“Knowledge is important, but only if we’re being kind and gentle with ourselves as we work to discover who we are.” —Brené Brown, The Gifts of ImperfectionWhile an undertaking the likes of making a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” brings with it a tremendous potential for self-knowledge, participating in such a thorough appraisal also tends to encourage an influx of guilt and self-loathing. And if reflecting on past misconducts is proven to produce any consistent feeling in those who venture such a path, that feeling is shame.
This isn’t specific to a single step, but so much of working through A.A.’s framework has to deal with developing a sense of forgiveness of oneself. If I could have truly absorbed the ways of kindness and self-love by reading about them on my own, those lessons would have sunken in years ago. But such is the case that it took working with another person to begin the process of learning how to be gentle and kind to myself.
Working with a sponsor in this way helped me put a lifetime of resentments and fears aside long enough to see that underneath them all was a person who was just trying to do their best. The principle behind Step Four is recognized as courage for numerous reasons, but one that sticks out to me deals with the courage it takes to open your heart to self-forgiveness. That takes courage because once the seal on self-kindness has been cracked, it’s hard not to start seeing the world through a similar lens. And for anyone who has gotten used to the cold and lonely spiral of addiction, letting go of self-hatred can be truly terrifying.