There is no room for resentment, anger or fear in a heart full of gratitude.
This is a statement that I picked up from my sponsor. He will celebrate 27 years in the program next month. He’s picked up a lot of tidbits over the years. I am picking them up from him. He’s also taught me that I can trace these three emotions back to my ego. When I have a resentment, it’s because I didn’t get my way in the past. When I am angry, I’m not getting my way now. And when I have fear, it’s because I am worried I may not get my way in the future.
When I am feeling resentment, anger or fear, I believe it is all about me. It’s all about ‘my way’. It’s what I want to have happened, happen now or to happen. It’s all about unfulfilled expectations in the past, present and future. I heard another tidbit from a member this past week that summed it up quite neatly.
Expectations are resentments under construction.
Past, present and future expectations find their source in my ego and getting ‘my’ way. Expectations have little regard for what is going on around me, who I am dealing with, or where I happen to be at the time. And when they fail to materialize, then I become upset because you didn’t say you liked the gift I bought you; the traffic is making me late; the noise is making me lose my concentration. All expectations of how things ‘should’ be and not accepting how they are. The world revolves around me, don’t you know! Expectations start in the future and stealthily move through the present and slip into the past as resentments.
Gratitude removes me from resentment, anger and fear because it moves out of me and away from my ego. When I am grateful I am no longer thinking of just myself. I am thinking about the things that have been given or done for me. I stop and realize that this world isn’t just about me and about my thoughts, feelings and desires. I see how much I have been given by my Higher Power and by others around me. I see your part and how important it is in giving me the incredible life that I have. I am thankful for what I have been given, for what I have and for what I know will come my way in the future. I stop taking things for granted.
An earlier sponsor loved gratitude lists. She suggested that I think of at least three things I was grateful for every night before I went to sleep. She told me that when I am upset about something that if I focus on the wonders around me and be thankful. During the day, the real or imagined storm that is whirling around me will lose its strength immediately if I am thankful.
This sponsor died suddenly after only working with me for six months. I remember feeling abandoned and and fearful because now what was I going to do, who was I going to turn to, why would my Higher Power do this to me? I was focusing on how her death was affecting me: this wasn’t how I wanted things to go! I was turning the tragedy of her death into my tragedy because I expected that she would be around to guide me for a much longer time. Fortunately, I had worked with her long enough to realize how egocentric, how selfish I was being. I began to focus on how grateful I was for what she had taught me, for the love and kindness she shared with myself and others and for the challenge to follow her example of living the program.
The practice of gratitude takes practice.
It doesn’t happen overnight. And there are still times when I can get all tangled up in my mind because my focus is not on the present moment but on my resentments, anger or fears. With practice I am able to see my fear for what it is: an expectation of the future. If I remove that expectation, I can accept life on life’s terms and not be shaken by what happens. If I am not upset with how things turn out, then I have no reason to create a resentment. But as I said, this takes practice.
Getting into the habit of making a written or mental gratitude list is changing my focus away from the belief that life all about me. It changes my focus to see the wonders around me instead of in me. This habit helps to keep me focused in the present. I’m still working on it. I still have fears, resentments and anger, but they are less intense and I move on quicker. I can accept what is and not wish to change it. Like me, my focus on gratitude is a work in progress.
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