Divine providence has led me to many ministries and organizations that I only heard by names but really never really know of their works, and one of those organizations is Alcoholics Anonymous. I had come to learn the simple beauty behind the Twelve Steps program, as well as the essential need of community for those who are seeking recovery from addiction. We cannot overcome a material or substance dependency alone! As a matter of fact, the hardest but simplest lesson to learn is to to depend on God, as well as the prayers and honesty of others along the journey. Hence, through the genuine self-understanding, healing, and sobriety journey, one learns that the greatest achievement comes in the form of understanding, accepting, and being true to one’s self.
In the recent remake of Aladdin, Genie tells the want-to-be prince, “The more you gain by pretending, the less you are going to actually have.” Aladdin was trying too hard to impress Jasmine, the princess. He wants the genie to continue to help him put on a showy, prince-like lifestyle because he thought that no princess would love a lowlife commoner. Nevertheless, his very own genie told him to be true to himself because Jasmine loves him as a person, not because of what she thinks he has in apparent possessions through magic.
Even though it is often being portrayed and talked much in popular culture, self-love is hard and confusing for many. We think that we can easily love ourselves, but it is actually one of the hardest things that we have to do in life! We often end up hiding behind what our ego wants to portray its fragile self to be, which very often are fake and outrageous. Therefore, the first important step to knowing and loving one’s self begins with recognizing that one cannot overcome an addiction or dependency alone because it has caused many pains, sufferings, fears, and ruptures deep from within. One has to be sick and tired of being and tired of doing and turning to the same thing that is destroying him or her! It is humbling to ask for help, to turn to God, and to be committed to recovery and sobriety. That is why the last and most important step that needs to be understood and repeated daily is to genuinely accept, understand, and be true to one’s self as to live beyond the destructive dependency or addiction.
Paradoxically, the hardest but most needed step in any recovery program is to be true to one’s self in all its blessings and imperfections. The more we try to hide or run away from reality and our true self, the easier it is to be tempted to escape, ignore, numb, or medicate one’s self from what hurts the most. The greatest and hardest love is the acceptance of one’s self in all its brokenness and as we are, in need of God‘s grace! That is why we often find the popular motto, “To thine own self, be true” embossed in each and every Alcoholics Anonymous coin given out to members. Without a doubt, sobriety is a daily, personal, and intimate decision not to let our lies, false facade, addiction, brokenness, or whatever is holding us back dictate and tell us who we are.
Hence, the last thing we want to do in life is to play games with the Almighty, to be someone that we are not! We can lie to others, judge them to make ourselves feel superior, feel righteous about who we think we are, but we cannot lie to God, because when we try to point a finger at others to feel good about ourselves, four fingers point back at us first. The greatest tragedy is to live our whole life with our own self-righteousness, criticizing others, thinking that we are better than them, putting ourselves on a pedestal, but never humble enough to confess our faults and be changed with His grace.
The most unfortunate life is not knowing the sweetness of divine mercy and forgiveness because we never think that we have sinned or that we are good enough. When was the last time you and I were able to taste the sweetness of God‘s mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially its words of absolution? The Church wants to grant us pardon so we can taste, embrace, and savor the sweetness of His loving peace — the peace that this world can never give us. If you do not believe me, listen to the ending words of the absolution formula: “Through the ministry of the Church, may God grants you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
As Catholics, nothing is more healing and cathartic than the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Only in confessing our sins, receiving His mercy and forgiveness, can we understand what it means to be loved by God in spite of our unworthiness. When we recognize that we are loved more than our mistakes, which requires us to own up, confess, and receive His forgiveness, we will be able to accept the peace that flows forth from Him and His love for us. Divine forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy affords us the peace that this world can never give or take away from us.
God‘s peace is not just an absence of war and trials, it is a divine blessing to be grounded in Him with the blessings He has bestowed upon us. To be at peace means that we are able to be content with what He has given, happy and joyful that His love and grace are enough for us and we really do not need to ask for anything else. Therefore, do not be afraid to accept, embrace, and love who we truly are through His grace; and if we fail, allow this same loving grace to reconcile, mend, and change us deep from within.
So, I would like to end this reflection by repeating the words that are important today’s reflection: “To thine own self, be true” because “the more you gain by pretending, the less you are going to actually have.”