One of the earliest memories I have in sobriety was my difficulty with acceptance. At the time I did not know that my inability to accept life on life’s terms was directly proportional to my level of self-acceptance. I was extremely critical of people and convinced that any perceived wrongdoing by others was deliberate. It was not until I began to see how unaware I was of my behavior that I could recognize the same quality in my brothers and sisters. It took time, self-examination, and a lot of patient people for me to recognize that mankind may not be intentionally trying to make my life miserable. As my sponsor used to say “if you spot it, you got it.” When my eyes finally opened to my own selfish ways, I was able to see that others may be as oblivious to their behavior as I was to mine. What a concept! Self-acceptance of my own defects of character allowed me to take the world off the hook. I could finally stop taking things so personally. With the help of my higher power in steps 6 and 7, I have learned to adjust my behavior.
This does not mean I rest on my laurels and accept gluttony, sloth and envy as characteristics I must live with; on the contrary. Genuine self-acceptance is profoundly humbling. In order to assume responsibility for our defects of character, we must come from a kind and loving place. When we can be authors of our character rather than victims, change can take place. With the awareness brought about by sharing with others and working the twelve steps, we are able to catch the defect before we act on it. Self-acceptance is a critical ingredient in fostering spiritual growth.
Of course there are days when we are less than perfect. The knee jerk reaction wins, and that old defect of character rears its ugly head. Easy for this to happen on the 4o5 freeway during rush hour when you are late for work and some car cuts you off and then slows down to a crawl. If you happen to give the driver the good old one finger salute, here are two suggestions to practice self-acceptance : 1) Worse crimes have been committed, and most of us have committed them. 2) There is a step to make amends for the transgression, step 10. Wave to the next car that cuts you off and accept that they too may be late for work.