Search This Blog

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Many Steps Does It Take?

Coming to the end of yourself can be an incredible blessing.  As long as you rely on your own limited resources - your own knowledge, experience, talents, skills, understanding, expertise - your capacity is defined by those things.  And they may take you far, as far as you want to go.

But sometimes they don't.  Sometimes you reach the absolute limits of your capacity, of your ability to manage your own creation, and it's unsustainable, shaking at its foundation and either falling down around you, or just waiting to.  I don't know which is scarier: impending destruction or its aftermath.

I do know that reaching the end of your own capacity, your own answers, your own ability to manage what you've created, is the beginning of liberation, of freeing yourself from your shortcomings, your weaknesses, your mistakes. It doesn't mean you don't have to face the consequences of your creation, or that you are somehow free from the responsibility for what you've done, but it's a great starting point for building something new.

You don't try to re-build a burning house while it's still burning.  You wait until the fire is out and the destruction and damage are done, and then you begin to re-build.  So if your life is in ruins, if you are standing among the ashes, understand where you are, that you have lost what was unsustainable, and now it's time to consider who you are and what you want in its place.

This is no way diminishes the reality of the loss, the pain of destruction, the toll of everything that is gone. Some say that suffering is an illusion, but what is more real and more immediate than pain?  We are so motivated by pain - escaping it, avoiding it, numbing it, working around it....  And especially in the moment, saying that devastation is a blessing may seem cavalier and insensitive.  But please know that the end of what you know isn't the end of everything that is.

If you're reading this, maybe you've reached the end - of yourself, of some situation, of a relationship, of something that you had invested in but never did belong to you.  Maybe you've reached the end of something you never wanted to end or has ended unfairly or unjustly or incomprehensibly.  Or maybe you want a new beginning, but don't know how to find the end.  However you've gotten here though - here you are.

So many of us have come to the end or ourselves, and thankfully, those who have come before us left a trail of crumbs to help us find our way to the next place.  I haven't dealt with addiction personally, but the 12 Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous are 12 very good steps, starting with surrender, with admitting, acknowledging and accepting that you've gotten to the end of yourself.  And then taking some steps to go beyond yourself and into something bigger - much bigger - than just yourself.  I've listed them below, with a couple of modifications:

1. Admit you are powerless—that your life has become unmanageable.
2. Believe that a Power greater than yourself could restore you.
3. Make a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understand Him.
4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
5. Admit to God, to yourself, and to another human being the exact nature of your situation/wrongs.
6. Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly ask Him to remove your shortcomings.
8. Make a list of all persons you have harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continue to take personal inventory and when wrong, promptly admit it.
11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with God, as you understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for you and the power to carry that out.
12. Have a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, try to practice these principles in all our affairs.
You don't have to be dealing with addiction or abuse for these to be helpful. Many of these steps are identical ones I've taken in my own life leading to the most important and profound transformations I've experienced.  Turning within and taking full responsibility for your life alters the way you understand yourself and especially yourself in relation to your circumstances and relationships. Admitting that you don't have unlimited power, and that you need help from something beyond yourself is both scary and simultaneously liberating.  And you may be sad and in pain as you go through this process, but you will never be sorry for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment