Step 2 of the 12 Steps: Hope. (Stop Anguishing! Start Hoping!)

"At some point we must stop anguishing over what is wrong with us and rejoice in what is right within us." Wise words from LDS therapist, Wendy Ulrich in her book Forgiving Ourselves. We Mormons often wear guilt as a badge of honor and humility. But excessive guilt is not honorable; nor true humility. Rather, it's a form of anguish that leaves us languishing in a spiritual and emotional quagmire. Believe me, I know. Years ago, distorted guilt and anguish spiraled me into a bout of depression. Now, I'm careful and don't let anyone unnecessarily "guilt me."

The Second Step in the LDS Social Services "Twelve Steps" program echoes this idea: "Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health" (LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program, p. 7). In previous posts I've discussed the importance of the Twelve Step program in aiding our emotional and spiritual health. In this post I'll further discuss the notion of hope as a spiritual springboard to help and healing.

Our runaway guilt isolates us from God (I'm so bad, He must be mad at me) and sometimes from our family and friends--especially if addiction is involved. However, when we grasp a hope in God and hang on to it, we begin to see ourselves as the Lord sees us---through a healthier spiritual lens. Thus, our hope grows and the cobwebs of distorted guilt and anguish begin to clear away. But in grasping hope, we've got to be bold. Hebrews 4:16 tells us, "Let us...come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

"Christ and the Samaritan Woman" by Luigi Guiussani

Bold, straight-talking prayer seeded my hope (for myself and in God) and caused it (and me) to bloom. I first felt the Lord's willingness to engage in "straight-talk" with me when I was 27-years-old. My husband and I had served continually and simultaneously in church leadership positions (while having 3 babies and juggling school), and I was burned out. I felt extremely guilty over my growing resentment toward my husband and the Church. Feeling hopeless and angry, I got on my knees and told the Lord, "I'm sorry, but I hate the Church!" The expected thunderbolt never came to strike me down. Rather, I felt the Spirit's compassionate response. Into my mind came the words, "Julie, stop putting the Church first in your marriage and your resentment will go away. You and Rick think your marriage comes first, but it doesn't. You compete with the Church for your husband's time and resources, and you lose out to the Church every time. No wonder you're resentful." From then on, I knew my Savior was a safe and soft place to fall. I could tell Him anything! And in telling Him anything, He would help me overcome everything. And in this knowledge, I began to stop anguishing in my guilt and come to a place of new hope and self-acceptance.

Psychologist Lee Jampolsky elaborates on this principle:

The basic tenet of the addictive thought system is judgment: the belief that constantly analyzing, comparing criticizing, and condemning are traits that bring security and peace. In contrast, the loved-based thought system sees that peace of mind is obtained through the art of practicing acceptance. I have come to see that a certain phenomenon must occur before deep change--that is change that occurs on both the behavioral level and the feeling level--can occur. I call this phenomenon the paradox of change. In order to truly change, we must first accept ourselves just as we are, without reservation. We must be able to see beyond our dysfunction and see our essential wholeness. If we do not approach ourselves with an attitude of acceptance and love, we beat ourselves up. As long as we beat ourselves up, positive deep change is impossible. The only change that occurs by condemning yourself is that you end up feeling worse about yourself (Healing the Addictive Mind, 1991, p. 63).

I have happily discovered that God is no wimp and can listen to and take straight, bold talk. In fact, I think He respects it. And anyone who has read even one page of scripture, knows that God dishes out straight, bold talk. Let's awaken to His grace by increasing our hope in Him and some self-acceptance of ourselves.