Saturday, 23 July 2011

Love and truth

I saw a discussion recently on whether a comment by a sponsor to a sponsee to the effect of "shut your mouth; you're spreading disease." was kind, loving, necessary, etc.

A couple of things: meetings are for carrying THE message of Alcoholics Anonymous, not exhibitionist venting or soap-boxing. There are plenty of ways of venting before and after.

However, love always trumps truth. As we grow in understanding and effectiveness, we find ways to tell the truth with love.

Love without truth is frothy emotional appeal. Truth without love is clever cruelty.

Sometimes, a sharp poke with the stick of truth without much soft-pedalling will actually do rather a lot of good. Someone said to a friend of mine, "you need to help newcomers. Get your head out of your arse. That is not where they are hiding." But only a lot of experience will show you when and where a quick slap is the most effective way to proceed.

Sometimes, the "I care more about whether you live or die than your feelings" can get turned into a rule not a principle and can be applied arbitrarily. This statement also happens to be true. We need also to consider, however, whether, if we hurt someone's "feelings" too badly, we might not close their ears to the truth anyway.

On the other hand, it is very easy to be killed with kindness, and for the hypersensitive to rule the roost, because of the squawking that ensues when anyone approaches their crap with even a gentle suggestion.

I am someone who cannot afford to  be sensitive about my own crap, because my own crap will kill me, and we have to let go absolutely ... the 1% I am holding on to which I warn you not to even approach with a forked stick is what will be my undoing.

A friend of mine says, "you might as well tell them the truth; they're going to die anyway."

This doesn't mean you have to be cruel to do it.

Listen to Don P. (Aurora, Colorado) on this subject. He is great. He talks about the hypodermic syringe of truth so fine they do not even feel it going in. And holding them still with love.

THAT requires real skill and experience and a hell of a lot of guidance from God.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

"Often quite wrong"

"The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong." ('Alcoholics Anonymous', How It Works)

This is what the Book tells us when we consider what we have written in the first three columns of the resentment inventory. It is obviously a relief to be told that our accusations are correct. The world is wrong! People are wrong! And not just a little bit wrong. Quite wrong. That's quite a statement! Enjoy this one. Knock yourself out. But don't get too comfortable. This is where it kicks back:

I am included in the category of 'the world' and 'its people'. That means I am often quite wrong—mistaken, and acting on that basis.

If I can be mistaken at all, then the faculty of discerning when and where I am mistaken could itself be the very part of my mind that is mistaken.

"… they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false." (Doctor's Opinion)

If I cannot trust the faculty of discernment—for which there is ample evidence, as I almost never instinctively believe I am wrong, yet the Book suggests I am often quite wrong—then I must mistrust my mind as the source of my decision-making. I have to stick to principle, instead. Here are some principles:

Whenever I am disturbed, I am mistaken.
Whenever I am resentful (self-pitying, disappointed, etc.), I am mistaken.
Whenever I am afraid, I am mistaken.
Whenever I feel 'low self-worth', I am mistaken.
Whenever I draw the conclusion on the basis of guilt that there is something wrong with me, I am mistaken.

Conversely:

When I am at peace, I am not mistaken.
When I am accepting, I am not mistaken.
When I am unafraid, I am not mistaken.
When I recognise I am a perfect child of God, I am not mistaken.
When I recognise that everything 'wrong' I have ever done has derived from mistakenness not badness, I am not mistaken.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Dealing with unwanted advice or open attack

One of the downsides of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is full of alcoholics. And alcoholics have a habit of doing, and saying, the craziest things. A friend of mine in AA in Paris says, "If you can stay sober in AA, you can stay sober anywhere."

I cannot count how many people in AA have given me terrible advice or told me I am doing it wrong. In fact, I still get told I am doing it wrong on a regular basis.

This is how I process advice:

(1) Is it consistent with what my sponsor says? Here's the catch: I have to have a sponsor to be able to apply this question. And, if I am not sure, I have to run it past my sponsor. It does not matter how long I have been sober, I still need someone who knows me very well, who is as or more active than me in recovery, unity, and service (the Three Legacies), and who demonstrates power, peace, happiness, and a sense of direction in his life (cf. page 50:4).

(2) Is it consistent with the principles set out in the recovery portion of the Big Book? Here's the catch with this one: I have to know what they are. Again, a sponsor comes in very handy with this one.

(3) Did I give spiritual consent to the person offering me advice? Spiritual consent is the consent to give me advice on my spiritual path. A two-way street is not a bad idea with spiritual consent, either. I tell the people I work with that, in return, they get to ask me any question they like.

(4) Is the person speaking from his personal experience? A person's opinion on an experience he has never had is not of any use to me.

If these tests are met, marvellous! If not, here are some passages from AA literature I find helpful:

"We avoid retaliation or argument." (67:1)
"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone" (84:3)
"It is of little use to argue and only makes the impasse worse." (126:2)

And, from Bill W.'s essays on the Concepts, specifically Concept XII, Warranty Five:

"Almost without exception it can be confidently estimated that our best defence in these situations would be no defence whatever—namely, complete silence at the public level. Unreasonable people are stimulated all the more by opposition. If in good humour we leave them strictly alone, they are apt to subside the more quickly. ... under no conditions should we exhibit anger or any punitive or aggressive intent."

As a friend says, "never miss a marvellous opportunity to say absolutely nothing at all."