Attitude of Forgiveness

I resented my father all my life for his cold and critical treatment of me throughout my life. His name was right at the top of my resentment list during my first fourth step. My ego had me believing my father had a choice — that he didn’t have to treat me the way he did, that he should have treated me with more love. As I discussed my resentment of my father with my sponsor, he pointed out this passage in our book:

“This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too…”

As soon as I fully realized my father was spiritually sick just like me — that he was driven by the same demons that drove me — the resentment began to dissolve. Today, without anger distorting my memory, I can to focus on the things about him which were positive and loving.

Today I see that my father didn’t have a choice.  Like me, he carried a lot of unprocessed guilt, shame and fear that created inner turmoil. Like me this inner turmoil trapped him in the madness of his own life. Like me this madness erupted from time to time and caused him to hurt others, especially those closest to him.

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous offers me a way out of my personal madness into an attitude of forgiveness. The good doctor in his opinion called this process an entire psychic change. Attending meetings and hearing truth, doing inventories, reading our literature and other spiritual books, praying and meditating and being of service are all ways I demonstrate my willingness to be changed at depth. In a way, everyday I stay sober is an act of forgiveness of both myself and others.

Finding My Part

My last major resentment was a real doozy. Two years ago, on the day of my wife's funeral, my Chinese mother-in-law made a stink about Lola’s will. We had just buried my wife and her daughter and she’s complaining about money! I was outraged.

For a week I complained about my mother-in-law to anyone who would listen. Finally, a sobriety buddy suggested I work a fourth step around  my resentment. When I resisted, he pointed out that holding a resentment while negotiating my wife’s estate with my parents-in-law was not a good idea. I certainly didn’t want to try and forgive her, but I realized he was right, so I put pen to paper.

I enjoyed taking my mother-in-law's inventory in column two. I judged her insensitive, money hungry, cheap. When I got to the third column, “how it affected me”, I had a startling revelation. When I asked myself what I was really feeling below my anger, I saw I was hurt. I discovered that the source of my anger was not my mother-in-law’s coldness or her Chinese values toward money. I saw I had expected her to show appreciation for all I had done as Lola’s primary caretaker for the eleven months before she passed away. The resentment was not about my mother-in-law at all. It was about an unfulfilled expectation I carried. Once I saw my part, the resentment evaporated like the mist when warmed by the morning sun.

I was free.

Life Prayer

When I was new I heard the lady pastor of a new age church say our prayer-life is important, but equally important is our life-prayer. Step Ten for me is paying attention to my life prayer — staying aware of the thoughts, words and deeds I put out into the universe as I go about my day. Every prayer is answered. I pray for misery if I consistently think judgmental, resentful, and negative thoughts and then turbo-charge these thoughts with unkind words and deeds. I pray for serenity when my thoughts are kind and I treat everyone in my life with love and, if not love, at least tolerance. If I want to continue to grow and change, I ought to watch myself like a hawk and when I screw up, I ought to muster the courage to admit it.

This step is challenging for me. I was spiritually asleep for the better part of fifty years before I began my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. I went through life restless, irritable and discontented because I didn’t know there was any other way to live. Waking up to the truth — seeing myself as I really am — is no easy task. Part of me would much rather stay in my nice warm bed of illusion, believing my life will improve as soon as I learn to manage it better. Fortunately I’ve seen what happens to members who get stuck a comfort zone and stop growing. A dry drunk is not a pretty picture.  I speak from experience.

Some members call steps ten through twelve the maintenance steps. If I am willing to take these three steps every day to the best of my ability, I maintain a fit spiritual condition, I continue to grow along spiritual lines and I am safe from that first drink. Of course I don’t do any of this perfectly. Usually it takes some discomfort for me to realize I’ve let up on my program of action.

My life prayer is much more positive than it was before I stumbled into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, Back then I’d sit in the bar and often say to anyone who would listen, “If you had my life, you’d drink too.” Today I say, “If you had my life you wouldn’t drink either.”