Saturday, November 26, 2011

Step 7 and Character Building

Step seven reads, "Humbly asked Him to remove our short-comings." I have always taken this to mean that after I have discovered my short-comings in steps four and five, I say a simple prayer, trusting in my Higher Power to do the work, for I am powerless. And afterwards, when I still struggle with these defects of character, I just need to keep trusting and wait for God's time and place. In previous readings of step seven in the twelve and twelve, I've noticed the words "character building" but haven't paid much attention. In this current round of step work, those words seemed to be printed in bold face.

 I found this definition on the internet:
"Character building" is experiences which teach you some of life's lessons; lessons like keep your word, pay attention, don't run with sharp objects. Many character building experiences hurt and may contain a "significant emotional experience". With a little good luck, you will live through them and be a better person. (Wiki Answers)
"Hurt" and "significant emotional experience", hmmm. That explains why I was avoiding looking at those two words. I've spent a lifetime running from pain and emotions and have continued to run, avoiding these in sobriety. On page 71 of the Twelve and Twelve, Bill writes that "we have lacked the perspective to see that character-building and spiritual values have to come fist." Pain and emotional experience have to come first?

Bill goes on with page 72, "But whenever we had to choose between character and comfort, the character-building was lost in the dust of our chase after what we thought was happiness."

Yep, that's me.

"Seldom did we look at character-building as something desirable in itself, something we would like to strive for whether our instinctual needs were met or not."

Yes, very seldom.

"We never thought of making honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God the daily basis of living."

Which is a really good definition of humility.  Putting others and God ahead of me and my comfort.

But what does this mean to me in practical terms? Well, the other day we went for a walk to town while it was raining heavily. My partner brought her umbrella while I wore my rain gear. I am much taller than she which results in those protruding steel tips being at the same height as my eyes. I began to feel sullen and angry during the walk. I felt resentful towards her and the umbrella. I am reluctant to write just how strong those emotions were. The joy of the walk was gone, I was uncomfortable. Fortunately, I had just finished Step 7 and was trying to figure out how to put that step into action. So I kept my mouth shut, tried to stay connected to the conversation we were having, all the while being mindful of the umbrella. I find it difficult to  carry those emotions around and not react to them. I have always wanted to run from feelings that are uncomfortable, often justifying my actions which allows me to push back. Truthfully, in the past when I have tried to dodge the feelings, I just created a worse situation. So this time, I kept my mouth shut, kept the feelings rumbling around in my belly and did my best to put my partner first. Good news is that I did not loose an eye or a relationship. As I kept on trying to work through these emotions, not trying to dissipate them with anger, I managed to keep her walk somewhat enjoyable despite the rain. Nor did I have to make a direct amend for an angry outburst.

And that's how I see character building in step seven. To keep on trying to have some humility, even as I struggle with emotional pain, to put the other first. Step seven is like all the other steps, my Higher Power does his/her part but I have to take responsibility for my part.

Henry David Thoreau is quoted as saying: "You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one."


Grace-WorkinProgress said...

I am familiar with character building. I was happy to read the part about leaving it up to God to remove the character defects. I tired today and a lot of my defects are showing.

Annette said...

Thank you for this. I have been really mad lately and I know that I need to keep the focus on myself and focus on my steps and do some work....but I keep circling around blaming, lashing out, and showing others how wrong and incapable they really are. My toes are right on the edge of that line. Your post may have been just the thing I needed to hear to back myself up.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post & blog

Anonymous said...

Thank you so so much for this - I happened across this blog today, just when I needed it most. For being of service & being an instrument of His will, I salute you.