As I have progressed through the 12 steps of recovery, I have come to understand the value of examining and questioning my behaviors and reactions when dealing with anger and resentment. Finding my part, “sweeping my side of the street”, etc. is something I try to practice and has helped me to let go of resentments and find forgiveness and live a more peaceful life – especially with my wife.
A piece was still missing for me. What if I really could’t find my part? What about those times when I was truly a complete victim, screwed over beyond belief? What then? Shouldn’t I then have a right to some “justifiable anger”? My logical way of thinking could not deal with this. Must I always just lie down and take it? The sense of righteousness prevented me from letting go of these type of resentments.
As part of my Step 10 I am told to read Step 10 in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions every day for 30 days – if I miss I must start over. In my reading I have found an answer to the above that works for me. It provides a logical explanation why I cannot entertain the thought of “justifiable anger.”
“It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad? Can’t we be properly angry with self- righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Few people have been more victimized by resentments than have we alcoholics. It mattered little whether our re- sentments were justified or not. A burst of temper could spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge could make us miserably ineffective. Nor were we ever skillful in separating justified from unjustified anger. As we saw it, our wrath was always justified. Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely. These emotional “dry benders” often led straight to the bottle. Other kinds of disturbances—jealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pride—did the same thing.”
I love this line. It satisfies my logical question by telling me that “justifiable anger” is not necessarily always wrong, that’s it a valid emotion for some, BUT IT’S JUST NOT OK FOR ME. Like the diabetic who cannot eat a candy bar, while others can, I simply cannot afford the luxury of “justifiable anger.” I can handle that.