Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Managing emotions or serving God?
The maintenance of an agreeable emotional state cannot be and is not my primary purpose. The whole programme rests on the premise that this approach fails, leading as it does to short-termism (the most witless example of which being active addiction): almost anything worthwhile will involve short-term discomfort; a life based on short-term comfort will never achieve anything and will result in long-term discomfort of a particularly tenacious variety. If emotional comfort is my aim, I will drink or use in some other way before long; if I am drinking or using in some other way, emotional comfort is my aim.
The abandonment the programme suggests means, brutally, that I waive the right to manage my emotional life myself, and trust instead a set of principles which, if applied, will look after my long-term emotional health better than I can. Behind those principles is God, or, rather, the principles are one expression of God.
Instead, the alternative offered is total service to God and therefore others, and my role is to uncover, discover, and discard what stands in the way of my service (Steps Four to Nine) and to envision and build the new life consecrated to making fruitful use of the internal raw material and external opportunities afforded to me (Steps Ten to Twelve).
Now, of course, maximum usefulness requires attendance to certain personal matters: health, exercise, and mental and emotional well-being. If we do not take active steps to take care of these, we cannot be of service.
A caveat though: taking care of emotional health, even, may require short-term emotional discomfort. Calling a friend and admitting difficulties will temporarily be harder than bottling it up, but it will serve us and others better. Don P. would say 'don't pray for relief; pray for strength: sometimes relief comes only in a bottle'.
Furthermore, we can become so consumed with achieving emotional equilibrium or even buoyancy, we forget what the ultimate purpose of that is supposed to be: the ability to serve God unimpeded by emotional handicaps.
Step Eleven aims to place us on a higher plane not because it is more pleasant than the lower planes we would once inhabit but because it is from there we can better survey the work that must be done.
We can be like soldiers who so enjoy the physical training, honing of skills, and maintenance of perfectly tuned technical preparedness for war that we never actually leave the barracks and go and fight.
God did not save us from the waves to beat us up on the beach. He also did not save us from the waves to lounge around on said beach.
Obedience to the god of emotion is easy to spot.
(1) When the opportunity to resent presents itself, do I indulge or recoil as if from a hot flame?
(2) Do I illegitimately alter or ditch my constructive plan for the day if I become emotionally disturbed?
(3) What is the primary focus of my thoughts: constructive action and God's will for me, or what I am getting out of the deal I have with God?
When I falter, as I surely, regularly do, I remind myself: a life run on self-will can hardly be a success.