entitlement and gratitude

These two frameworks pervade all of life, and characterise the difference between addiction and recovery.

In the framework of entitlement:

  • Focus on what I do not have… and assume I deserve
  • Resentment
  • Blame
  • Anger
  • Aggression (incl. passive forms) toward others
  • Manipulation of others
  • Envious of others’ possessions or accomplishments
  • Fear
  • “No Fair!”
  • Medication via drug of choice

In the framework of gratitude:

  • Focus on what I do have… realizing I might not have them
  • Acceptance
  • Taking Responsibility
  • Understanding
  • Assertiveness toward others
  • Respect of others
  • Celebrating others’ possessions or accomplishments
  • Love
  • “Thank You!”
  • Contentment in all circumstances

resentment and acceptance

Of all the points at which 12-step spirituality coheres with Christian spirituality, it has to be on resentment most of all.

As I’ve had to learn painfully, I wasted so much time seeding resentment in a thousand forms.  Far too much of whatever intellectual resources I have, it seems, was wasted on finding fault with just about anyone I could.  To make it worse, I was committed to being ‘nice’ about the ways I would disagree with people.  Not passive, not aggressive – but yes, passive aggressive.  Whether traffic, theology, or kitchen maintenance, I would rarely let a point slide.

Gerald May, in his book Addiction and Grace, understands addiction as effectively stemming from when our resentment for a person, system, institution or principle seethes and swells until we finally reject or at least escape it.  If ‘it/they/them/that’ will not bow to my control, then we will simply find something/someone else that will.

Steps 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 – along with the serenity prayer, express the reality that we can only change ourselves.  We can only clean our side of the street.  We can only (seek to) make right the things that we have done.

The serenity prayer in popular form is a condensed version of the following ‘long form’ of the prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr.  It expresses acceptance as clearly as I can imagine:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.