“For the wise have always known that no one can make much of his life until self-searching has become a regular habit, until he is able to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong.”
Bill W. (The Big Book)
There is a difference in self-criticism and self-searching. Most of us do too much of the first, and too little of the second. We're quick to blast ourselves for stupid mistakes; for dropping the ball, procrastinating, eating/drinking too much, not doing things that need to be done, wasting time, gossiping, saying nasty things to and about other people, and on and on. What is rare indeed is looking underneath all those things on our list of self-criticisms for what's really going on to cause them.
Self-searching is quite a bit more complicated than self-criticism. It takes time, and unflinching honesty. It requires looking carefully at oneself, and the moment our attention turns toward someone else, snatching it back. When we find ourselves disturbed by something, or someone, the question is not, “What is wrong with them?” but “What is going on inside me that I am disturbed?” Self-searching requires connection between heart and brain—between compassion and reason. It is not excoriating oneself for failure, but examining oneself for motive. It is not condemning oneself as hopeless, but sorting out cause and effect and working toward change.
Israelmore Ayivor, Ghanian inspirational writer, puts it this way: “The only way to make a spoilt machine work again is to break it down, work on its inner system, and fix it again. Screw out the bolts of your life, examine and work on yourself, fix your life and get going.” Sounds like a slam-dunk quick-fix, but I'm here to tell you, it isn't. Many of our old behaviors and ways of thinking are deeply entrenched and automatic. They are also comfortable—this is me, this is how I think, this is my way of being in the world. But if my way of being in the world hurts or offends others, or is adding to the negativity swirling around this planet, then it's worth examining. “Fixing it” will not only help the people around you, it will also make your own life happier and more fulfilling.
As for me, I am taking a deep dive into my own “spoilt machine” to see why it is not working so well. It still wants to judge, criticize, and rule the roost. Now and then, we need to unplug that clunker, and take it to our inner physician for retooling. “Sort, clean and repair this, please.” That's the way to get things running smoothly again.
In the Spirit,