So much of my time before Al-Anon was spent enumerating all that I considered wrong about the world, and the people in it. I was forever judging, considering, comparing, analysing, and deciding. I had expectations of those close to me, and were they not to perform up to the level I determined correct, I would be silently fuming and frothing away to myself, in a stew of self-righteous indignation. I believed that I knew precisely how everyone else should be behaving, and was more than willing to share that belief with anyone who would sit still long enough to listen.
Letting go of my idea that I had the right to decide how anyone else should behave or act, has allowed me to be appreciative. I can simply enjoy other people. Inside a meeting, or out, I can find something in every person, which gives me pleasure - this one has great empathy, that one is wonderfully funny about his own character defects, a third has a kindness which envelops and soothes the wounded hearrt of newcomers.
I've been thinking about this after working through the questions in Al-Anon's Pathways to Recovery
on Step Three with a sponsee yesterday, and one question has stayed with me:
"What can I do to try and see others as God sees them?"
I didn't actively start out doing this, or even working towards it, this ability to appreciate has grown quietly with my recovery in program. Somewhere along the line, I realised that other people didn't annoy me the way they once had. I'd sit and listen while someone spoke of how annoying or irritating they found a third person, and I'd think to myself, "Hmm, he/she doesn't have that effect on me, isn't that interesting. I quite like that person who they find so maddening."
I realised that it had finally sunk in to my stubborn brain that other people weren't driving me nuts, I drove myself nuts wanting other people to be someone other than who they were. I lost my serenity each time I became annoyed when someone did or said something I thought they shouldn't have.
Father Tom W., a Jesuit priest active in AA and Al-Anon, speaks of the paradox of acceptance, and how it isn't until we accept "to our bones" our own reality, it isn't until we admit our powerlessness, that real change begins.
With this acceptance has come the ability to politely defuse rudeness or unkindness, without heat or anger on my part. I don't have to feel indignant about it, I can simply feel that I don't wish to stand quietly by and be an audience to rudeness. If, as often happens, the person who is being snarky or sarcastic or sharp is asked nicely to please moderate their tone, and they choose to do so, that's the end of it. I don't hold it against them for ever after, I don't judge them for it. I let it go. We all have our bad days.
I extend an offer to start again, whether with a small silly joke, or a comment showing that I appreciate something else they said or did, and almost always, the other person is perfectly willing to start the encounter over with kindness on both sides. It amazes me how well this works.