Both hands on her hips, an imposing 6 foot 1 in tall, she proclaimed in a loud and aggressive voice, "Didn't you tell me so and so would be in Pod 60?". She glared at me as my staff got very quiet, watching tensely to see how I would react.
As always when confronted in a loud and aggressive manner, I froze. The difference today from when I was an 8 year old (or 15 year old or 22 year old) is that I freeze NOW for only an instance. I stammer for only an instance. I state my case and then back it up with facts and then get very stern in my delivery of information to that person, shutting them down effectively and without rancor.
I went into my office, shut the door, got the record of the information I had sent her and resent it. I then wrote this to her in a private email:
While I appreciate your hard work, please do not dress me down in front of the staff again. That is not acceptable.
I share this with you as I prepare to speak to Step Nine for a reason. I firmly believe I would not be able to stand up for myself today if it was not for good sponsorship and the 12 Steps.
Step Nine is as follows:
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
I have had to make many apologies over the years as well as many amends. I have tried, to the best of my ability, to limit this by policing my behavior. I have not always been successful and there are, I am sure, many people who would tell you I owe them amends or apologies that have not been offered. They may be right, I don't know. I believe my conscience is clear and I do believe I have always been able to take responsibility for my behavior. It might take awhile for the wrong I have done to sink in but when it does I am always willing to go to my brother/sister/friend and 'be reconciled' before offering my gift of self at the altar.
Besides teaching me humility and reminding me that I am far from perfect, it has allowed me to be kinder to those who injure me. I have been able to adopt the attitude (not always but I am trying) that they are not waking up in the morning and starting their day with a plan to make me miserable. While I would like to think I am that important, the truth of the matter is this: very few people are thinking about me. This is true no matter what so when I am embarrassed as I was this morning I can take comfort in the belief that she was angry, she was confused, she was looking for someone to blame and decided it must be me. Why? Well, let's face it. Most of us would rather blame someone than entertain the idea that just maybe there was an honest miscommunication.
Part of that, I think, is the rejection of our society of 'it was a mistake' being a complete explanation for something going wrong. There has to be an underlying reason: lack of training, espionage, stupidity - pick one. The fact that maybe something happened because there was just a 'brain fart' (as my late husband used to say) offends our neat and tidy sensibilities. WHY did it happen? THAT'S the question we must root out and you cannot do that without someone, ultimately, being found at fault.
By taking responsibility for my actions and making direct amends when I am honestly wrong, I can learn the difference between aggression and accident, between sabotage and error. Through self-examination I can discover that sometimes there is no motive for a harmful act - there is just the act itself, taken in error, and the best someone can offer to me is "I am so sorry this harmed you. I will try not to do it again".
This became truly apparent to me when I began to make my first direct amends. Blessed with good sponsorship, I was guided to not go to my abusers of the child I had been and say, "I am really, really sorry that your poor behavior when I was six caused me to steal from you when I was 20". I don't get to do that - I just get to take responsibility for my part and go forward...one day at a time.
SO - today, I am able to say to the person who dressed me down in front of my staff that I am not happy with that behavior and for her to not do that to me again. I do not need to get in a fight with her in front of people, I don't need to file a formal complaint or burst into tears. Instead I get to tell her, "No, you do not get to do that again" and do so with grace, dignity and my head held high.
Thank you for Step 9. It allows me to be a grown up.