The world today is full of people who blame others for everything in life that doesn’t go their way. I believe that many parents are bringing up their children to believe that they are always right and don’t give in no matter what. Perhaps they were also raised that way which, of course, means the cycle never stops. There isn’t much good that can come of attitudes that give people permission to hold others accountable and not assume any personal responsibility.
There are many experiences I encounter in my workplace that I associate with recovery and what I have learned about myself working the steps. Step Four, in particular, is brought to mind when I speak to the young adults I work with and they claim no responsibility for their actions. Everything that happens to us in life is usually based on the decisions we make. I say “usually” because many suffer from childhood trauma that have nothing to do with their decision-making abilities.
I have had the privilege of writing weekly articles for BellaOnline for over eight years now and have written about Step Four more than once. Each time I write about it, though, I understand better how it has changed my life in recovery. I don’t pretend to write anything that is new and different but rather to focus on a particular point; that point being the fourth column of our inventory. It is that final part of our inventory after we have written the names of people and organizations we resent, the why, how we felt and just when we were going to blame everyone else for all of this, we were told we had a part in all of it.
One of the loops I found myself in when attempting to find my part was admitting a wrong but only because I felt someone wronged me first. Therefore, I was only reacting and who wouldn’t? A very simple example would be that I was an insubordinate teenager, well outside of the “norm” of insubordinate teens. My mom was quite controlling and strict and so my behavior was my reaction to her personality. So as long as she was who she was, then I was right in reacting in unpleasant ways. It is a loop because my behavior would make her stricter and I would again react. We spent years doing this dance and until I worked the last column of my inventory, I never saw any of this as my fault.
When someone new to recovery works Step Four their first reaction to column four is much like mine was with my mom. I try to ask questions that will guide the person so that they can uncover their part on their own. It isn’t my place to tell them what their part was and doing so can actually build yet another resentment. Finding your part isn’t always easy. The key is honesty and to be fearless in our thinking. This is all about us. It’s on paper and no one is going to kill us for what we now admit about ourselves. If you are having a difficult time finding your part, here is an example. A woman in our fellowship who has over 25 years of sobriety tells about her first husband. It seemed that she and her husband and another couple were the best of friends. When the husband of this couple died unexpectedly and at a young age, they invited the wife to live with them. My friend was in graduate school and her entire life centered on her education. One day she came home and found her best friend and her husband in bed! She was devastated! How dare they! But they did and so soon my friend and her husband divorced and he married her best friend.
How could you not help feeling sorry for my friend who was cheated on by her husband and best friend? But today she tells her part. It is not an excuse for her husband but she was able to forgive him because she realizes that she was not a good companion; she was selfish because all she cared about was herself, and she paid absolutely no attention to either her husband or her friend. She dug deep and found her part. She shares this story often because it is proof how easy it would be to blame others but the truth is we have a part in every resentment. The sooner we uncover it, the sooner we can begin the process of forgiving.
Perhaps the only time a person may not have a part in the resentment is, as I mentioned earlier, as a child. I have found from many in recovery (especially women) that they had experienced sexual abuse. The only thing one can do is work on forgiveness. I do not believe nor will I ever believe a child plays a responsible part. This type of situation may be revealed in a Fourth Step but the fourth column of the inventory will seldom solve the guilt and angst.
It is a lot easier today to see my part in most every situation. There really are times when we may feel a victim of circumstance. A second glance might prove that no matter how small, we still have a part. Maybe that small part was a “look”, a few careless words, body language that spoke louder than we thought or maybe the lack of any emotion at all.
Step Four need not be as difficult as it might seem. Thorough, honest and fearless! Do you realize how wonderful the world would be if everyone accepted responsibility for their words and actions and accepted their part as truth? Be in gratitude, recovering friends, because we have the key to all of that in Step Four! And we will know peace!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of "The Intervention Book" in print, e-book, and audio.