Willingness is saying yes to life. The difference between willfulness and willingness is this: willfulness is gaining power over people and situations; willingness is being receptive to new possibilities.
We are willful when we are driven by a “me first” attitude, dominating others and anything that stands in our way. When we are willing, there is a give and take between ourselves and the people around us, between ourselves and life. Willingness lets us experience the power that comes from participating in life rather than trying to control it.
Willingness helps you grow in your recovery. You’ll find that the Twelve Steps repeatedly ask you to be willing – to try something new, to be open to change, to let go of the past. When you turn your will over this way, you become willing. It’s an act of faith and trust: you are willing to see what happens if you stop trying to control outcomes and let life unfold.
It takes time to realize that being willing and letting go is a process that requires practice. We’ll need to do it over and over again, and we don’t ever get it “right,” which can be frustrating if you’re a perfectionist like me. For all of us, willingness comes and goes. Still, we need only a little to get ourselves back on track.
We can learn from AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: “a beginning, even the smallest, is all that’s needed. Once we have placed the key of willingness in the lock and have the door ever so slightly open, we find that we can always open it some more.” If the door swings shut, we can open it again. There are always more opportunities if we become willing.
It requires willingness to take Step Three. If you feel fearful and anxious, as if you can’t possibly relax for a moment, it may be reassuring to remember that the decision you make in Step Three is not something you do at once. You may need to remind yourself many times a day at first. It is a moment-by-moment process.
It’s often easier to think of a time-limited surrender, one day at a time. We learn to let go on a daily basis: just for today, for this hour, or for this minute, we choose not to drink, binge, or otherwise behave compulsively. Similarly, we can stop struggling with control, just for today.
You can always go back to doing it your way again in the future if you want,k but see what happens if you give it up for an hour or a day. One day at a time, just do what you can.
From: A Woman’s Way through the Twelve Steps,
Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D.
“I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a man’s life. As we live, we grow and our beliefs change. They must change. So I think we should live with this constant discovery. We should be open to this adventure in heightened awareness of living. We should stake our whole existence on our willingness to explore and experience. ”
― Martin Buber