A Reflection on Projection

One of the ministries that I have been involved in for the past five or six years is helping with people who are trying to deal with various problems by working a Twelve Step program of recovery. Something that the drunks and addicts have taught me is that they can’t be successful in their recoveries unless they focus on dealing with their own problems. One of them once told me, “I have to let the other guy do his own inventory.” That has stuck with me.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t take note of someone’s usual behavior and have expectations of his behavior in the future, but I try not to analyze the other person’s motives too deeply. It’s enough challenge for me to deal with the internal reality of my own life. Of course, there always seems to be someone who is willing to analyze me.

Just because WJJ Hoge III is a bitter old man, a useless old man, a man of small accomplishment, a man who has something he is trying real hard to prove to himself — that he is RIGHT!

Now, I could be wrong. I could be deluding myself. But that doesn’t fit with my understanding of myself—except for the bit about “old.”

Bitter? That means angry, hurt, and resentful because of some bad experience. Yes, I’ve had some bad experiences in my life, and some things have happened to me where my response has included anger, a natural human response in many of those situations. However, I feel no sense of resentment. I’m actually quite happy with my life.

Useless? Oh, come now. Can’t I still serve as a bad example or a laughingstock?

Small accomplishment? Perhaps. But big enough for me. As I look back over the past 65 years, I can see enough contributions to family, church, community, and career to have a reasonable level of satisfaction.

Trying to prove I’m right? Well, sure. Most of us would rather be right than wrong. OTOH, I’m willing to be proven wrong. That’s OK; being wrong is a part of continuing to learn and grow.

Do I have character defects? You betcha! And when I start trying to get inside of another person’s motivations, I find I have a tendency to assume that his motivations are similar to mine. They usually aren’t. So, rather than mapping my problems on to his, I will let the other guy do his own inventory, and I will keep trying to do a better job of understanding my own.

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