Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage

“May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it”; and “Let another take his office.” Acts 1:20

One of the worst lies I told myself in my addiction, was that I wasn’t hurting anyone else. In my mind, I abused drugs in a vacuum. If no one knows, and if I get away with it, what harm can it do? Then, as disaster rained down upon me and my family, I came to realize the bitter truth – My self-destructive behavior poisons the lives of those around me. My illness makes my family sick.

If the addict’s failure is in denying that he makes his family sick, the family’s failure is often in refusing to acknowledge their own illness. It’s not unusual for parents or spouses to see addiction solely as the addict’s problem. This is your mess. You get help. I don’t need help, you do. Just as the addict denies his illness, those around the addict often deny how profoundly they’re affected. Then, the addict goes off to treatment, receiving the care he needs. The family, also in profound need, gets nothing and refuses help. It’s not my problem.

In today’s passage, we’re given a glimpse into the cleanup of the disaster that Judas left behind. Having betrayed Jesus, Judas experienced soul-crushing remorse and killed himself. Judas didn’t just betray Jesus though. He betrayed his brothers and then, as far as we know, he left this world without any attempt to reconcile or clean up the mess he’d made. His greed poisoned his own life and spilled out, poisoning the lives of those around him, leaving a gaping hole in the – now 11 – disciples. In today’s story, Peter put forth his plan to replace Judas in an attempt to fill the desolation he left. This didn’t undo the hurt, but it was a constructive effort to recover from the Judas wound, moving on from it.

There are a couple lessons here. First, our self-destructive choices, even if we think we can hide them, poison our lives and the lives of those around us. Those hurt the most, are the ones closest to us. Second, when we’re hurt by our loved ones, it’s important not to deny the injury. In   refusing to see our need for help, we act just like the addict who denies his problem. We must recover from our wounds, just as the addict must recover from his.

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