Occasionally we hear quotes, slogans, sayings, something that seems innocuous on the surface, but resonates with wisdom upon further inspection. Al-Anon, a program for the families and friends of Alcoholics, has official slogans which are raised to the level of proverb, of wisdom, of scripture in the program. One such saying is “Let It Begin With Me”.
From How Al-Anon Works, Al-Anon Family Groups, 1995, 2008, Pages 69-70:
The Al-Anon program helps us to stop focusing so intently on what those around us say,, do, and feel, and instead to put the focus on ourselves. When we are tempted to blame others for our problems or to justify our own poor behavior by pointing to the poor behavior of others, this slogan reminds us where our focus rightfully belongs. We are responsible for our actions, regardless of how others behave. When we feel the need to change a situation, we can apply this slogan, and start with what we can improve. Would a change of attitude on our part make things work more smoothly? Are we making a positive contribution to what is happening, or merely standing by and criticizing, waiting for others to take care of the situation for us? “Let It Begin With Me” is a way to change the things we can – especially our own attitudes – instead of waiting for everyone else to change to suit us.
Often, a very legitimate need or desire goes unrecognized because we expect that need to be met by someone else. We may be yearning for more honesty in a relationship, or for m0re pleasurable weekends, yet taking no responsibility for our own part in addressing these needs. This is like going hungry while waiting for someone who doesn’t cook to make dinner. “Let It Begin With Me” might suggest we go ahead and cook for ourselves, go out for dinner, or make plans with someone who cooks. In short, we take responsibility for getting our own needs met.
Thus, if we have a mental wish list of the things we want a parent, child, spouse, friend, or employer to do for us or bring to our relationship, we might consider ways to satisfy those wishes in another manner or with other people. If we have often been disappointed by and undependable friend, instead of waiting for that person to change, we might try to stop depending on him or her. Perhaps someone else in our life would be more reliable when we really need to count on someone. We might also ask if we have been consistently reliable in all of our relationships. Sometimes the things that bother us most about others are the very things we do ourselves without realizing it. Similarly, what we most admire in others can be the very traits we are capable of cultivating in ourselves.
Well how about that? I fancy myself a somewhat educated and thoughtful person. I am not inclined to give credit to simplicity. My further inclination is to first hold others accountable – often too proud to admit any fault of my own. I say that with a qualification – any academic discussion is easy to refer to humility as a noble character trait – but in practice my experience is one of forceful resolve – fortitude, determined to push my agenda forward. I believe that redneck comedian says “Git-r-done”. That would be me. I am not bragging or being facetious, I am just trying to be completely honest in my self appraisal.
I am trying to say that I have been wrong in my attitude about the effectiveness of resolve without question.
More qualifications are necessary – for some do not experience me in the light of forceful arrogance. I am a senior citizen, not yet elderly. Much of my life has been one of self-reflection. I have tried ‘the one true God’, his boy Jesus, Jung, Gandhi, and Buddha. One of my brilliant and dear old friends persuaded me to take a close look at Astrology (Which made as much sense as Eagles being the most spiritual being because they fly closest to God. Metaphorically, these ideas can work. They do work when they cause serious self-reflection that results in positive change.)
I have made great progress in terms of positive change. The problem seems to be that I started way behind everyone else. There was a time when I was quick to literally punch a person in the face for being disagreeable. I have only done that once in the past thirty-five years. I find that I have great problems in issues of intimate importance to my soul – things that affect my children, grandchildren, and my children’s mother. Scary things happen and I want the safety of my old tools. I have an old hammer with a smooth handle that fits my hand perfectly – it is a brutal and harsh tool, seldom necessary in civilized society – but if feels comfortable and I understand it. Somehow when a crisis looms I seek the comfort of the familiar old tools. I know better. Forty years of self-reflection have taught me better.
Fear is a powerful emotion. Nothing provokes fear in me more than any perceived threat to my family. Nothing, except a real threat – not perceived – but documented and verifiable – that strikes the chords of fear and the old hammer calls my name.
I walk today in the wake of the destruction caused by the caustic hammer of fear. The modern U.S. Military uses ‘smart bombs’. They are precision instruments designed to take out a single building rather than the whole town. My hammer is more like carpet bombing with incendiary devices designed for maximum destruction. Nothing is spared.
Have I made my point? Let me be clear. War reparations are due. “Let It Begin With Me”.
If you read this and you understand then please call me. Come over for breakfast. Sooner is better while I am in a repentant mood. BR-549