Friday, November 26, 2010

Admitting Our Imperfections.

Why is this so hard for most of us? Why do we kick and scream, (or if you have a different personality, sulk and emit poisonous waves of sullenness) when it's suggested to us in Al-Anon, that we too, are imperfect, and that we can improve our lives greatly by trying to do something about that fact, rather than change someone else?

I used to worry about the way other people would think about me, if I ever admitted to being wrong, or being weak, or being imperfect. My sponsor called me up one day, laughing; told me she'd just come across the perfect quotation for us, which we should write out and put up somewhere we could read it many times in a day:

"You wouldn't worry so much about what other people think of you, if you knew how seldom they did."

I, of course was deeply offended, but tried to pretend that I wasn't. I'd learned fairly quickly that although my sponsor was a woman who had enormous empathy for other's sufferings, she had little patience for me, when I was having a hissy fit, and being offended. She was well-acquainted with that defense mechanism, having used it herself for years. She'd pointed out to me that when she was offended, it was usually because she knew that what had been said was the truth, and she didn't want to face it. She suggested that next time, I try putting aside my desire to take offense, and work to be honest with myself - was I being offered a chance to see myself more clearly?

Most of the time, that's just what's happening: I only ever seem to feel upset in that precise way, unless I am recognising the truth about myself: my character, and habits of thinking. When, in the past, I've chosen to take offense, it has been an effective way to push that truth aside, and concentrate instead on the failings of the messenger - so rude! So tactless! etc etc, and after a while, I'd be wallowing in a stew of self-righteous indignation, and the chance for me to learn and grow, would pass on by, forgotten.

This week, I was finding it increasingly difficult not to worry and stress over an issue in my life. My present sponsor, is a wise woman with many years in program, and when I talk to her about something with which I'm wrestling, she always emphasises asking my Higher Power for guidance. When I did, the guidance came in the form of a realisation about a decision I'd made a while ago. I was granted the ability to see it from another angle, to realise that while some of the reasons behind it were healthy - not enabling, not allowing the other person to take advantage of me - another part of the motivation for that decision was a desire to punish by withdrawing my support.  I realised that I needed to make an amend.

That wasn't an easy amend to make, because in order to do it cleanly, I needed to admit to my less-than-delightful motives. I had to say, "I was wrong to do this, and this is why."

I've been in Al-Anon for quite a while, and there are still amends which curl my teeth to make, because I have to admit my lesser qualities. I will always have to admit to my lesser qualities, because I will always be imperfect.

Once the amend had been made, and we were talking about it, I was given the further realisation that on some level, I'd been uncomfortable with my decision from the start, but had been refusing to allow that discomfort headroom, because if I did, I might have to reconsider.

For me, when I admit my imperfections, it is always better afterwards. That "better" can range from the lightly giddy feeling of a clean conscience, to improved intimacy with whomever, to doors opening in my life. There is no downside to this that I've ever found, so why do I still occasionally find it difficult?

I think because of pride - I don't want to admit that I am still prompted by those imperfections, that there are going to be times when my decisions are made while I'm in the grip of my frailties and character defects. I want to be "all better now."
I can forgive other people their character defects, but I still judge myself for mine,
now and then.
So it goes. The sun is shining, and I'm feeling relieved.


  1. I am harder on myself than on others. I have had to learn to quit beating up on myself. At times, this is still hard to do.

  2. Don't you just love empathic-but-take-no-bullcrap-from-us sponsors? I have a situation, too, that is challenging me to pull out alot of tools. I will be okay, learn some lessons and probably have to eat a bit of crow. Such is the happy road of destiny..:-D


  3. Hope you had a nice Holiday. Admitting to my flaws does not mean I am defective...
    used to think that way though. I have noticed the more I share at group level on what is going on for me the less power it has over my life.
    Shame is a big part of my disease
    one day at at time

  4. These words are really jumping off the page for me . a large part of what happened to me as son of an drinker is perfectionism and the shame it produces , admitting that I struggle with showing my soft underbelly and all the warts that I have .Admitting these means i join up with my fellow humans .