Does “letting go” mean I have to forgive?

I don’t have a favorite slogan that I repeat to myself, but if I did… it would probably be “Let go, and let God.” I like this slogan because it points to some important steps in the program. One of them is forgiveness.

The actual word ‘forgiveness’ isn’t used in any of the 12 steps, but it is implied. After we’ve taken our inventory in the fourth step, we confess it in the fifth. Following confession, we ask for forgiveness. This is step 6 and 7. “We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

Steps 8 and 9 require that we make amends: We forgive others and ask for their forgiveness. This can only follow steps 6 and 7. Forgiving others flows naturally from our receiving forgiveness.

Today I feel resentful to someone at work. They don’t know I feel this way because I haven’t taken any action. My resentment toward them probably has more to do with me than it does them. However, it leaves me with a choice:

Will I hang on to it, or let it go?

This isn’t an intellectual decision. I already know the right answer! It’s a question of willingness. I know how to let go, but will I? And that’s an emotional decision that isn’t easy to make. I’ve read a lot of books, talked to a lot of people, and gone to a lot of meetings… and yet I still find this kind of decision difficult.

That’s because these decisions are made at an emotional level. There are no guarantees that I will make the right decision. None. This thing about correct decision making is not a slam dunk: Sometimes the ball rolls around the hoop several times before passing through the basket – or not.

Forgiveness (letting go) is to recovery as oxygen is to the air we breathe. There are no ‘ifs’ in forgiveness. Putting conditions on our ability to forgive will bring the whole process to a screeching halt. And we will ‘suffocate’ as a result.

If I am to continue in recovery, I must learn to forgive. Today, I need to let it go; hand it over to my Higher Power. “Let go and let God.” With God’s help I can let go.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood,” Marie Curie

When I began recovery and started to work the steps, I got bogged down at step four. What had started with enthusiasm soon became my favorite thing to avoid. I made up all kinds of excuses why I couldn’t finish that step. It started out with, “It’s too hard.” Then I began to tell myself, “I don’t have the time. That gave way to, “I don’t need to do this step.” And finally, “I have no interest in doing step four.”

Excuses were plentiful, and I found no difficulty coming up with them. I had to somehow rationalize my avoidance, my procrastination. But there was something that lurked beneath the surface: Fear.

Fear is not a bad thing, mind you. It sure comes in handy when you’re crossing the street or handling a knife. But it serves no purpose whatsoever when it prevents me from moving forward with something that is good and necessary like the 12-Step program.

So, what am I afraid of? I think (for me) it’s getting back to that ‘perfectionist’ thing.

I want everything to be perfect. But I’m afraid I’ll screw up, or that I’ll leave something out that’s really important. Most of the time I’m afraid I’ll get started, and then lose my momentum over time. And that has a great deal to do with my own lack of confidence. Let’s face it: Trying to do everything perfectly is completely intimidating. I don’t even want to try because I know I will not succeed. Of course I won’t succeed. It’s impossible; perfection simply doesn’t exist.

Is there a solution to procrastination? Well, it depends what is causing it. In my case, perfectionism – an illusion or fairytale I bought into when I was a kid – was the cause. It required that I simply be aware of this train of thought, and put a stop to it by taking action. Usually the inertia that builds up is broken with the first step. Instead of asking, “Why?” I have learned to ask “How?” When I dumb it down to something simple and doable, I can usually get started. If however I am unwilling to try step four, I review step three by renewing my commitment to my Higher Power.

There seems to be four steps to moving past procrastination in recovery:

1) Be aware of your train of thought, and your illusions about perfectionism
2) Simplify; stop intimidating yourself with what is complicated (dumb it down)
3) Ask for help by maintaining conscious contact with your Higher Power.
4) Take action by using baby steps until you have gained some momentum.

The program works if you work it; and you’re worth it!

“If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” G. K. Chesterton

Okay, I’ll admit it. I procrastinate. It’s not that I want to put things off; I just do. Like this blog post, for instance. I was supposed to start this a week ago. The desire to bring it to pass was certainly there – right from the get go. But I put it off. And for what?

I think I have an attitude of perfectionism. Even today I feel it lingering as I considered what to post. It’s got to be perfect, you know… as if ‘perfection’ actually existed. There remains this fantasy in my head that something perfect exists out there and I must keep looking until I find it. It’s enough to give me writer’s block! And all creativity is brought to a halt just because I spend my time looking for something ‘perfect’ to say.

Today I am grateful to my Higher Power for the realization that there is never going to be the perfect time, or place, or the perfect idea… or the perfect blog post. It’s very liberating to realize that perfection doesn’t really exist. Oh, I suppose it exists in my mind (along with a whole host of other illusions and fantasies.) But as I look around I realize that there is nothing perfect.

There will never be the perfect time to begin anything; the time to begin is now.

When I began recovery and started to work the steps, I got bogged down at step four. What had started with enthusiasm soon became my favorite thing to avoid. I made up all kinds of excuses why I couldn’t finish that step. It started out with, “It’s too hard.” Then I began to tell myself, “I don’t have the time. That gave way to, “I don’t need to do this step” And finally, “I have no interest in doing step four.”

Excuses were plentiful, and I found no difficulty coming up with them. I had to somehow rationalize my avoidance, my procrastination. But there was something that lurked beneath the surface: Fear.

Fear is not a bad thing, mind you. It sure comes in handy when you’re crossing the street or handling a sharp knife. But it serves no purpose whatsoever when it prevents me from moving forward with something that is good and necessary like the 12-Step program.

If I work the Steps I will recover; I need never fear that I won’t make it. I trust the program, and I trust my Higher Power. I am learning to love the way God loves. And this love gives me the courage to continue my journey. I may not be recovering ‘perfectly’ but I am recovering!

You are not perfect, nor will you ever be perfect. But you will recover if you work the Steps… and you’re worth it!

 

What lies hidden can hurt you…

Were you around during the construction of the Titanic? Me neither. We know there was a lot of hype that surrounded its maiden voyage… words like “indestructible” and “unsinkable.”

But this mighty ocean-going vessel never made it across the Atlantic. Not once.

Do we blame the engineers? The captain? The iceberg?

I don’t know. Perhaps the false idea that it was “unbreakable” caused this tragic incident. A sort of “don’t worry, we’ll be fine” attitude led to its demise…

Not knowing – or caring – what lies beneath the surface can set us up for a fall. And when we collapse, we could take a lot of people with us…

Thinking you are indestructible will set you up for a collision with the iceberg of hidden beliefs. There are ‘hidden’ beliefs just below the surface, beneath the level of your awareness. But just because you are unaware of them, doesn’t mean they don’t influence how you think and feel.

In fact, you have beliefs that have directed your life since you were a small child.

What are some of your hidden beliefs? Here are a few of my own:

· “I am unworthy”
· “I am not good enough”

Now, I don’t walk around thinking to myself, “I am worthless.” It’s my actions that betray my beliefs. I try to imagine what I want to do with my life. But I don’t make the necessary effort to get where I want to go. It is my actions that betray the belief “I don’t deserve it… I am unworthy.”

Your recovery depends on a growing awareness of your hidden beliefs that lie just below the surface. They’re the “iceberg” that can sink your ship before it has reached its destination.