To thine own self be true

 I came back from Physical Therapy hungry and tired.  A cup of coffee and two pieces of toast later, I sat down to blog.  Not feeling inspired,  I grabbed an Al-Anon meditation book and read five different entries.  Interestingly enough, they are all related to assuming responsibility for our own thoughts and actions rather than focusing on trying to control or change others.   It took many years before I really grasped how important the concept of self-examination truly is.  Even though Step 10 is the daily inventory step, all of the steps, in their own way, are designed to help us take the focus off of others and put it on ourselves, our feelings, our responses, and our actions.  It can be so tempting to want to change others so I don’t have to change, but expecting others to make my life easier is simply a form of denial, an invitation for unhappiness..

As Emmanuel Teney once said:  “As your faith in the God of your understanding is strengthened, you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will,  and you will flow with them to your great delight and benefit.”   That’s the whole point, of course.  By working to change ourselves rather than others, life really and truly opens up, and happiness becomes a reality.

There have been times in my life when people have assured me that God never gives us more than we can handle. I’m not sure I believe that.  Some people just never seem to catch a break.  And yet, life does have this way of pointing us in new and unfamiliar directions, sometimes even to the breaking point.  And yet…when I look back, I can see how specific painful experiences have pushed me into making changes I’d never have made on my own. For instance,  our foster daughter had this way of confronting me with my unconscious acceptance and arrogance connected to white privilege.  I would be deeply hurt by her confrontation at the time,  yet in retrospect, she helped me grow and see racial issues in a completely different light.

No one ever said learning life’s lessons would be easy.   Instead of being irritated by life’s challenges, we do well to be grateful for the painful experiences that help us grow.  As Dale Carnegie once said, “Develop success from your failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”  Or, as Jackson Brown wrote:  “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength, but perseverance.”   Looking back on my almost 40 years in the program, I can see that when I was hurting and wanted things to change immediately, it was necessary for God to slowly remove my defects of character over a period of time.  In so many ways, we are like rocks.  As time goes by, life gently but persistently rubs off our rough edges, teaching us how to let go and let God be in control.

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