Recently someone in AA read this passage and suggested I try it:
‘If you have resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it everyday for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate, understanding and love.’ – AA Big Book, page 552.
So I’ve been trying it. At first I thought, ‘I’ve done step 4, and worked through all my resentments. I can’t think of anyone I resent anymore.’ Since I thought that, resentments have been leaping up in my brain like popcorn. Resentments I had all along, and didn’t even think about it. I’ve assigned myself judge, jury, and executioner of all these people in my mind. I’ve been flooded with awareness of my thoughts, one’s I’ve never even questioned until now.
It wasn’t until I started praying for the happiness of those I wish harmful things on that I realized I wish harm ( or at least, think it’s only fair some harm should come to) hundreds, thousands of people! People who may have never even harmed me, but I resent them for some reason – perhaps they drink when I am sober, or are having fun when I am bored, or are rich when I want money. Perhaps they seem smug or aggro, or jostle me on the bus. Perhaps they treated me poorly and I didn’t stand up for myself. Regardless, I think that they should suffer. Not usually anything so drastic as death or illness, but certainly a comeuppance, a humiliation, a seething sense of inadequacy and regret. If I don’t see them pay for the their sins against my sense of justice, I get even more resentful.
So, I’m finally aware of these thoughts to some degree. I catch myself wishing harm on people, thinking it’s only fair they should suffer, looking for the underbelly of their success – and instead I wish for their happiness, their prosperity, their peace of mind. It’s overwhelming how different this is from my usual thought process. And given how I think hostile thoughts about so many other people, is it any wonder I’m cruel, harsh and judgmental of myself? Is it any wonder I seethe in shame when I’m not perfect? Now that I’m giving everyone else a break, maybe I’ll give myself one too.
Recently I said to my boyfriend, “So what, if I keep this up will I just be one of those old ladies who goes around wishing happiness on EVERYONE?”
He said, “Well, so what if you are – what’s wrong with that?”
I replied, “I’ve just always been so judgmental of people like that.”