ALL OF US HAVE KNOWN at one time or another the thrilling rewards of watching some particular newcomer, for whom we have a special fondness, recover his or her life and spirit and vitality in AA. A friend I have known for some twenty-five years is now approaching his sixth month of sobriety. His transformation is a daily miracle for me to watch.
We had been very close long ago in our early days when as fresh, eager out-of-college youngsters we had believed we could set the Big Town on its collective ear. Our paths separated. . .touched now and then. . .and when three years ago I surrendered to the welcoming hands of AA I had not seen him for several years.
I did not know of the trouble he had been having, nor anything of the intensity of his suffering because, unlike myself, he had not lost any of the external symbols of a reasonably stable, highly creative personality. He had called for help from a mutual friend and it was not until a week of nightly meetings and complete sobriety that he finally ‘phoned to tell me that he too was one of us.
During these six months I have watched him grow and change in that miraculous way I know but am always astonished by.
The other night he gave me a brown and faded clipping from the New York Times dated February, 1952. He had carried it around without knowing why or what it meant, for five years. He said he had had the feeling that it carried a deep meaning for him personally, a meaning that he would some day have to understand.
Now at last, he said, he did understand.
Here is the clipping . . .
THE ACCEPTANCE OF ONESELF is the essence of the moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook upon life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ–all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself–that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness–that I myself am the enemy who must be loved–what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we * * * condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least lowly in ourselves. Had it been God Himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied Him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.C. G. Jung in “Man and God”
ADDITIONAL NON-AA QUOTES PERHAPS USEFUL AND RELEVANT
Brene Brown – “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” (Daring Greatly)
“Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” (The Gift of Imperfection)
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions. Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” (The Gift of Imperfection)
Thomas Merton “Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy. My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love—outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion. We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves—the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin(i.e. separation from God; missing the mark). For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin (New Seeds of Contemplation)
“When we accept ourselves for what we are, we decrease our hunger for power or the acceptance of others because our self-intimacy reinforces our inner sense of security. We are no longer preoccupied with being powerful or popular. We no longer fear criticism because we accept the reality of our human limitations. Once integrated, we are less often plagued with the desire to please others because simply being true to ourselves brings lasting peace. We are grateful for life and we deeply appreciate and love ourselves.” (Ragamuffin Gospel)
James Hollis – “ There is something in us, all of us, that knows what is right for us, which path is ours and not someone else’s, something that pushes us beyond our comfort zone into areas of growth, development, and presence in this world greater than we have lived up to this point. ….While all the twelve-step programs promote a self-inventory, a laundry list of harm brought to self and others, they follow with the recommendation that one should seek confession and make amends with those harmed, when doing so would not bring further harm. That all makes sense. But one has to add one’s own name to that list of those harmed, to the list of those needing amends and reparation. Just as any of us may have regrets for things done and for things not done, so do we also have to see in what way the legacy of those choices continues to affect others, or perhaps continues to metastasize within us. The more thoughtful we are, the longer the list of things that ask forgiveness. Given that it is so hard to forgive ourselves when we are sensitive to those around us, I have always drawn some leavening from the concept of grace. Theologian Paul Tillich expressed it best when he defined grace as accepting the fact that we are accepted, despite the fact that we are unacceptable. Yes, given the accountability of a thoughtful, conscientious adult, our list of shortcomings is long indeed. And yet, given that we too are only human, sensitive, vulnerable, bound to our wounding history, then why can we not also lend a measure of grace to ourselves as we might readily to others? Since when are we exempt from the human condition? Why are we an exception to Philo’s recommendation of kindness, given that we too are persons in a rather big crowd with really big problems? Why are we judged more than the other? Is not our radical condemnation of ourselves a narcissistic variant of our “specialness”? Is it not a form of peculiar narcissism to fault ourselves even more than others? Is it not a perverse satisfaction to deny to ourselves the grace we can bestow on others? Is it not a failure of love to be unable to love even the unlovable parts of ourselves? The capacity to love our unlovable parts is not an endorsement but a recognition that they are also part of who we are. These troubling zones of the soul are what give form and depth to the human gestalt, without which we would be but creatures of our environment, automatons of “goodness,” conditioned by overwhelming forces of sanction, social pressure, and accommodation. These parts are what give us character rather than the thin-souled one-dimensional creatures we were sometimes raised to be. These unlovable parts are what make us most human and therefore most worthy of grace and of love. Only grace, which accepts, and love, which heals, can ever lead us to a larger spiritual life, lest we remain mired in recrimination and derogation of the richness of the soul. Furthermore, paradoxically, only in the act of loving these unlovable parts of ourselves, which our ego consciousness sees as other, can we ever love others. This acceptance of others starts at home, by accepting the other that resides within us as well. I am still working on this myself, but I am working on it.” ( Living an Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey)