Instruction 4—Bridge passage
When we were finished, we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. (65–66)
‘Quite’ means ‘completely’, here.
This means that other people, on occasion, are indeed 100% wrong. That does not mean I am right. Both people can be entirely wrong. You may, on occasion, be entirely wrong for what you do to me. I am entirely wrong in holding onto it for twenty years and using it to beat you and other people over the head with.
This is not about dividing up blame between you and me; this is about separating responsibility and placing it where it belongs: you are fully responsible for your actions and reactions; I am fully responsible for mine. There are no ‘parts’. We are each 100% responsible for our actions and reactions; we are 0% responsible for other people’s actions and reactions. For example: we are responsible for our provocation, not for whether the other person responds to the provocation.
To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived. (66:0)
The problem lies in believing that our happiness and satisfaction require the arrangement and re-arrangement of the world around us (cf. p. 61:1). If you are in any way responsible for my happiness and satisfaction, I will remain forever trapped. Even when I get my own way, and am temporarily happy and satisfied, I am immediately faced with the problem of repeating the feat or preventing the world from slipping out of its contrived alignment. And even if I do get my own way, you are in charge of my happiness and satisfaction, as these are dependent on your compliance, and your compliance is not something I can force on a consistent basis. I look like I am in charge; in truth, I am in a prison of my own construction. I am my own jailer.
It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harbouring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. (66:1)
I look back over the list: how much of my life have I spent aiming at happiness and satisfaction? How much of my life have I spent in futility and unhappiness? How well does my way of living work?
This is the first devastating insight: the delusion that we can wrest satisfaction and happiness from life if only we manage well (61:1) is starting to crumble.
The second devastating insight is this: when I am resentful, I am cut off from the sunlight of the Spirit. As we know from p. 55:2, ‘we found the Great Reality [God] deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found.’ When I am in resentment, I am locked in my own mind and emotions and in a body tense with frustration and suffering. Resentment takes me into the past and casts before me a future which is simply a reflection of this past. I am thus separated from my own spirit—and from God, as these can be found only in the present (‘May you find him now!’ (59:0)) To make matters worse, for us alcoholics, the mental defence against the first drink which comes from God can be found only in this elusive present: anything which takes me into the past or future takes me away from that which can provide a spiritual defence in those strange mental blank spots (42:0).
Note that the insanity of alcohol (the idea that a drink would be a good idea) returns when I am stone cold sober. Suddenly (36:2), at certain times (24:1), and I cannot tell when such times are going to occur.
And because of the physical craving, for us, to drink is to die, because, if I start drinking, I may never again be given a gift of sufficient desperation to create a space inside me for God to rush in and fill the void. I may never be able to get back to AA.
If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be dubious luxury of normal men, but for the alcoholics, these things are poison.
We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look at it from an entirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrongdoings of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.
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. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’ (66:2–4)
The ‘entirely different angle’ in 66:3 will mean several different things. Largely, this will refer to the set of questions on p. 67:2, which will form the ‘fourth column’ of the resentment inventory, when we examine how we have affected other people in response to or in provocation of their (fancied or real) wrongs towards us.
See, also, the separate article: ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: the victim and her trusty companions’ (http://first164.blogspot.com/2010/04/snow-white-and-seven-dwarves-victim-and.html).
Before we arrive at this point, there is a necessary insight: I have spent a lot of my life concerned with what is right and wrong—how things should be versus how they are. The result? Futility and unhappiness. What is of more concern is whether I am free or imprisoned. The holding of resentment imprisons me. You slap me across the face, and it hurts. But I repeat the injury over and over and over in my mind and spend years being continually re-slapped. Do I want to be right or do I want to be free? If I want to be free, I do not need to say, ‘they were right all along’. As stated above, this is not about taking responsibility for the harm done to us; this is about taking responsibility for our reactions to the harm done to us (real or fancied). If I want to free, I must learn to keep my nose out of other people’s inventory. The accuracy of my inventory of other people’s conduct is neither here nor there. The fact that I am taking it indicates that I am playing a role not assigned to me. P. 68:2 indicates that ‘we are in the world to play the role He assigns’. Unless I am a prosecutor, a judge, a juryman, an executioner, a politician, a reformer, or a minister paid to sigh over the sins of the twenty-first century, other people’s inventory is simply none of my business.
