Keeping HopeAlive/Working the Steps: Step 9, Part 2

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I have worked the Twelve Steps for most of my adult life because I am a codependent.  An on-going, recovering codependent.

There are specific spiritual practices I follow, all of which are intended to nurture my soul.     I don’t follow those spiritual practices to please any external authority and I don’t do them to check them off my to-do list.   I do them to keep myself centered and at peace.

My spiritual practices strengthen the inner connection I have with God, and at this point (Day 73) of sequestering at home during this pandemic, I have come to understand in a new way that working the Twelve Steps is a powerful way to Keep Hope Alive.

Today I return to writing about  the challenge of Step 9 with a new understanding about that Step that comes as a result of spending this time at home.  I also have a new understanding of what my teacher/sponsor said to me when I first took  Step 9 under her wise guidance.

“A superficial apology isn’t enough when you have hurt someone by your behavior or your words.  You don’t have to grovel, but in your inner being you must feel the weight of what you have done to another person.  You must be truly sorry, and that comes from seeing clearly what you did and how it affected that other person.”

There is a tendency in all of us humans to dread having to face ourselves clearly and honestly, but there is nothing as healing as being truly sorry for the hurt and harm you have inflicted on another human being, likely someone you have said you love.  “At times, you even have to feel disgusted by what you have done,” she said.

I have never forgotten that moment.  Being disgusted with myself  wasn’t what I really wanted to feel.   In fact, the word repelled me.  Looking back, I realize that what I needed to do was be willing to be willing to feel the full weight of how my behavior had harmed other.

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Growing Edges Keeping Hope Alive: Radical Courage in Difficult Times Part 4

In the space of less than 24 hours last week, I had two experiences with the effects of this Covid 19 virus that have given me much to ponder.

First, I encountered an angry man in my dentist’s office who was flaunting his freedom by not wearing a mask and by roaming around among the 3 of us who were masked, waiting to pay our dentists’s services.  The man made a point of getting unnecessarily close to us and speaking to us.   The office staff, all masked to protect all of us, including the unmasked man, did a masterful job of staying calm, doing their jobs and then wiping down all surfaces as soon as he left.

The next day, driving to an appointment, I realized that I had turned right instead of left as I was looking for a particular tree on a tree-lined boulevard which my friend had described to me.  As soon as I realized I was going the wrong direction, so I pulled into a driveway so I could turn around.  Backing out of a stranger’s driveway, my eyes caught sight of a small sign on the ground near the driveway.

We’ll make it”, the sign declared, and I felt tears spring to my eyes.

We will make it, but what shape will we be in when all of this pandemic passes?

We will make it, but what will we have lost?   And among us, who are the ones we will have lost?

We will make it, but which of us will be able only to survive and who will be the ones to thrive?   Who will gain by this pandemic, and who will have lost everything or what matters most?

As a child, my dad taught me to “sit steady in the boat” when life is tossing me around.

As an adult, I’ve written a book entitled “Sitting Strong”, and yet, as faithfully as I have tried to do that, I admit or confess (take your pick) that when the angry man without a mask was circling around me in a close space, I was unsettled.  I also admit that when I saw that sign in a stranger’s driveway, I had to pause and allow that small sign to nudge me back to my center, the center where I remember the counsel of Julian of Norwich:

All will be well, and all will be well.   And all manner of things will be well.

   Those famous words of Julian of Norwich have been repeated by many during this time in which we are living.   Julian was an English woman who lived her life in the tiny cell attached to the church in Norwich, England, in the 14th century.   In meditation, she had several visions, which she carefully wrote down, and in the war-torn, pandemic-plagued time in which she lived, she maintained her steady faith in the love of God.  When people came to her with their troubles, her counsel remained the same.  Her writings were compiled into a book entitled Revelation of Divine Love, which was the first printed work by a woman.   Here is the larger text from which the above quote is taken:

He did not say 

You will not be troubled, you will not be belabored, 

you will not be disquieted;

Growing Edges: Keeping Hope Alive: Radical Courage in Everyday Life Part 3

Humanly speaking, despair is presumptuous.*

Several years ago, I a conference on hope at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.  Sponsored by what was then the Institute of Religion, the topic of hope and its importance were addressed by a priest, a pastoral counselor, a minister. a [physician, a nurse and various professionals in the area of mental health.  Dr. Bruce Perry addressed the issues of hope and hopelessness in children, especially those who had experienced trauma, neglect or abuse.  To this day, what Dr. Perry said impacted me profoundly and forever.

Dr. Perry is an author and a psychiatrist and is currently the Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston.  He is a leading authority on the treatment of childhood trauma.

Besides explaining how childhood trauma, neglect and abuse can affect the process of brain development in children, Dr. Perry brilliantly laid out in his presentation what happens when a child loses hope.  Hopelessness in a child can affect a child’s ability to survive, and certainly, to thrive.  When a child loses hope, Perry said, the child dies.

In the first column in this series of columns on Keeping Hope Alive, I mentioned that we who are the adults in the world and especially in a child’s world have a responsibility to speak hopefulness and act with hope, and I suggested that while we do that for ourselves, we do it because the children of our world are watching.  They take their cues from us.

In this column I want to emphasize that I believe that hope, unlike wishful thinking or wishing on a star, is a profound spiritual grace.  I will write more about that as at a later time.

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Keeping Hope Alive — Radical Courage in Everyday Life Part 2

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is within you. — 1 Peter: 3:15b

 

“I feel so much better since I gave up hope.”

Startled, I almost shuddered at those words spoken by a friend and accompanied by a bitter laugh.

I refrained from trying to talk him out of such blatant cynicism, but only because I know the way it feels to look forward to something, only to have the hopes and schemes I had cherished and worked for fall apart.

I know what it is like to try to see the bright side of life, only to have my vision obscured by darker clouds.  I know how it feels to have someone tell me, “Cheer up!” when my heart is so heavy I think it might fall out of my body.   I’ve tried putting on a happy face when I am so worried about something  that the demand to stop worrying and pretend something I don’t feel seems like mockery.

Working hard to make my dream come true, I understand the frustration of watching them drift into the horizon, chased by forces beyond my control.

The truth is that giving up hope may be the only way some of us can survive, for sometimes we just wear out.  Sometimes we just can’t tolerate one more letdown,  another failure, betrayal or crushed dream.  Giving up hope feels like the better alternative, a relief in the face of reality.  After giving up hope like my friend, maybe you may feel better because you aren’t waiting for something good to happen.

And yet, there is something in me that still wants to believe that there is “a reason for the hope that is within me.”

When attempting to talk about hope, we are caught in the same bind a when we try to talk about love.  There are so many facets to hope and love, but maybe we trivialize hope when what we really mean is that we are wishing.  Perhaps we should differentiate between hoping and wishing.