The Benefits of Being an Outsider

One of my favorite people in the whole wide world is in a free fall. After years of sobriety, he has relapsed. I feel so very, very sad. Until I think about his faith. This guy believes that God loves him and he is deeply spiritual. He understands that God loves “the sorry people”. He’s in bad shape AND God is in the business of restoring broken people. No problemo. The cynics among us might scoff at this. In fact, just the other day another person I know said this: “Well, he couldn’t have loved Jesus as much as he said he did if he has gone off and gotten back on the sauce.” Big, big sigh.

Can we talk about this? If loving Jesus served as a spiritual vaccine against doing stuff that goes against our core values, then we would NOT have so many church folk doing hood rat stuff - like having affairs, watching porn (at work, even at work being a pastor), abusing others, stealing from the petty cash drawer, getting divorced, etc. I’m not judging the sin here - but I am just pointing out reality. Loving Jesus doesn’t stop us from messing up. So why in the name of all things holy do we think it provides an insurance policy against relapse?

But...just because Jesus is not the equivalent of a vaccine against going against our own values does NOT mean our faith is of no value. It just shows up in a different form.

Right now my friend is on the street buying drugs from folks he once tried to help get sober. He is a serious outsider, isolated from his tribe of recovery warriors. But drug dealers will sell to anyone. People are talking. They are saying that the guy who used to help them is now in need of help himself. Can you imagine how nervous they feel? Their leader now needs a good shepherd to guide him back home. Everyone is just sick over the situation. I just want him to come back home. No judgment here, brother, Just. Come. Home.

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

Matthew 9:12-13 The Message

Find a place that supports your healing

Resilient people are more likely to become sturdy when their environment supports their developmental stage AND helps provide coping skills that foster health.  Mutual aid societies and many long term treatment facilities often serve to help participants not only get sober but grow up. Here are a few common phrases that AA uses to reinforce new ways of being in the world.  Notice how all of them support the work of resiliency training: First things first (responsibility), this too shall pass (patience), live and let live (boundaries), let go and let God (humility), time takes time (gentleness and grace), one day at a time (take care of yourself today), principles before personalities (big picture), cultivate an attitude of gratitude (find meaning), God doesn’t make junk (big picture), misery is optional (emotional regulation), etc.  


They use hokey slogans because in some intuitive way the early adopters knew that folks early in recovery needed a hook, a learning tool they could hold onto while they healed.  They didn’t have the science that we do today to teach them the extent of injury to the brain substance abuse causes, but they found a way to support healing nonetheless.


Are you getting the support you need to strengthen your areas of weakness as it relates to resiliency?  If not, what could you do differently? Who could you ask for help?