I’m so important. I’m so special. I’m so unique. Yeah, right. But I really thought that. In fact, my favorite words were, “You just don’t understand.” Can you identify with this at all?
It’s funny how my inward perspective has changed since I’ve been in recovery. When I first arrived, I was quick to blame everyone around me for all of my problems. My husbands, yes, both of them, were to blame for my depression. My kids were to blame for my mood swings. My mothers-in-law were to blame for my frustration, and on and on. There were very few people in my life that didn’t get blamed for something. Sorry guys.
When I claimed my seat in recovery, I didn’t know I would have to undergo a complete makeover to keep it. But that’s what it required, and still requires, every day. At first, I focused on myself. I started to peel away the layers of denial and reveal my sorry state of terminal uniqueness. It came as a shock initially. What do you mean that my life isn’t more difficult than other people’s? What do you mean I don’t have it worse than everyone else? The realization that I was NOT that different was hard to digest. I had felt so different for so long. How was I supposed to believe that I was just like everyone else?
Eventually, I saw that my problems, my errors and my defects were just as big as I made them. They didn’t grow and shrink when I added and removed people, places and things from my life. They grew and shrank when I added and removed my part. That was a sobering realization and one I still have trouble recognizing.
As time went on and I was able to see the enormity of my own faults, I noticed that everyone else’s defects got smaller. My intolerance of others’ laziness, anger and martyrdom started to dissipate when I saw my own behaviors reflected in theirs. I cringed a little inside when I realized that I was them not too long ago. And I could easily be them again.
The more I worked my program and surrendered to the steps and ultimately to God, the more I grew in spirit. It’s like He seeped into my soul and oozed into every nook and cranny of my being. His grace poured over my defects like water over rocks, gently wearing them away.
The first time I noticed this happening was truly awe-inspiring. I was driving in my car and saw a dirty, long-haired homeless man walking with ripped bags of belongings. Something made me slow down rather than driving blindly by. In that instant, I saw myself in that man. I saw that without the right actions, without taking the right steps, without my faith; my illnesses – even my stubbornness, could land me exactly where he was. I was amazed at the calm compassion that I felt. Probably because I had never felt that before. It was a genuine God moment. A moment when He took over and showed me what He sees every day.
I’ve had so many other little God shots since then, moments when I stand back and say a little prayer of thanks for being who I am and not who I was. I pause and see someone’s struggle not as an inconvenience, but as an opportunity to help and be of service. And I’ve learned to recognize too that everyone will be ready in their own time.
Now when I encounter people that test my patience, I react differently. Instead of putting someone down for playing the victim, I practice accepting and tolerating them. Sometimes this requires setting boundaries. Sometimes it requires removing them from my life or me from theirs. Most of the time I realize I need a lot more practice.
It’s truly amazing to me how this whole right-size thing works. I don’t understand it. I don’t want to understand it. I just want to keep doing it. Because the more I grow spiritually, the smaller I realize I am. And the smaller the “I” in me is, the more room there is for God to work in and through me. And if this is humility, then I’ll keep practicing because it sure feels good.