By Judy Michaels Safford
A passion has deepened in me to be an advocate of kindness. We have punished ourselves long enough. Now is the time for kindness, gentleness and tenderness – especially toward ourselves – as we approach our spiritual growth by cleaning our emotional house.
Thirty-two years ago, I walked into my first 12 Step group for compulsive eaters. I enjoyed six years of abstinence, walked away and picked up the over-eating compulsion again. Gratefully, I now have eight years of no sugar or flour, including two years following the healing Ayurvedic food/life plan that gifts my body, mind and spirit with happiness, joy and contentment.
In the process of working through the 12 Steps, I have found four of them especially helpful in clearing my emotional house and developing a stronger sense of kindness toward myself.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
In 1996, my sponsor introduced me to Step 4, in which I began to identify conclusions I made in childhood. Step 4 remains the most profound beginning to my emotional healing. My understanding about a searching and fearless moral inventory has transformed. No more is it a process of looking for sins or wrongs. It is a discovery of how childhood formed my thoughts, how my thoughts create feelings and that actions often come from feelings. The critical voice of the misguided beliefs “beat me into guilt and shame for many years.”
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Three people, who hold a tender space in my heart, were present to hear my written inventory. I was relieved when they were not interested in my past but only wanted to know about my thoughts around the inventory.
Recently, I was asked if I could help a woman with what she called her “soul-sickness.” She agreed to do the work of Step 5. As she wrote her way through life incidents and misinterpreted thoughts, the lies unearthed themselves. In seeing her progress, I revisited the lies I thought were true and recommitted to living the joy of truth.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
I prefer “his lie” in place of “all these defects.” The lie statement assists in gathering information. Revealed are the cost and payoffs of the lie. I am reminded that my own lies cause harm to myself and others. Today, I choose differently – truth. Its gift is peace and joy.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Here we ask God for words to express the beautiful, deeper truth. The discovery of truth is a sacred moment.
Even after going through this process, I continue to reveal where my own mistaken beliefs still have a hold on me. I tell myself a lie about relationships (“I give 100% and get nothing in return”), but knowing this is a lie diminishes its power. Instead, I replace it with an affirmation, “My heart is open to receive the gifts of life.”