration, and hopelessness.

When I met an individual in this self-imposed hell, I encourage them toward self-forgiveness. I ask them to if they would treat others they way they are treating themselves (a reverse Golden Rule). And I encourage them to “be gentle with yourself.” Recovery from drugs and stopping the sexual acting out cycle requires accountability that is respectful and leads toward forgiveness and healing versus shame, fear, and the ongoing experience of a personal hell.

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