I’m just going to warn you now. Right out of the gate. I am not going to hesitate or sugar coat it or mislead you in any way. If you are not blood-related to me, you are not allowed to call me Jenny. And if you do, I might not acknowledge you. If forced to acknowledge you, I just might give you the stink eye. If you are blood-related to me, you may need to provide proof of such before you can call me Jenny. Then, and only then, will I consider giving you a waiver. Why, you ask? Because I am not Jenny.
The reason I am no longer Jenny (or Jenni – the high school rendition of my name) is because I outgrew her. Jenny represents a girl that once was, but no longer is. Jenny wasn’t all bad, I suppose, but enough of her was someone I no longer wish to be. She had a side to her that was fully capable of being a sassy, ruthless, mean girl. She didn’t stop to think about how her actions and her words affected others. For obvious reasons, Jenny is dead to me.
I was talking with a friend a while back who has recently joined AA. Of course I’ve known a lot about AA over the years, and working the field of addiction and mental health I’ve had plenty of colleagues who have been involved. But having a friend become deeply invested in AA made me spend some time sitting with the 12 steps a little more thoughtfully. While I can see the value in each step, it was steps 8-10 that stood out to me the most. They are:
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Wow. That is powerful stuff. What if all of us did that? Listen, I get it. Alcoholism and addiction take a toll on the person living it and everyone in their life. It can be a massive path of destruction. But haven’t we all engaged in our own transgressions? Haven’t we all, at times, hurt others with our actions or our inactions? Our words or our lack of them? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could all just own it?
It’s been said that the most difficult words to ever say are, “I’m sorry.” Know what’s harder than that? Meaning it. It’s harder, because it requires you to take a good, long look in the mirror and face the ugly side of you. It also requires you to make a personal vow to do better. Because to truly be sorry, sorry from the bottom of your heart and all the way down to the tips of your toes, takes a whole lot of grown up, painstaking commitment. If you are saying you are sorry and meaning it, what you are really saying is, “I won’t do that again.”
Look, we are all human beings. We are sometimes complicated, emotional, irrational, heaping piles of complexity. We are all capable of doing less than honorable things. So let’s not beat ourselves up for making mistakes, because as human beings it is just something we are probably going to do. Instead, let’s recognize it, face it, and vow not to do that again. Whatever that may be.