Wednesday, March 7, 2012

“Here Comes De Judge” (or The story of My Ego)

The other day I was listening to a member of the AA fellowship discuss her encounter with an anonymous someone who had only been to several meetings. The someone wondered “how she did it” – meaning how my friend worked the AA Program and stayed sober. As my friend related the incident, she was struck by all the negative exclusions her questioner had at her fingertips. She related the standard AA directions to the newcomer: “If you want what we have, do what we do.” Then she reminded her of the 5 or 6 standard-issue suggestions of the Program: Go to meetings, Don’t drink, Get a sponsor, Pray, Work the Steps, and when tempted, Call someone – anyone – in the Fellowship.

The newcomer had responses to every suggestion explaining why she couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t work the Program like everyone else. She was too busy at home and at work. She was too involved with her church activities. It was suggested she pray first thing in the morning and read one of the steps in AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. “I’m not a morning person,” she said.

Turns out she wasn’t an afternoon person, an evening person or a night person either.

She was afraid that working the Steps would conflict with her Christian beliefs. She was afraid that the bottom she believed she had hit, wasn’t bad enough to warrant her having to knuckle-down and really concentrate on AA’s “standard, run-of-the-mill” suggestions for achieving sobriety. “Why can’t I simply read through the Steps until I think I understand them? Why do I have to do a moral inventory, discuss it with someone, and eventually make amends to those I have wronged – when I really don’t think I truly wronged anyone anyway?”

I’ve heard many similar excuses before as well – as a sponsor in AA, in listening to why people believe they cannot adopt the principles of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), hearing folks make all kinds of excuses as to why they cannot begin reducing their carbon footprint or begin adopting the principles of the Simplicity Movement, and so on. In almost every case the people appear to want what they think I have, but they have all the excuses and distractions that make implementing my suggestions impossible for them.

Their actions seem to indicate they want to remain exclusively unique.

All of this got me to thinking about my ego’s use of exclusivity as one of its primary defense mechanisms. Exclusivity, exclusionism, and uniqueness lead to thoughts like: Things just don’t seem to apply to me; I’m different; My circumstances are different; I‘m unique.

Then I remember, as an active alcoholic, I almost died from a very severe case of “terminal” uniqueness. I also remember, as I began to get sober by following the suggested AA program of recovery, what a wonderful relief it was to simply identify myself as “one of the herd – a very ordinary recovering alcoholic.” Nothing special. Nothing unique about that.

That shift in my thought-process has saved my life, although I still haven’t fully realized how profound that shift actually was. I’m still learning.

The damning thing about my ego’s desire to be unique is its very subtle insistence on judging, comparing, and criticizing. As long as my ego can continue to push my uniqueness button, I will remain believing in my (and your) separateness. That’s a killer to my spiritual growth and development. That’s what’s so damning about my ego.

For me the way I try to control my ego’s desire to judge is to focus on not using the words “should,” “could,” “would,” “ought,” and “ …, but.” Many I know, if they could not use those words, would have little to say.

You know what I “would” do if I were you?
Have you ever thought you “should” try this?
What you say makes a lot of sense, “but” for me, the situation….
My life ”would” have been so much better if only I “could” have understood the implications of ….
Do you know what I think you really “ought” to do?
Most of these judging words come in the form of un-requested advice, and I have to remember that un-asked-for advice is generally translated by the hearer as criticism. Criticism is judging. I do it all the time, and it makes no difference if I am carrying on an actual conversation with someone or whether the conversation exists only in my head. It’s all the same to the universe. I am judging. And when I judge, I have become separate from you. I am different from you. I am unique, which has no place for you. We are different individuals.

As long as I believe I am truly separate, my ego is in control and my spirit suffers. When I feel separated from you my spiritual growth comes to a grinding halt and I stagnate. After a while a stagnant spiritual life, just like stagnant water in a pond, begins to smell.

The ability to not judge and the ability to forgive are very closely related. AA says simply, “The easiest way to learn to forgive is simply to learn to not blame in the first place.” Similarly, ACIM outlines 3 steps to forgiveness: 1) I forgive the projected perception of you I have created in my mind; 2) I forgive myself for creating this perception; and 3) I ask the Holy spirit to give me another way of seeing this situation without judgment, and then I still my mind and listen for His whispers of Truth.

So I try very diligently to stay away from “should,” “could,” “would,” “ought,” and “…, but.”

Thanks for listening and, as always, please share this message with my blessings.

#1 March, 2012

Donald O'Dell

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