August 6, 2011

When We Were (Potentially) Wrong, Promptly Admitted It

I shared the following recently with my online EA group: 
I am very grateful when folks share about their faith, the details, even their [religious] denominations. I am not threatened by this, even as my own religious beliefs are extremely eclectic.  If I were an atheist, I would still want to know how others believe. I am inspired by the courage you all express.I hope the sharing of these 11th step flavors is never banned. I guess it won't be unless the privilege is abused. 
  When I heard from a respected member,  who questioned my judgment, I was first taken aback. I so wanted their understanding.  But because the told me in no uncertain terms that I was breaching a program boundary by speaking so acceptingly of religious expression, I decided a careful amends was in order:

I value others beliefs and find it helpful to know the details of how real people do Step Eleven. It was my humble opinion that several members today were gracious enough to share their Step Eleven practices.  It helped me to read and begin to model my own spiritual practices after some of what you shared.  Reading books only goes so far.

Sometimes I get excited when it looks like we might be creating a place where we can use each others unique spiritual strengths, while being mutually respective of our differences.

However, it was brought to my attention that I was advocating we violate a boundary... that I may have given a grand welcome to religious disclosure on our list serve, which is not what our program actually advocates.   I don't want to be in trouble there.  

There are good reasons why we don't talk specific religions in our Twelve Step programs.  But I wondered if sometimes it is helpful to others, to KNOW the occasional detail that makes a person's faith real for them? Which could be of help to members who are rebuilding our faith?   Without trying to convert anyone else, of course. Or create any "shoulds," which only make recovery harder. (It can be a fine line. And that is why we err on the side of caution, here.) 

We are all valuable and smart people here, and I want to express that I think speaking up is a good thing!  But I may have mislead in my earlier post (above). 

I welcome correspondence on this issue.  I make it my own practice NOT to correct others, but to look for the good first, and then to offer a "contrasting" thought.  Please consider the same approach in your feedback. 


  1. When the topic at a meeting is "finding your higher power" people will often bring up their specific religious beliefs. I find it interesting, especially when it's different than mine.

  2. Hmmm, I'm not gonna lie, I had to stop and think this one over for a bit.

    I've been in the rooms of AA for a little over a decade now. I've experienced every type of meeting and every type of meeting go-er. I refer to the Big Book Thumpers, the 'ol timers and the less rigid meeting-goers,,, the differences of which are clearly visible.

    Frankly, I enjoy the variety. Keeps it interesting.

    But I take issue with the individual who called you out and I'll tell you why.

    There is a clear line that is crossed when someone is promoting their own religion, expressing that its their way or the highway, black and white.
    This is untolerable. I get that.

    But displaying an openmind while listening to someone share one of the most personal aspects of their human make-up??? Where is the harm in this?

    AA,, and all other "step programs" are grounded in the fact that the member has to find her own God, that this is IMPERATIVE for successful step work. We all recognize that we can sit around a large table, maybe two dozen members, and each share a different perception of God than the next. Its a beautiful thing and I firmly believe it should be welcomed at a meeting. what an intimate level of communication - sharing one's belief system and why it works for her.

    Am I missing her point here? But,, I'm just not "ok" with shutting my mouth when topics of spirituality come up at a meeting. I share regularly that my God is the Triune God and that my sobriety and ultimate salvation is solely dependant upon the work of the Holy Spirit within me.


    Pretty sure if I were forced to omit this aspect of my life due to some over-zealous political correctness,, I would be an
    ex AA member.

    Just my 2 cents

  3. D. I needed to hear your reply. The issue of political correctness is real in our rooms and online too. How grateful I am when someone speaks from their heart about THEIR faith. It is so rare, that I HAD to speak up in my forum, so that, if an over-zealous person felt moved to chastise someone privately, they might just think twice. I am, of course, a person who colors outside the lines. But I too, have been a regular at meetings that allow for a great deal of creative interpretation. I love the richness and variety as well.

    And I am so grateful for your last line, because I feel that strongly but don't feel comfortable saying it out loud! My shoulders released when I read your words!

  4. I am not religious so I do find it irritating when people go on and on about the Lord or their religion. Religion is one of three obstacles in Al-Anon. We read those obstacles in most meetings I attend. I feel that pushing religion is different from sharing that church is important.Or that God's grace has helped them. There are many paths to recovery. Meetings are about spirituality and are for all who come. I like for the meetings to embrace the traditions.

  5. Syd, I just want to clarify, cause I know my words don't always hit the mark I intend them to.

    I am very glad when people are respectful of others and share a poignant example that has a trace of their religious flavor in it. The best of my program buddies do it in general terms, and may mention briefly that Jesus is their Higher Power, but they do it in a way that is almost apologetic and they get to the point real quick. These gracious ones freely share the wisdom without the shame or the shoulds and without trying to bring their whole Book into our laps. I feel very respected at those times and very blessed because this type of sharing is quite advanced. When there are no strings attached and they are not looking for anything in return, I am humbled.

    Now having mentioned Jesus' name, I hope I did not turn anyone off. I am also glad when someone shares from Buddhist or Hindu traditions or from Native American or Baha'i. We truly are all One in this program and I think it is healthy to occasionally take a respectful look at the tapestry and not hide it in the closet for fear of political correctness.


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~