I don’t know about anyone else, but I sometimes, once in a while, given just the right set of circumstances, maybe have the tiniest little issue with my ego.
Ok, that’s a lie. I battle my ego on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s a moment-by-moment battle. In fact, in the seventies, a song came out with the lyrics “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.” Deep down inside I just knew that song was about me!
I can still remember where I was when I realized that I was not the center of the universe. Our family was driving south on US highway 41, headed toward my all-time favorite town, Kentland, Indiana. You can imagine why it was my favorite town.
Anyway, as we were driving through, I saw all of these houses along the highway. There were some families outside enjoying the day, and it struck me. They were not there for my viewing pleasure. No, they actually had lives of their own. They were real people. Real families. Real stories. To them, I was just another kid in another car, rolling down the highway.
I was probably all of three years old when I had my epiphany. My eyes were opened that day to a whole new world of possibilities. For the first time in my life, I realized that I was part of something bigger than myself. Bigger than my family, and the kids I knew at the old schoolhouse turned apartment building in which we lived.
That was the first time my mind was opened to the fact that other people all have lives of their own. Their own stories. Stories full of love, of loss, and of facing life’s challenges. Stories that, as I would realize in the years to come, would sometimes intersect with my story.
Some of those intersections are momentary encounters. A wave as two cars pass on a country road. Or a door held open for another patron at a restaurant. Encounters that are less than memorable, and yet bring us together as parts of humanity nonetheless.
Then there are those encounters that can leave us feeling angry or offended. The car that cuts us off in traffic. The door that is allowed to slam shut in the face. Little offenses that are, again, unmemorable and easily dismissed.
So many intersections in life. So many opportunities to build each other up as sojourners along life’s paths.
My ego can get in the way of building others up. In fact, at its worst, my ego can do a great job of tearing others down. I can allow the smallest perceived slight (note I use the word “perceived,” because many slights are only in my mind) to become a resentment that grows into an ugly attitude.
When this happens, it is as though I never experienced that moment of epiphany as a toddler. I can quickly write someone off, deciding that they are less than me. Less in every way. So much less, in fact, that I can say or do to them whatever I please. After all, they only exist for my entertainment anyway.
This extreme form of dehumanizing treatment is rare for me. At least I hope it is. Yet, it does still happen at times. Despite my own best efforts to practice humility, and reign in my ego, I can still be guilty of mistreating people in this manner.
Yesterday, my ego intersected with just such a person. I’m embarrassed to say that I engaged in a war of words on Facebook with a fellow addict in recovery. We lobbed insults back and forth for several minutes for all the world to see. It was ugly.
Something odd began to happen though. The more I insulted him, the worse I felt. Each harsh word seemed to cling to me. My spirit was growing darker with each passing moment.
Then he did something unexpected. He sent me his phone number, suggesting that we talk.
I wasn’t ready to talk yet. I wanted to dig my hole a little deeper. I had more fight left in me. More harsh words. More…
Then I did it. I dialed his number. When an actual voice answered the line, his voice, it happened. It was like being back in my dad’s car driving through Kentland again. This Facebook profile I had so easily torn down just moments before became a human being. A real person with a real voice. A voice that sounded both a little sad and a bit tentative.
Then, we talked some more.
Our conversation grew deeper as we confessed to each other resentments that had been held onto for much too long. Resentments for which we had long forgotten any origin. Resentments that were, not only hurting the other, but harming us individually as well.
Yesterday had been an emotional day already. So much had gone on. So many memorable events. Yet it is that simple conversation that I think will stay with me.
Yesterday, in that twenty or so minutes, I gained a new brother in recovery. Someone I know I can call upon for a word of encouragement. Someone I hope will feel the same about me.
When I hung up my phone, I felt the burden of that resentment lift from my spirit. I had sensed something holding me back in my recovery before yesterday. Some unknown force that was sucking the joy out of this new way of life.
One of the things we discussed during our conversation was the third tradition of Narcotics Anonymous. It tells us that the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using.
We discussed the importance of that desire to stop using. Yesterday, I learned that my desire to stop using must be stronger than anything that threatens my recovery. Stronger than even my most deeply held resentments.
This morning, when I sat down to write, I already knew what I would be writing about. God already knew too. I believe that is why He gave me “Open-Mindedness” as today’s spiritual principle. It’s His way of reminding me that when I practice open-mindedness, miracles can begin.
Have a remarkable day!