Friday, February 5, 2016

Please Don’t ‘Should’ On Me

During a Sunday service in our Saint Augustine New Thought congregation I heard a creative duo sing a great song. The lyrics were wonderful. I do not know whether they were singing an established song or wrote the lyrics themselves. I cannot remember the words, except for the refrain: “I Don’t ‘should’ on you. Please don’t ‘should’ on me.”
When I used to counsel congregants, I would often state: If I could remove two words from the English language, I would remove “should” and “ought.” Both words convey a twenty-twenty hindsight coupled with judgment and guilt. Both words bring the focus of the conversation from the present to the past as if it’s a predictor of the future. But what about NOW?
Well, NOW gets lost in the shuffle.
That’s kinda what I was going through as I reviewed my life while going through the memorabilia I had collected. I wrote a little about that last week [Msg-4-Jan-2016; Memories Of A Past That Is No Longer There]. I shared that experience in an AA meeting this week. The meeting topic was about acceptance, which was very appropriate for me. One principal story in the Big Book, is entitled “Acceptance Was The Answer” and that was quoted very often during the meeting. I have reproduced that below.
 “… After I had been around A.A. for seven months, tapering off alcohol and pills, not finding the program working very well, I was finally able to say, “Okay, God. It is true that I—of all people, strange as it may seem, and even though I didn’t give my permission—really, really am an alcoholic of sorts. And it’s all right with me. Now, what am I going to do about it?” When I stopped living in the problem and began living in the answer, the problem went away. From that moment on, I have not had a single compulsion to drink.
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
“Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” He forgot to mention that I was the chief critic. I was always able to see the flaw in every person, every situation. And I was always glad to point it out, because I knew you wanted perfection, just as I did. A.A. and acceptance have taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us; that we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here. When I complain about me or about you, I am complaining about God’s handiwork. I am saying that I know better than God.[Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., 2001, pp. 416-7]]
That passage is one of the most quoted from all of AA’s stories. It is critical to my sobriety and serenity. The problem is always within me. I was taught – and now firmly believe – that I either profit materially or learn a lesson from everything I do or that happens to me. Either way it is a positive outcome. Without that thought guiding me, I quickly regress into a huge pity-pot and relish holding court from my king-baby chair as the premier critic of the universe.
Wallowing in self-pity, I am in a state of anger, resentment, and discontent. That is the exact opposite of what my spiritual progress has allowed me to glimpse: peace, joy, serenity and love.
For me it always boils down to being in my thoughts all by myself. I’m reminded of another quote common among AA old-timers: "Your mind is like a bad neighborhood - don't go in there alone."
But I still do sometimes – until the pain and discontent get too great. Then I remember – “Donnie, you’ve been in a bad neighborhood all by yourself. All about you is fear, anger, resentment, hate. Go to a meeting and talk about it.”
It always works for me.
I remember that I was taught I’m as sick as my secrets. If I feel ashamed or embarrassed about sharing in a meeting, then I’ll find someone I can confide in privately. The longer I’m active in AA, however, the less I find myself being embarrassed by being honest.
That’s why I compose and send these weekly messages to you. It allows me to simply share who I am – as I grow and as I stumble.
When I am speaking/thinking lots and lots of “should” thoughts – whether directed at myself or outwardly – I know instinctively that I am in a “bad neighborhood” and I am not happy and serene.
I get out of there as quickly as I can!
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 Feb 2016

Copyright 2016

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