Sunday, January 11, 2009

Who's the fool?

If all our lives we had more or less fooled ourselves, how could we now be so sure that we weren't still self-deceived? How could we be certain that we had made a true catalog of our defects and had really admitted to them, even to ourselves? Because we were still bothered by fear, self-pity, and hurt feelings, it was probable we couldn't appraise ourselves fairly at all. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions [AA], page 59) 

Later the text says if we've been honest with another person, it confirms we have been honest with ourselves and God. I'm an honest person. I'm an open person, really revealing myself now that I've found OA. I've done 5th step as deeply as I can, and I still don't know how I've fooled myself, just feel like I have. At the suggestion of a trusted mentor I took on to work through the AA 12 and 12. She predicted I'd find my answer in Steps Six and Seven. I'm getting close to those steps, but no closer to really understanding where my current hang-ups, or character defects, rest. 

I found this draft, written four days ago, as well as a second, begun two days ago. So I'll work with both and see where they take me.

In the meantime, I have read into Step Six, and I found some of those character defects I was looking for, finding some things in response to statements there that really amazed me. The statement that set me on the course was this, speaking of each of us having an abundance of natural desires:

When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins.  (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions [AA], page 65) 

Okay, when the natural desires driving us are the sex drive, or the desire for things, I understand the logic. But the needs that come to mind when I start listing the natural desires that are most important to me -- that I yearn for more of -- they don't compute very well as character defects. The list I came up with includes to be loved, the directive that a man and woman become one, to be appreciated, to be recognized, to be included. How can those possibly be character defects? They seem, though, to play into what my sponsor told me that rings so very true. That is, in looking at the Fourth Step inventory, to look at these questions to find the fourth column:


1.    WHERE WAS I SELFISH? What did I want from this person, institution or principle?

Selfish is not a bad word; this is a terminology. Selfish in this way is not a bad word. It doesn't mean we were a bad person. It just means we weren't getting what we needed or wanted.

2.  WHERE WAS I SELF-SEEKING? What behavior did I do to get what I wanted?

a.    DIRECT LIE: Not telling the truth. Bold face lie.
b.    LIE OF OMISSION: What you needed to say to this person so they knew how you honestly felt about them and the situation but didn't.
c.   LIE I TOLD MYSELF: Lie you told yourself.  (A.) Not good enough. (B.) I am stupid. (C.) Not smart enough. (D.) I am unworthy, etc.

A) Fear of losing what you have.  
B) Fear of not getting what you want. 
C) Other peoples' opinion. 
D) Fear of not getting financial support. 

It's a puzzlement. And I'm a word person, but I think I've got a better understanding of it than I can express. Looking at the seven deadly sins that the AA 12 and 12 suggests as a starting place for character defects, and looking at the needs I feel unmet, I think I come up with the combination of these "sins" that are my "needs" and thus the lack of them my "character defects":
  • envy (I want what I believe other people have in their relationships with other people, both same sex and opposite.)
  • anger (I punish other people for my lack of happiness.)
  • pride (anybody who can't see in herself more defects than this suffers from pride.)
  • sloth (that one's a given. Look at my office, my house, my car, my "TODO" lists, my unfinished projects.)
  • gluttony (I am in OA for a reason!! But it's not limited to food. I want it ALL, though the material doesn't appeal particularly, probably because I've always had "enough" material things for me.)
Two more sentences catch my eye. On page 66, "No matter how far we have progressed, desires will always be found which oppose the grace of God." And on page 68, "So the difference between 'the boys and the men' is the difference between striving for a self-determined objective and for the perfect objective which is of God."

I'm ready, God. You understand this stuff, know where my character defects are and how to put them into words. And how to remove them. I am completely willing for you to remove my character defects, whatever they are.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Confession for others

...relief never came by confessing the sins of other people. Everybody has to confess his own. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions [AA] page 56)
When I began in OA (and still,) I relied heavily on downloaded mp3's of speakers, OA, AA, Al-Anon, whatever. My IPod with those are a trusted companion in the car, sleeping, traveling by plane, sitting at my computer. As a new member of OA listening to these I had visions of grandeur, being a circuit speaker, impressing people. Fortunately for me and for the people I might have spoken to, it didn't happen quickly. I've spoken twice now and am scheduled again for another in February. But God didn't open this door until I was ready. I've been concerned, though, with my telling my story last week. I was raw, a week after my father's death, and I'd had a deep understanding through that experience of an underlying belief that made my life the first 60 years what it was. But when I shared that, I did more confession for somebody else than I should have. I accept that, understand that, and have learned from that. Maybe it had a valid place and somebody in that group needed to hear it. I hope it did. But I think what I learned from it was both a lesson in humility and in love so it won't be repeated.
Paul said, "for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: " (Romans 3:22b-24) He goes on to say boasting is excluded. It's not a comparison of somebody else's fault and mine. I listened for too many years to people telling me I was good, that I didn't need to be changed, that I needed to separate myself from people unwilling to change. It was bad advice, and I fell back on it at least by implication. I have sinned. Everybody else has, too, but I can't change them. Except by changing me. And the point I was trying to make and did in-artfully is that changing me has changed people around me. And that's the powerful gift of recovery! Among many others. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference! Amen, so be it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Step Work Revisited

I set out to read and comment on the step work in the AA 12 and 12 and last posted on that line December 16.  It's time. And I'm ready. First, though, the Thought for Today in For Today is right-on for me: "There is a powerful hope in admitting defeat, in giving up my mad exertions to control situations that are not mine to control." (page 3)

Some will object to many of the questions posed, because they think their own character defects have not been so glaring. To these it can be suggested that a conscious examination is likely to reveal the very defects the objectionable questions are concerned with. Because our surface record hasn't looked too bad, we have frequently been abashed to find that this is so simply because we have buried these selfsame defects deep down in us under thick layers of self-justification. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, AA, pp. 53-54)

A friend gave me Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness for Christmas. On page 11, she says, "I feel that I have done nothing well. But I have done what I could." She also quotes St. Augustine as praying, "Lord, that I may know myself, in order to know Three."

I'm guilty as charged. I see faults in others -- faults that drive me crazy -- and they're my own.
  • One friend is on time when she's 15 minutes late. I feel smug. I'm there within five minutes of the time I'm due. I'm almost never more than a minute or two early for an appointment or meeting.
  • For years my excuse for not doing things in the evening was my husband's preference I remain at home. And I chafed at it. When he was gone for more than two months, the desire to be a homebody was my own. 
  • I'm peeved at a gift I perceive to be all show and no substance. My own reaction to invitations is to forget to do anything about them then apologize. This is perhaps acceptable occasionally. As a decades-long pattern, it's not.
  • I feel (despite my telling myself I shouldn't feel so) that I've been slighted at a milestone in my life, a death. I paid for the obituary to be put in my local paper, but it appeared December 27, and to know the connection the reader had to read to the family description; the name didn't communicate. I don't read obituaries, rely on my husband or friend to tell me of the ones that matter, then I neglect doing anything about them.
I started this step study/commentary based on the suggestion of a mentor who told me she thinks the issues I'm having in my life now will be addressed in Steps Six and Seven. I'm not sure I can peg what the character defects described here are, but I'm ready to address them. I'm ready for recovery to the 4th dimension. I'm ready to know myself in order to know God.