How to Make a Full Disclosure
Last time, I spoke about the authentic meaning of repentance. Far from some kind of emotional guilt and shame trip, repentance is the act of letting go the bars of our self-made prisons—our destructive and poisonous attitudes and actions—and turning to embrace the freedom and joy of our true selves in relation to God.
How do we actually go about repenting? Here I would like to draw once again on the 12-Step program, which suggests that if we want to get free from our self-made prisons, we must take two steps, summed up in the phrase 'disclose and dispose.'
Disclosing involves throwing the light into our darkened lives to reveal the exact nature of our emotional, psychological and spiritual bars, chains and walls. After all, we cannot get free unless we recognize that we are indeed in prison! Once we have disclosed, we then dispose in the manner described by AA Step 5: “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
The 12-Step program offers us a concrete method for disclosing our lives, which involves thoroughly and honestly answering four basic questions.
Question One: What are we lusting after? By 'lusting,' I do not just mean inappropriate sexual desire (although that is certainly part of it). By 'lust' I mean any desire in our lives that has overflowed its boundaries. It is natural to love your work, but when the desire for job success starts to push out family and health, that desire has warped into lust. It is natural to enjoy the good things of life—food and drink and sex and well-earned possessions—but when our attention on these things takes priority over our care for one another and ultimately, our focus on the One who gives us everything, then we are no longer enjoying; we are lusting.
What are the lusts in our lives? What are the things, people and situations that we seek, to the exclusion of healthy and life-giving relationships? The answers to that question will disclose the lusts that keep us locked out of a genuine life.
Question Two: Who (or what) do we resent? What happens when we cannot attain the things for which are lusting? We blame others, of course. “My boss has it out for me. My spouse doesn't understand me. My children drive me crazy. My parents messed me up.” When we indulge these kinds of sentiments, the result is resentment—the act of punishing others for the lives we have been given. Resenting leads us to imprison others in the misery of our inner jail, in the vain hope that they can take our place. As one saying goes, however, when we lock people in the prison of resentment, we are stuck guarding the door. Far from escaping our fate by imprisoning others, we find ourselves even more securely bound in our personal hell.
Real freedom from resentment comes from asking, who do we resent? Against whom are we kindling the coals of anger in our hearts—spouses, parents, children, friends, employers? Whose characters do we secretly assassinate? Who do we turn our noses up at, or look down on, or put down, or laugh at? A close examination of our behaviours in this regard will reveal those resentments that confine us in a false and miserable existence.
Question Three: Who (or what) do we fear? Both the attitudes of resentment and lust stem from another attitude that requires disclosure in our lives: fear. At the root of our restless longing and our enmity towards others is a consciousness that all our efforts may be vain. Perhaps we cannot actually secure our wealth and power and happiness by sheer force of will. Perhaps we really are, in the end, powerless over our destinies...
The next question we should ask, therefore, is, “What am I afraid of?” Are we afraid of failure and humiliation, at work, and among our peers? Are we afraid of success and the responsibilities that it will bring? Are we afraid of being excluded and rejected? Are we afraid of commitment and the difficult sacrifices commitment demands? We cannot hope to find real freedom until we stop running and face our fears courageously.
Question Four: How do I play God? Exploring the ways that lust, resentment and fear keep us imprisoned leads us ultimately to pride, which is the impulse to play God in our lives. By lusting after those things that give us an illusion of control and security, we try to assure ourselves that like God, we have a firm grip on our destinies. We blame and resent others who remind us that maybe we are just human beings. And deep down, the fear that they may be right drives to escape with ever more lust, starting the vicious cycle all over again.
The final question was must ask ourselves, then, is simply, “How do I play God in my life? How do I try to fix the people around me, making them conform to the way I think they should be? How do I use things and people—money, possessions, sex, food and drink, work and play, the approval of others—to make me feel safe and secure?”
With these questions answered, our full disclosure is complete. All that remains is to offer the results to God and a trusted person. Only then can the light of truth finally shine into our lives. Only then can we learn that although we are not God, the real God is waiting beyond the walls we built to keep Him out. If we can just let go our pride, God will embrace us and grant us the true freedom to live as He made us—in peace and joy and love forever.