Trouble is: my mind will keep taking me back to the wrongs (real or fancied) done to me. My powerlessness in Step One involves powerlessness over my own mind. I cannot bring about my own spiritual awakening; I cannot bring about my own psychic change. The result? The obsession and inner turmoil continue unabated, and my outer life becomes a manifestation of that inner obsession and turmoil. Inner powerlessness manifests as outer unmanageability.
It is rightly said that prayer is the only thing that brings about change (whether or not that prayer is consciously understood by the person praying to be, in fact, prayer: heartfelt petitions to the universe, wordless exclamations of the soul, can indeed be a form of prayer). Prayer changes us on the inside, inevitably. And, as our outward lives are merely manifestations of our inward reality, our outward lives change.
The solution to resentment involves two elements:
The awareness is that people who behave badly are likely cut off from their true spirits in precisely the way I am cut off from mine when I am behaving badly. Wildebeest cut off from the herd become frightened, aggressive, and erratic. People cut off from their true spirits, trapped in minds, emotions, and bodies, will become frightened, aggressive, and erratic.
To consider the futility and ultimately fatality of being trapped inside the mind, the emotions, and the body: my mind is a closed economic system, with one half manufacturing horse-crap and the other half buying it; my emotions have no judgement at all; and, whilst my body never lies, I, as an active alcoholic and addict, developed the routine ability to override its every signal in order to continue drinking or doing whatever else gave me temporary ease and comfort—at a terrible price. My mind would not let my feet rest. If I am operating merely out of body, mind, and emotion, I am liable to make some very bad decisions. I am liable to be in fear, and, like a frightened animal, I will be concerned only with my own protection.
The awareness that needs to be developed is that other people, when behaving badly, are as driven by fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity as am I when I am behaving badly (62:1). My pity, patience, and tolerance for them can and must flow from this realisation: they are as powerless, in the moment, over their behaviour as I am, in the moment, over mine. When I am being driven, I am not in the driving seat: I am like a horse-rider who has fallen from the saddle but has his foot caught in the stirrup and is being dragged for miles along the ground by a frightened, aggressive, and erratic stallion. I am not in control.
This is not an exercise in condescension: this is an exercise in seeing other people as I should be seeing myself—victims of their own egos, their own self-will run riot. Hence: pity, patience, and tolerance. They—like myself—are sick. Not bad. I am not on a spiritual hilltop; they are down here with me in the muck and the mire.
· What might be motivating them
· Have I ever had similar motivations?
· Am I not like them?
The prayer will flow automatically from the awareness; awareness without power is torture, and I need power for change to take place. Awareness creates the conditions in which change can take place; I pray; and change is wrought within me.
Prayer № 1:
‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’ (67:0)
Note that this is not about praying for the other person. Such prayers are fundamentally good acts and may well form a great part of Step Eleven work. However, at this point, I am the one who is in trouble, not necessarily the other man. I am the one who needs saving!
Note: in some cases, I realise or suspect that my offence at a person is unwarranted as the person is not actually sick but simply in the way of my ‘little plans and design’ (63:1)
I will revise the prayer as follows, for such instances:
‘This may be a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’
‘This man is as he is. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’
The next paragraph:
We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. (67:1)
... can also be turned into a prayer.
Prayer № 2:
God, have me avoid retaliation or argument, including in my mind. Have me be helpful. If I cannot be helpful, show me how to take a kindly and tolerant view of this person.
This procedure—awareness and prayer—should be practised repeatedly on each of the resentments written about in the first three columns, in order to start the process of healing and detachment and in order to prepare us for the remaining part of the resentment inventory: the fourth column.