The process of recovery increases our awareness of the ways we have hurt other people. For many of us this realization leads almost instaneously to shame. And shame leads almost immediately to increasingly desperate attempts to be perfect in order to mask the feeling that we are fundamentally flawed. The downward cycle of failure-shame-trying harder-failure will gradually immobilize us as our self-contempt and depression increase.
In this text Jesus invites us to give up on trying harder. He suggests a completely different and very practical way of dealing with failure. Notice that Jesus assumes that living in community will lead to the need for making amends. The assumption is that we will not be perfect. We can expect to fail from time to time. Failure need not lead to shame or perfectionism because failure is normal. We all experience it. Accepting this basic reality is the first step in the process toward a healthy response to failure.
Jesus suggests that awareness of our failure doesn't have to lead to trying harder. It can lead to honesty and making amends. We are to speak directly about the problem, ask for forgiveness, make amends as appropriate, and be reconciled if possible.
I fail, Lord.
And then I am ashamed of my failure.
And then I work twice as hard not to fail.
And then I fail again. Lord.
And then I become even more ashamed of my failure.
And then I work ten times as hard not to fail.
And then I fail again..
Free me from the cycle of failure-shame-perfectionism.
Give me the courage to ask for forgiveness and to make amends.
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery