Home How OA Changed My Life Self-Bondage and Relief

Self-Bondage and Relief

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I have discovered (in a year’s worth of Step work) that self-pity is my go-to character defect. I get to self-pity promptly when things don’t go and people don’t behave as I think they should. When I try to read minds, when I believe—without actual confirmation—that people don’t like what I’m doing or don’t support what I think needs to be done, I go straight to self-pity. I get there by being dishonest about where I fit into the scheme of life: In those moments, I believe my self-centeredness is the truth and that other people are either being intentionally cruel or amazingly insensitive when they don’t recognize and attend to my needs.

Self-pity is self-deception—this idea never occurred to me before program. Instead, I thought it was the truth or a motivating principle that could make me stronger and more effective at getting what I wanted. I used to nurse resentments based on self-pity, using them as fuel to work harder to achieve specific goals in school, work, and relationships. If I believed someone was unjust to me, I would obsess about a situation that would prove him or her wrong and do whatever it took to make that situation happen. Most of the time, of course, the other person didn’t even notice—something I’ve only recently acknowledged—but the few times I felt rewarded by this process were enough to cement a pattern of self-pity and self-will into my personality.

The Step Three Prayer is extremely useful to me, in part because I identify so strongly with the wording about being relieved “of the bondage of self” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 63). Bondage is a perfect description of where I tend to go when left to my own devices: Self-pity is a despairing trap that results in me being useless and unkind to others.

Being free to do God’s will instead of my own shifts my focus. I look away from what people aren’t doing for me and look toward what I can do for others. It is completely different, and the effect it has had on my life is amazing.

— Sarah K., Bellevue, Washington USA

  • Image by Pauline G., Waterville, Ohio USA

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