Letting Go Of Our Willfulness: Impatience


The alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. - Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 62

The word “willfulness” is not heard much nowadays, perhaps because it indicates a character flaw that is widespread throughout our culture. Basically, it describes the attitude of people who want what they want when they want it. In this sense, it can be attributed to those who have a narcissistic personality disorder, or in other words, a bad case of egotism. Willfulness is ultimately self-defeating, because it seeks to comfort and amplify the imaginary ego, even though the ego does not really exist. It is only a artificial concept that people substitute for their spiritual Source with the mistaken belief that they will thereby become independent.

Alcoholics and addicts are often accused of not having enough “willpower” to overcome their weakness. This accusation presumes addiction is a moral failing, that an addict is just a “bad” person. Addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs, describes the utter dependency that some people develop to a mood-changing substance or behavior. In this way, getting high provides a sense of power to the imaginary ego, it makes addicts feel they are capable of accomplishing great things. But once the effect wears off, of course, their dreams of glory come crashing down, and they are left confused and deflated.

The truth is that they will never overcome their addiction simply by wanting to do so more intensely. They know from their own experience that all their best efforts to quit getting high have proven fruitless. Recovery requires more than good intentions, it requires addicts to relinquish their exaggerated opinion of themselves and their talents. They need to set aside their proud egos and subordinate their desires to the creative Source within them. In short, they replace their willfulness with willingness.

Meditation for Letting Go of Impatience

Anyone with an addiction develops a tendency to be impatient; they want their desires satisfied immediately. They are always looking for a quick-fix. But addicts are not the only ones who are impatient, since impatience indicates an inability to restrain desires as well as a deep dissatisfaction with the way things are. In this sense impatience is a symptom of willfulness, and for this reason it cannot be removed by itself. For it is but an aspect of the ego’s demand to get its way.

Now we all enjoy the experience of having our desires satisfied, but this enjoyment can get out of hand to the extent that we want to be satisfied more and more. We overlook how we are subtly becoming self-centered as a result. This is just one of the ways our imaginary egos claim center-stage. We begin to measure everything as to how much it will make us happy. Slowly we start to downplay the needs of others and put our own needs first. Even though we did not intend to become so selfish and self-absorbed, nevertheless, this is what has happened to us.

We cannot overcome our egotism by sheer effort, this will only reinforce it and make it worse. In other words, the harder we try, the more we will claim victory for ourselves. What we really need to do is get out of the way of the healing forces within us. When we cooperate with the constructive inspirations that come to us, either directly or through other people, then we will find ourselves becoming more patient and hopeful. We have gotten out of the driver’s seat and into the passenger’s seat.

By recognizing the Source at the core of our awareness, we can appreciate our egos as merely concepts or tools that enable us to function in the world. We acknowledge that we are not running the show, but rather we serve as instruments through which the ultimate Source expresses itself and creates a reflection of itself. In this way we accept events as they unfold and we await their outcome with the patience that comes to us from deep within.

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.


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