We used to walk around thinking that our job in the world was to fix everyone else. When we saw someone doing something that we disagreed with, we immediately attempted to have them change their behavior. People needed so much help we thought. They didn’t know how to correctly drive, eat, play basketball, complete projects at work, speak to their children etc.
We also extended our Mr. or Mrs. Fixit attitude to people’s thoughts and opinions. We loved to show others the error of their ways in topics ranging from religious beliefs to political leanings. We really couldn’t understand why people were often offended by our actions. We were only being helpful, weren’t we?
The fellowship has taught us an entirely new skill set. We now realize that it is not our job to fix anyone else. If they ask for our help or advice we certainly can give it when appropriate. We do this in a supportive and non critical way. Apart from that, our energies need to focus on examining ourselves and identifying our behaviors and attitudes which are unhealthy, destructive or inappropriate. Most of us have discovered that when we do this, we have no time left to give unsolicited advice to anyone else.
Personal Reflection: Do I still give unsolicited advice?
Powerless over people, places and things; it’s a two-way street
In the program we put a lot of emphasis on our being powerless. For many of us this was a big change. We had spent a good part of our time attempting to control others. If only they would do it our way, then our lives would improve; or so we thought. In sobriety, we began to understand that the only person we had some degree of control over was ourselves. Acting maturely and responsibility gave us a better shot at our goals, but there were no guarantees on how others would respond. Once we accepted this, we were ready for a second aspect of being powerless. Just as we were powerless over others, they were powerless over us as well. This fact was a revelation for us. We had often tailored our behavior to the needs and wants of others. While doing so we picked up a lot of resentments along the way. We began to realize that fulfilling the requests of others was a choice, not a foregone conclusion. We always had the option of saying no. Perhaps this was initially difficult for we feared the withdrawal of love from others. Ultimately we came to see that people had power over us only when we gave it to them. Being powerless went both ways.
Personal Reflection: Have I accepted that being powerless is a 2 way street?
Many of us had made a mess out of our lives. Problems with work, family, marriages and health. We honestly couldn’t understand why all of this had happened to us. Then we hit our first meeting. We were a bit taken aback by what we heard. In a nutshell, we heard that everything had happened to us because of us. While we were running the show, our lives resembled one long protracted traffic accident. Probably some old timer told us it was time for us to get out of the driver’s seat. In that moment we really didn’t get what he was talking about. Over time, his words began to percolate within us. On the most basic level, it meant that we needed to follow the directions of others who had come before us. These included people with time, our sponsor and some of the readings from the Big Book. Beyond that, we needed to create a connection between ourselves and a Higher Power. Twelve step program is rooted in that connection. We began to understand that our Higher Power could “do for us what we could not do for ourselves”. We just needed to get out of the way and believe we could let go.
Personal Reflection: Am I still trying to drive the bus?
In our society so much has been reduced to a soundbyte. On the one hand this can be problematic. When we distill a lot of information into short “bytes” a lot can be lost in the process. Part of the growth process is being able to sift through experiences and information, reflect on them and only then move forward. That being said, sound bytes do have their place. They provide an easily assimilable piece of information. The same holds true for material in the program. Although people spend years studying the Big Book; there are aphorisms which do capture a lot of the direction of the program. The following expression is a case in point.
If I’m focusing on you
I should focus on me
If I’m focusing on me
I should focus on G-d
Most of us need to focus our energies in 2 distinct areas. First, we need to move our focus away from others and place it on ourselves. It is only when we do this that we can begin to take responsibility for our actions and initiate change. Second, a major component of the program is learning to “turn it over” to our Higher Power”. This means we will do the work, but we let go of the illusion that we can control the results. That is in the power of the G-d of our understanding.
Personal Reflection: Where is my focus?
You often encounter people that are not happy with their lot. Upon questioning, you find that their perennial dissatisfaction is totally focused on the behavior of others. They are wont to say, “if only that person had behaved differently then I would be so much happier”. These people are under the mistaken belief that their happiness is dependent on the actions of others. As a result they spend a lot of time attempting to control others. To their dismay they find that most people do not like to be controlled. Even when they find a compliant person, they discover that happiness is not found.
Our happiness and satisfaction in life is not dependent on others. We have learned this thru practicing the principles of the program. There is little value in expending our energy attempting to mold another’s behavior with the expectation that this will make us happy. Our time is far better spent on learning to detach from our expectations and desire for control. When we let go of our desire for control, we begin to find that things that upset us in the past now just roll off our backs. Through detachment we approach the serenity of acceptance
Personal Reflection: What area in my life do I need to practice detachment?