My Side of the Street

In one of the spirituality books that I read each morning, One Day at a Time, I read that we have the power to improve the shape and texture of our lives. “Look at yourself,” it says, “What am I doing that creates difficulties for me, or aggravates the ones I love? Could it be that I’m trying to fix everything by finding fault with somebody else?”

This reading goes on: “At first, the idea that we might be at fault isn’t easy to accept. We find it hard to believe that our behavior isn’t all it should be.” But we can move beyond this hesitancy: “Once I overcome the habit of justifying everything I do, and make use of such tools as courtesy, tenderness and a warm interest in others, miracles will happen.”

I have done a lot of ego work over the past few years. I have learned that our ego is a false self that we create, beginning as children, to protect ourselves and help us to maneuver in the world. This ego-self can grow to be quite strong, especially when we perceive the world to be hostile. When our intelligence or judgment is questioned, many of us feel threatened. To admit we don’t know something or that we may have a weakness in our character is so difficult that we go on the defensive. Blaming others is one of these defenses. But blaming others, as the ODAT reading suggests, usually creates more difficulties or aggravates the ones I have.

In my program of recovery, we have a saying, “Clean up your side of the street.” What this means is that if I recognize my part in a troublesome situation, that is the part I need to do something about. If my stubbornness or insensitivity are causing problems, then these are things I need to work on. If the other person in a relationship does not acknowledge their part, I can’t use that as an excuse not to work on mine. “You can only change yourself” is another helpful saying.

The miracle is this: When we stop doing the things that create or aggravate difficulties, we begin to effect the environment. When we are not reacting negatively to people then they may stop reacting negatively to us. Over time we find that we are able to “improve the shape and texture of our lives.”

“If you cannot make yourself what you would
like to be, how can you expect to have
another person exactly to your wishes? We
want to see others perfect, yet our own
faults go unattended.”

Thomas A’Kempis = paraphrased.