Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Let There Be No Gossip Or Criticism of One Another, Part 2.

Part 1 can be found here.

When new to Al-Anon, I would sit in meetings, and judge those around the table - for the way they looked, what they said, how they responded to challenges in their lives. I couldn't hear the message, because I was too caught up in examining the envelope from which it came, deciding that I didn't like the stamp, and the paper was a wierd texture, and that was a different way to glue the flaps...

I wouldn't deal with the day's mail by slitting open an envelope, throwing the contents directly into the trash, and then carefully examining the envelope, now would I? Put like that, it's ridiculous. Yet that is precisely what I was doing with the messages from Al-Anon members.

That reminder about let there be no gossip or criticism of one another, doesn't refer only to our conversations with a third person - it also refers directly to the inner critic we all contain. That crow of negativity inside our heads, which keeps up a steady chatter of comparison and disparagement. It has been a monumental task, my ongoing effort to silence that monstrosity.

I began to pray: to ask for patience, tolerance, open-mindedness, during the moment of silence before a meeting started. Almost without my realising it, something magical began to happen: I could sit in a meeting, and for one splendid hour, hear not a murmur from that black bird. I could take what I liked and leave the rest, but what I left was put down, not with a feeling of irritation or disgust or impatience, but with a quiet interest, accompanied perhaps by that little sound (usually written as "hmmn") which we make in antique stores, examining an object apparently made to be useful in some way, but a mystery to us.

My inner critic-bird had retired to a higher branch, out of sight.  For that one hour, I was able to be accepting of everyone who sat in peaceful communion around the table. With that acceptance, came the ability to hear wisdom and help in the words of those I would previously have considered, the most unlikely of sources - people with whom I had not one opinion or interest in common.  People I would have dismissed with a contemptuous sniff (I've mentioned in previous posts, that I wasn't a very nice person when new to Al-Anon) would put out on the table, the one thought which would surface and resurface throughout my week, swinging and bobbing, catching the sun and flinging it back to illuminate an area of my thinking never before considered in quite that light...making me stop walking, and gasp, to realise what I was seeing.

I'd rush to call my sponsor, to tell her what I'd just this moment realised, and it was all because  of so-and-so's sharing on Monday - it was astounding, it was amazing, it was earthshaking; "It was," she interrupted, "your Higher Power."

My sincere prayer for tolerance was being granted.  I was being given the gift of seeing not the envelope of character and habit, education and upbringing, but the contents - the person. From a purely selfish viewpoint, this allows me to receive wisdom I'd have discarded unrecognised for the treasure it was. From the standpoint of unity, it allows me to be equally as welcoming, tolerant and accepting of those with whom I feel a personal connection, and those with whom my only apparent commonality, is that we are both human beings, both living, and struggling with loving, an alcoholic.

I pray to be granted the honest willingness to truly practise these principles in all my affairs, not just in the meeting rooms of Al-Anon.


  1. "I wouldn't deal with the day's mail by slitting open an envelope, throwing the contents directly into the trash, and then carefully examining the envelope, now would I?"

    Magnificent. Stupendous. Brava.

  2. Valuable, valuable words you've given us here—thank you.

  3. The critic within is a hard one to let go of. But just when I think maybe that voice is silenced, it pops up again. I too pray for tolerance and to have God remove those defects that keep me separated from others and Him. A post that I needed to read.

  4. I love the metaphor you. Very insightful. I have had a similar experience with my "inner voice" as well. And as it turns out, some of the most helpful things I've learned in Alanon have come from the very people I was so hesitant to listen to when I first came through the doors.

    Thanks for your post.