Sweeping Up

imagesIn Twelve Step groups there’s a saying, “Sweep your own sidewalk.” Which essentially means work on your own problems, not someone else’s.  Seems much more common to see people pointing fingers, especially with elections gearing up.  A regular practice of compassionate self-examination allows us to see how much we need grace instead of looking over at our neighbor. If we’re brave enough to look in the mirror and be honest about it, the resulting humility makes it much less likely that we’ll attempt to run another person’s life.

Rohr’s sixth rule from 12 ways to live out the resurrection is, “Always seek to change yourself trying to change others.” I might tweak it to read “instead of trying to change others.”

Today I found a related post from an anonymous author that I’m going to repost. I don’t think I could say it any better than he/she did.   It’s titled, “Me and My Broom.” Here it is:

Life, someone once said, is about me and my broom. There is my sidewalk, and here is my broom. My task is simple: I take my broom, and I sweep my sidewalk.

If life were really like that, with each one of us sweeping our own sidewalk with our own broom, things would probably go pretty well. But as human beings we tend to fall into one of two camps.

The first camp is the know-alls. If I am a know-all, then not only am I an expert on how I should sweep my sidewalk, I’m also an expert on how you should sweep your sidewalk. So instead of staying on my side of the street, I come on over to your sidewalk. Now a variety of things may happen. Perhaps I start telling you exactly how you should sweep your part of the sidewalk. Or alternatively — particularly if I see myself as a doer of good works — I may start to sweep it for you. Regardless, there is going to be trouble sooner or later, because I have no business being on your side of the street.

The second camp is the incapables. If I’m an incapable, I don’t really sweep my side of the street — I dab at it with a pathetic expression on my face. Or I just sit down in obvious distress and make no attempt at all to sweep. Of course, incapables attract know-alls. It won’t be long before a know-all comes over the street and starts “helping.” This enables me to build up a nice, healthy resentment about the know-alls.

Step 10 says, “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong PROMPTLY admitted it.” This forms an excellent basis for reforming know-alls and incapables. When we practice Step 10 continuously, we can sense when we’re about to cross the road in frustration to help someone else to sweep right; we can sense when we’re developing an attack of the “poor-me’s” which will almost certainly tempt someone else to interfere with what we’re doing (or not doing). Step 10 teaches me that this is my sidewalk, my broom, my job of sweeping, my life.

The blogger ended with a quote: “The spiritual life is never one of achievement; it is always one of letting go.” Well put. I’m indebted.  I wish I knew who to thank, but since I don’t I’ll thank God for one more way he has guided me, prompted me and offered me strength and peace.

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