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Saying the Words

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Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Most days, I take personal inventory at the end of the day. It helps me sleep. I inventory fears, resentments, and stressful thoughts and beliefs. Wrongs seem to stem from those. I also list gratitudes, but not the things I think I should be grateful for. Instead, I list things I actually feel glad about.

Part of Step Ten is admitting when I’m wrong. To my detriment, I don’t always do that. The other day at work, I wish I’d said, “I’m sorry. You did say that, and I wasn’t listening very well.” And another time, “That didn’t come out right. Let me try again.”

I am grateful for all the times that I have been able to admit a mistake, like today, when my boss suggested doing something a different way and I agreed that her way was better. I said, “Because I’m new, I’m overly nervous, and I didn’t do that well, but I’ll get better—I’m more relaxed already.”

She then said, “It’s not the end of the world. Nothing is the end of the world.” When I let go of my defenses, it frees others to be less fixed in their positions too.

I can only admit I’m wrong if I think I am wrong. I’m sure I’ve been wrong many times without knowing it. The space of time between being wrong and admitting to another person that I was wrong is sometimes long, like forty years, and sometimes short, like forty seconds or less. In that time, I have to 1) become conscious of what I did, 2) admit to myself I was wrong, and 3) overcome resistance to admitting it to someone else.

Sometimes I might not admit a wrong directly to the person involved “when to do so would injure them” (Step Nine). But I do tell someone else, as a spiritual practice. I believe by doing so I progress in my spiritual development.

Sometimes I don’t admit my wrongs, because I’m too busy noticing other people’s wrongs. What I can do about this is to continue to notice how well this works for me: whether it brings me the sense of well-being I really want. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see myself, and I generally don’t like being wrong. I don’t like other people to point out when I’m wrong, either.

I’ve heard the saying “you could be right, dear” promotes marital harmony. The implication of that statement is, of course, “I could be wrong.” I can see myself saying this just to keep the peace, without really believing that I’m wrong. Still, just saying the words “you could be right” will open my mind a little. Becoming more open-minded is a gift of working Step Ten.

— Elaine M., Berkeley, California USA


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