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August 1988

Easier Than Falling Off a Log

As a child, I was tense, irritable, and angry, quick to blame others for my misery. My well-meaning parents taught me that I should forgive those who had wronged me, which reinforced my feeling of self-righteous anger. I learned to hold onto and savor that poisonous self-righteous anger until I could achieve sanctimonious and pious forgiveness. I grew to enjoy the feeling of power that the act of forgiveness gave me.

Then I came to AA and learned that I am supposed to accept things which others do; if something you do bothers me then there's something wrong with me. At first it sounded impossible. What about all those wrongs? Who's going to take responsibility for all those bad feelings that others were "making" me feel? Give up my control over others' guilt? (I had learned to enjoy persecution as much as the haughty act of forgiveness.) But I listened to the effects of acceptance on the attitudes of people at meetings and they were not seething with frustration or pouting over someone else not behaving the way they "should." I began to understand that I, too, could disengage from what others do and say.

I began by suspending my critical judgment whenever possible and simply not having an opinion about everyone and everything. I studied Step Four in the "Twelve and Twelve," and watched out for the four indicators of emotional insecurity--anger, self-pity, worry, and guilt. When I experienced something which made me feel uncomfortable, I tried to identify where the feeling was coming from. I asked myself why I had given up the sense of calm I was beginning to feel inside. I imagined myself balanced on a log, crossing over a cold, bubbling brook in the woods.

As a child I had often concentrated on remaining balanced while crossing such a log, crossing almost to the center before being distracted by noises, a swarm of gnats, a sudden gust of wind, or other children and suddenly I was lurching wildly, vainly grabbing at the air as I plunged into the icy water. Clambering up the bank--muddy, shivering, and embarrassed--took more energy than it would have taken to stay balanced in the first place.

It is the same in sobriety; to let something "get to me" and throw me off balance, where I feel angry or hurt, is just as painful as it was to fall off that log as a child and the struggle to calm down again (like forgiveness) takes far more energy than to have been accepting in the first place.

It is not my "place" to forgive, but to accept. I'll leave the forgiving to my Higher Power.

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