November 14, 2011

Question Popular Thinking

It is important for me to remember that the 12-step approach was developed by a small group of concerned people who were seriously questioning the Popular Thinking of their time.   

Every era has its own inability to see beyond the safe harbors it has created for its society and members to flourish.

I have this KOOKY idea that our Twelve Step institutions might also need to be Open, Honest and Willing, just as we as individuals are instructed to be.  This is why I really listen to newcomers, to hear their concerns about program  literature and their questions about how our meetings are conducted. Especially important to me is to not write-off the objections of the younger attendees.  Of course, I cannot (and won't, single-handedly)  change the program. But I do listen to concerns and I invited doubting Thomases (I am one myself), to call on me if they have questions.  I've learned that it is OK to not know the answers. I try to help folks learn to trust that by asking, THEY will find answers. When their criticism addresses something I know is essential to the function of our fellowship, I may have to say, "Sorry, this is just the way it is done. Give us six tries and see if your questions and concerns don't get addressed. We need your honesty, open-heartedness, and willingness."

I have been very happy to see that in EA our leaders listened to those who questioned the wisdom of the term, "character defects," and addressed this in revising the workbook on Step Four that we use in our program. 

In my own recovery, I use the following guidelines, to give myself growing room and make sure I do not hold others back in seeking new solutions that uniquely fit their program walk:

1.  Think Before I Follow
2. Appreciate Approaches Different than My Own
3. Question My Own Thinking
4. Try New Approaches and New Things
5. Accept the Ongoing Nature of Recovery: Change is Uncomfortable.

I also strongly encourage my Sponsees to question and annotate their EA literature, to tailor it to their personal use.


  1. I totally agree with questioning! We should not be sheep! The idea is live the program, and shape it to fit our lives. You have to question some of what you hear. Then...question why you may be disagreeing. Because of a stifling, strict, and critical childhood, I tend to be argumentative. I really have to look at both sides of the equation--them and me.

  2. I am feeling blessed by your sharing with me. I had very questionable authority figures at home, and in some of my learning communities, so... and am often considered too provocative. Was I ever grateful to see Maxwell give me permission to do this, even to see it as a strength. When I read it I was having issues with my own program walk. But I, like you, decided it was time to look at both sides.

    I went looking for program experiences where I was encouraged to object and question, and I found them. I can' t tell you how that helped me!


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~