When meetings are "too sad"

I sound like a broken record. This is a fact. Consistently I suggest to families struggling with a variety of ailments to GET HELP. What kind of help? Therapy, support groups, education, practice boundaries and spiritual disciplines. I am not only a broken record, but my song is LONG. And people do not like it.

I suppose that is why the local pill doctor is wildly popular while folks in recovery programs at various times struggle to hang in and show up.

It turns out we all tend to resist the very thing we need the most. As we resist what we need, our resentment and anxiety ratchets up. We were created to live in community, learn things, practice boundaries and spiritual disciplines. We don’t “run” so well fueled by fantasy living, denial, and resistance to change.

In AA they talk about how we all want a softer, gentler way. The softer, gentler way doesn’t build muscles, it just makes us flabby.

Let me appeal to your anxiety, foreboding joy, and competitive spirit. In a crisis, the survivors are the ones who have the skills, the muscles, and the strength of character to persevere. Our endless quest for no pain with a side order of soft and gentle is not going to serve us well. If we are with a group of people in the woods and we happen upon a bear, who survives? Certainly not the softest, slowest delectable morsel in the group. You may not need to be an Olympic athlete to get away from that bear, but you darn well better be faster than the slowest person in your party.

Meetings can indeed be sad, as I am told on occasion by those who really do not want to attend them. Attenders sometimes hear sad stories of loss, relapse, and hopelessness. But you also hear, as I did last Thursday night in our Family Education meeting, a small but sturdy chorus of voices who are able to say that their loved one is in long term recovery. The family’s presence bears witness to the family’s recovery also.

If we want transformation, we do not need to be perfect. But we do need to notice how our resentments and anxieties sometimes trip us up, causing us to resist the work that opens the door to change and transformation.

When we notice numbing behaviors, start asking: where am I resentful? What am I anxious about? Hang in with the answer. Ride the wave of discomfort.

Honesty

Honesty may be the best policy but it sure is hard to practice it in real time.  In my family of origin we have historically embraced conflict as a form of intimacy - in the worst of ways.  This has been our family legacy - one I had hoped to avoid. Over the decades I worked pretty hard to try to stay connected with my family.  I was bossy and codependent and tried to smooth over conflicts which were not mine to manage. Other times I was passive-aggressive, trying to sneak in suggestions for change in the hopes that we could establish relational equilibrium and avoid conflict.  I cajoled. I bargained. I even tried to change the system. My greatest disappointment in myself are those times when I did not trust my own instincts, choosing instead to try to mitigate harm rather than addressing it openly. Innocent people were hurt in the process of me trying to avoid the breakup of a family system.  None of it worked long term. My family of origin is all busted up. We sit in opposing camps and even on my best days I doubt reconciliation will occur.

 

 

Oftentimes I reflect back on my efforts to maintain relationship and wonder if those efforts were a waste of time.  What seemed like a sacrifice for love now feels more like being played for a patsy. But here’s the thing - I bet if you talk to the “other side”, they feel pretty hurt too.  And therein lies the problem with honesty. We are all spin doctors in our own personal soap operas. We misunderstand ourselves and one another.

 

In the next few days I’m going to try to unpack a few principles that I am learning as I try to lean into this difficult disappointment. I am going to share a couple stories, poke around in some passages of scripture, and maybe make a few seemingly random points. But my end game will be to bring this all together in a way that I hope challenges the way we think about our faith in light of our daily experiences. I fear that some of what we believe is wrong and it actually tempts us to be less honest with God, ourselves and others. It also makes it less likely that we will be able to utilize our faith as a guiding light.  I hope to address these issues and help sort through some of the confusion of believing things that the scriptures do not actually teach and then trying to live THAT gospel.

 

Do you struggle with telling yourself the truth about what you believe and how you live?  Why or why not? Do you have any concerns about your own ways of relating to others and to God?  How does this affect you personally? Professionally? Within your community?