Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don’t Say What You’re Thinking


Anger was the topic of our Tuesday meeting, and I heard good stuff, from people whose thought processes I can understand. I share more commonality with the Vietnam-vet biker who says, “Rage is the wind that blows out the candle in my mind,” than I do with the average 50-something I meet on the street. One of the things I love about AA is the wonderful cross-section of purposeful, thoughtful, flawed, and honest humanity I’ve come to know because of meetings.

I got to share that last year I took on the F’d Be I, the Dept. of There-Is-No-Justice, the U.S. Secret-ary of Health and Inhuman Services, the Attorney Generality, and the health-care-not industry over the moral and civil-rights outrage perpetrated on my defenseless 79-year-old demented mother [is that bitterness I hear?], and nine months of misery later, this caped crusader for Truth, Justice, and Human Rights for Alzheimer’s Victims was a sad piece of a work, drowning in her outrage, and my mother was dead, free at last. I got very ill last winter, and by early spring it was clear that my outrage over injustice was harming only me, and I was going to have to change myself so I could live in an unjust world.

Resentment, says the book Alcoholics Anonymous, is poison to the person who nurtures it. How are we to make peace in a life where people and institutions do wrong and suffer no consequences? How are we to live serenely in a world where sh*t happens to innocent people? The fellowship of AA has devised many brilliant means of doing just that.

Mostly, they all boil down to what Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Start with giving grace, unearned forgiveness, to people who wrong you, as you have received grace from the loving God in your own imperfect life. Practice restraint of tongue and pen. Do not retaliate, argue, fume, or chew on arguments in your head. Instead, go do good work, own your own part in the shit, and be grateful for the ordinary miracles in your daily life. Work with a mentor. Wash your floors. Reach out a friendly hand to someone in need, and in general, learn to stay out of the bad neighborhood that is your own selfish head.

I am ceaselessly surprised that these things work. They work, in that they build a level of inner peace with the ebb and flow of life. Even if you choke on what you know is hypocrisy as you pray for the person who has offended you, doing it on your knees with your teeth gritted every day for two damn weeks, just because your sponsor suggested you try it, by God, it works! The one who changes is you, not the world, not your neighbor, just the one you live with day in and day out ~ that person becomes someone kinder, calmer, thankful, and a little more honest.

An aging ex-gangster at the meeting said his morning prayer is simple: “Hi, God, I’m awake, good luck.” Laughter is like tapping anger in the back of its knees: down it goes, toppling over like the great pretender that it is, mostly smoke and mirrors, self-justification and often fear masquerading as righteousness. Laughter heals a lot of wrongs, including our own. I’m grateful to be part of a community that laughs at itself and goes to sometimes great lengths to help others.

These days, I practice a lot of not saying the judgmental things I think about others. To a trusted few, I say whatever I think and laugh at it. My head, says one friend, is for entertainment purposes only. When the serious stuff that warrants deep thought crops up, I go to someone who has the kind of faith and wisdom I want, and I sound it out.

A line in a humble little book changed me this year. I found it in AA’s “12 Steps and 12 Traditions” under the discussion of the tenth step, in which we make a practice of honest self-examination and prompt admission of wrongs done. In a paragraph advocating a more merciful view of others, the writer says, “it is pointless to become angry or to get hurt by people who, like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up.” The italics are mine.

If I can recognize that my life is a series of adventures in growing up to be the person I want to become someday, if I am in the process of becoming and haven’t yet arrived there, how can I not grant you the grace of your own suffering?

You too are on a journey. I might enjoy thinking, in the private entertainment center of my mind, that you’re damned far behind me thanks to your stupid behavior ~ enjoy thinking that privately for, say, ten minutes max. Okay, twenty, AND I get to tell a trusted friend. Anything more than that is a resentment, otherwise known as beating myself with a hammer and hoping you are the one it hurts: a habit to avoid.


13 comments:

Elisabeth said...

I have an odd relationship to resentment, Enchanted. I agree it's best not to foster it, but only after you can recognize it and then move on.

Kristin H. said...

"...learn to stay out of the bad neighborhood that is your own selfish head."

Well written. And a lesson I am being taught on a daily basis.

Big hug to you, darlin'.

Brian Miller said...

smiles. we are all stumbling along the path...thanks for this one...some nice truths in it...

izzy said...

Oh yes laughter can save me/us-!
Rage was my volcano. It occasionally is brought back into my awareness when someone is sharing their experience... It can re- launch me into space- (whether there is any light around it depends on how tired, hungry or reckless I am at that point in time.) The fellowship has taught me to install some large stop signs at various rims and voids.
Prayer and forgiveness; dropping the hot potato- (letting go) are precious! Thanks for sharing.

Argent said...

As someone who 'takes things personally' a lot and has real difficulty letting go of gripes and resentments, this post was very welcome. I particularly like "learn to stay out of the bad neighborhood that is your own selfish head" - that's definitely a neighbourhood I need to stay away from. Thanks for this thoughtful piece.

Birdie said...

Thank you! Your post about the anxieties and how you have learned to deal with it helped me already. After my baby son was injured at his birth by a greedy selfish and careless doctor, after 4 years of justice battle we still undergo, after realizing that the whole system is a pure shit that works for only few of them, I became, all the same like you, to the conclusions that giving grace & unearned forgivness is the only way. And I believe you that in AA meetings you may meet wonderful people. Those who have been through 'some stuff' (whatever that may be) and who try to put the broken pieces of the puzzle together may be the best people ... much love and thank you!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Brilliant, Sane, sanguine. Glad I popped over!

Lou said...

"the one who changes is not the world, but you"

I remember after about a year of practicing the principles, I realized that to be true. And it felt good.

Great post!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Resentment nurtures no one. I love that Gandhi quote. A remarkable man. Does one have to be an alcholic to go to an AA meeting? Seems like a lot of smart people are alcholics. It's like the smoking break room at my old job where all the fun people hung out. Makes me want to nurture my vices. I already have a bunch of mortal sins to my credit. If I believe church teaching I'm going to hell for sure.

G-Man said...

Amen Sister....

e said...

Wonderful post...Thanks!

TechnoBabe said...

The title of this post caught my eye. Most times people want others to say what they think, but this says Don't say what you think. Learning to live in an unjust world does mean letting go of many things but at least you are healthy that way. I like how you remind us that the people who hurt us are in their own place in life and hurting and trying too.

Syd said...

Wonderful stuff on the tenth step and about resentments. I love the tenth step because I can make things right, square them with others, admit my wrongs and not sit on resentment for long.

Albert Einstein Quotes