Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.
As I sit at my desk with those italicized words — all of these defects of character— staring back at me, my mind takes me to the issue of polling.
That’s a strange connection, I’ll admit, but it makes sense if you consider the and times we are in and the frequency of hearing “the poll report.” Though I have never, ever been asked to participate in a national poll, apparently there are many people who spend their lives taking polls, analyzing polls and either relying on them or discounting them. To be sure, we are bombarded with poll reports in this current season.
If I could get in on the polling system, here’s what I would like to know: –To what extent do you think recognizing one’s own defects of character is important? –To what extent does personal responsibility in dealing with one’s own defects of character modify the tendency to project one’s own defects onto others? — Do you agree or disagree that the unwillingness or inability to own, admit and take responsibility for one’s own defects of character is, in fact, a defect of character? –What effect does it have on others when a person cannot or will not recognize his own character defects?
If you have been reading this blog, my books or my Growing Edges column, you will know how I would answer to each of those questions, but for review, here is what I believe about how important this Step is. — If I were running the world (which, clearly, I am not) I would make learning to admit a mistake, learning to say, “I’m sorry” and learning how to make amends a part of every elementary school’s curriculum. — If I were in charge of things, I would find a way to teach children at all levels of their development how to give and receive forgiveness in age-appropriate ways. I would find a way to teach the processes of reconciliation; I would teach that all of us humans have character defects and that having a character defect does not make you a horrible person. –If I had any influence at all in the houses of worship and the communities of faith that are to be found in hundreds of places across my country, I would declare that learning how to forgive and be forgiven is one of the primary tasks of a spiritual life. I would promote processes and programs to help persons learn the ways of reconciliation.
Since I am not in any of those power seats, I must return to one of the basic principles of working a recovery program, and it is this: I cannot change anyone but myself.
Brought to my knees and sometimes my face by the truth of that principle and the hard, laborious and tedious work required in changing myself — my mind, my habits, my motivations, my tendencies, my defects — I must also remember the other principle that skins my pride and draws blood: That which I see in another that I hate is most likely present in me. (Here me shudder; I have given up roaring!)
Over the years, I have learned that the only way I can have the courage and stamina I need to be boldly honest with myself about these snarly problems called character defects is believing that when I turned my will and my life over to God as I understand him, God-Whose-Name-Is-Love took me seriously and will give me all I need to become aware of my defects, accept that they are mine and abandon those defects into his loving care.
And all of that, my friends, is made much easier when my working concept of God is not a concept that says that God is punitive, judgmental, vindictive and cruel.
My willingness and ability to face the things in myself that I do not want to admit is so much easier when I know that the God to whom I surrender my will and my life, and my character defects, is a God who is merciful and full of grace, compassionate and full of unconditional, unrelenting, pursuing love.
Don’t think for a minute that I am not keenly aware that we all live with the consequences of mistakes we have made, but by turning those mistakes and their accompanying heartaches over to the care of God, we can be given the strength and the grace to live with them. God is not about our continuing to punish ourselves over and over. He isn’t interested in our holding on to our failures. God is interested in our living the abundant life of love.
God doesn’t love me — with all of my defects — because of what I do or how well I do it. God loves me because that is who God is — Perfect Love.
And so it is that the more I can step up to the plate of self-examination and tell the hard, unvarnished truth about my strengths and my weaknesses, my abilities and my defects, the greater is the possibility that I will live in the sweet spot of mindfulness and awareness, love, joy and peace.
What about you? What is hard for you about this Step? How do you stumble all over yourself, avoiding the Step? How does pride or fear, arrogance or resentment get in your way of facing yourself and taking responsibility for your part in a problem?
Is it harder or easier for you to identify your flaws?
Is it harder for you to admit your flaws or give them up?
Do you find it easier– and more pleasant — to pick out the flaws and defects of others than to see them in yourself>
What hang-ups about God’s willingness to help you do you still harbor? In what ways do you cling to unbelief in God? Do you still operate with the idea that “if it is to be, it’s up to me”?
How is all of that working for you?
Carl Jung said that “the person who knows he is ordinary is extraordinary, indeed”. (I think he said “man”, but I’m daring to update Dr. Jung’s quote)
What does owning your character defects and being willing to have God remove them have to do with being either ordinary or extraordinary? Do those dots connect for you? (Hint: We all put on our pants the same way.)
Wherever you are on the path, I wish you well…..and.above all……
Grace to you-