The 4th and 5th steps gave us an idea of what our faults are, where they might be coming from, and which ones have been the major players in our lives up to now. Once we know what they are, we can start to get rid of them. But how exactly do we do that?
Some of them will be so minor that they seem silly in hindsight. We can simply let them go and that’s that. Something like “I’m jealous of my brother because Mom always liked him best,” maybe. (Remember the Smothers Brothers?) Other faults will need a bit more work. I go through a process of comparing my feelings/emotions of the moment against certain core beliefs and values I have. By the time I’m done, the majority of them drop to the more manageable level of “silly,” and then I can let them go.
Core Beliefs and Values
This is a short sample of beliefs and values of mine that usually play a part in the process:
- We are not powerless over our reactions or our feelings. We can choose to change.
- We are all brothers and sisters, each one of us a divine spirit having a human experience.
- The human experience is to be imperfect. We all have defects, and for the most part, they are all the same.
- To be human is also to be conflicted. We are both/and rather than either/or, both saint and sinner, beast and angel.
- What we resist persists.
There are others, of course. You may not have the same ones; yours might even be in direct opposition to mine. It doesn’t matter; we all need to discover and start living by our own set of values and beliefs.
Anger (along with resentments, which are anger we’ve put into an interest-bearing spiritual savings account) were big on my inventory, so I’ll use that in the example. When I get angry about something, such as something someone writes on the Internet, I stop and go through the following:
- I let myself feel it. What we resist, persists. I let it have its way until it subsides enough for me to continue. Sort of like counting to 10, except I observe the feeling without judging it as good or bad and accept it for what it is—the feeling of the moment.
- I name it. “OK, I have some anger here.” This lets me own the feeling.
- I look at why I reacted with anger. Maybe I was on a forum and someone replied to tell me I was wrong about something. This would affect my prestige in that community, which really means “my pride gets hurt.” Or maybe I hear my bank is going under, and my financial security evaporates. The list is, or seems, endless. (I don’t know yet, I’m still alive.)
- I decide whether I want to let it go. If I don’t, or I’m not sure, I look for why I want to keep it. What am I getting by clinging to the anger in this particular case. What’s the payoff? Am I afraid of something? Often, I’ll need to do some contemplative meditation to discover this.
- When I know I’m ready to let it go, I plug it into one or more of my core beliefs or core values.This puts it into a proper perspective, usually knocking it down to the more manageable level of ‘silly.’ Then, I can let it go.
The process is not as involved as it appears when written out, and it gets easier and more automatic as I practice it. It’s my way of disconnecting my buttons so that the next time a similar situation occurs, I can act with understanding, rather than react with emotion. The same process works whether I’m dealing with baggage from the past or present, and whether it involves another person or not. The only difference is that if it involves another person, I almost certainly will need to make an amends.
How do you go about ridding yourself of these defects?
How do I go about ridding myself of my defects of character? Very slowly and on a daily basis. Once I got to Steps Six and Seven, I knew that I had no power over what was going on inside of me and that I had to turn it over to a Power Greater than myself. Anger and resentment have always been part of my daily inventory. I have to watch out for my fragile little ego, which seems to think I have to be hurt all the time. After all, I am supposed to be growing in spirituality and there isn’t a timeline where I am finished with this process. Once I realize that it is the small things that get to me, and that it is all small stuff, then I am able to walk through whatever happens to be on my plate that day. My character defects rear their ugly heads not to hurt me, but to help me see who I am and who I can become. I have been in the process of working on one of my glaring defects, that I wasn’t even looking at, over the past few months. Once things were they way they should be, it felt like the baggage that I had been carrying around since childhood just fell away. But I have to continue to work on keeping me right sized and keeping the defects at bay. I am good enough and I don’t have to be perfect, though that was how I was raised: you are never going to be thus and such because of whatever defect of character, personality trait, looks, talent (or lack thereof) was going on in my life. I have to learn to love me exactly as I am: good and bad. When I buy into the idea that I can be better than I actually am, I am buying into that sickness that I was raised with. Good enough isn’t appreciated and it should be.
Each day that I try to work on being good enough and not try to be someone I am never going to be, I seem to have a better day than when I try to be who I am not. Keeping myself right sized, being able to look at myself and not get all upset about who I see and staying on a spiritual basis keeps me from going off the wall with my emotions.
Yes. When I am good enough for myself I am good enough for all who I would call friend.
For me I had to stop worrying about what I thought others might expect, And start understanding that if I’m good enough for myself I am good enough for anyone I would call Fred.
What I meant to portray is that my expectations of myself are at my core, and hopefully some day will all come from within rather than trying to meet an expectation of what I think the outside world would expect. That is my illusion.
Sorry I posted a reply twice Ron, but I couldn’t figure out how, or if I could edit to add too my first reply,
Hey, Gordon, not to worry. I don’t think you can edit your post once you’ve posted it. I think most folks here will understand. Ummmm, who’s Fred?
Thank you, Mary. As always, a great comment, written from the heart.
Thanks for your post. It is very interesting to see how someone else thinks about and deals with defects of character. My process is very similar to yours. To me, becoming aware of my defects of character through an inventory and self appraisal is the beginning of being able to be free of them. Once aware of my defects I can see their uselessness. I also think it is a continual process that takes place. I am confronted with situations that give me an opportunity to act contrary to my usual defect-filled actions.