by Paul S. (Punanai 2011)
Yesterday we had a storm that cut the power at my place of work. As I left to make my way home, the elevator opened and out came a staff member who had been trapped in the elevator for several hours in between floors. She was teary-eyed. I immediately grabbed her some water and tissues and asked if she needed anything else. She said she just wanted to go home and was afraid to get back on that same elevator. I offered to go with her, as I was leaving too. And down we went – safely.
I write about this because in my active days, I would never have offered any assistance. I would have walked past her, knowing she was in distress, but busy with my own self-centered worries and random musings. My thoughts often trapped me and my spirit often descended downwards, just like that elevator.
My selfishness was a cocoon and was a place to land, even if the landing pad was littered with sharp jagged glass. In this mindset my needs came first, and the thought of helping others was as foreign to me as writing a novel in Sanskrit or playing the lute. The only time I would offer myself was when the outcome favoured me, or when it briefly bolstered my self-esteem or ego.
This newfound spiritual sleight-of-hand didn’t come overnight, though. After identifying my character defects in Steps 4 and 5, it wasn’t until I got to Steps 6 and 7 that I was able to let the Creator tackle those defects. Step 6 asks me if I am entirely ready to have these things removed. And in Step 7, I humbly ask him to remove my shortcomings.
So humility is involved – something new to me. I ask Him to take these things like my selfishness, my fear of failure, my playing the victim card, my sarcasm, my grandiosity, my low self-esteem, etc.
Then what? I can’t sit down and expect all those things to magically vanish like Copperfield tackling a field of bunnies. I can’t work on myself – I tried that while drinking and that went pear-shaped quickly. I had bookshelves lined with self-help books. They did nothing but keep me in the delusion that I could save myself, that ego was running the show. And the steps are everything but self-help – its Higher Power-propelled stuff. I am out of the equation. So then what do I do in this step?
For this alcoholic, the answer is a simple yet profound one. I keep myself open to His guidance. And how do I do that? I keep the noise away. I stay teachable and willing to do what I need to do to stay well. I do the step work, help others, and keep myself on an even spiritual plane. I listen to that little voice – you know, the one that tells you what is the right thing to do. Call it intuition, conscious contact, whatever. When I listen and move past the fear of not doing it, and do it, I am allowing my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, as He sees them.
In conjunction with that, I often act as if the character defect has been removed. He removes the things that block me from Him through action. If I see someone who needs help getting on the bus, or if I can give a ride to someone in poor weather, or even sit down with a friend in need, I do it. I don’t overthink it. I don’t let ego hold sway. Before I know it, selfishness starts to dissipate. Through action, through His gentle nudging.
This is the beautiful thing about Step 7 – it’s not about force and will. It’s not about cramming a round peg into a square hole. This is about riding along the gentle current that is borne within us and through us that brings us to place of serenity and peace. It’s about swaying and staying with our inner calling navigated by Him, to a destination we are not privy to at the moment, but we know is meant for us and us alone. It’s about having the faith and courage to move against our own ego-driven tide and place trust in the process. My character defects dissolve little by slowly. It’s over a lifetime that I get to reap the benefits of this step, contingent on my willingness.
And like that young lady in the elevator, I get to continue my journey home, feeling safe and sound, rehydrated by the Sunlight of the Spirit and knowing that every move forward is a move away from the drink, and closer to Him.