Today is the 70th birthday of Alcoholics Anonymous and the vast networks of 12 Step programs of all kinds. One church in Arizona has a motto that “We’re all in recovery.” All of us have some kind of addiction that compels us to engage in behavior that is not healthy for us. It may be eating or working too much, watching TV or surfing the net far more than is good for us, or even engaging in religious practices in unhealthy ways. Most addictions may not do the same physical and relational damage that chemical dependency or sexual addictions often do, and some are socially acceptable and even admired – like workaholism. But the spiritual, emotional, and relational impact often undermines our leadership more than we admit.
Over these decades AA and 12-step programs have helped millions of people realize the importance of admitting when they need help and finding that help in small groups and with someone who can walk alongside them in life. These are fundamental lessons for every leader to learn and to practice. Here are the 12 Steps as a reminder to us all:
- We admitted we were powerless over [________] – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [___________], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
We live in “a world that has changed radically and forever.” (Jeff Jarvis in What Would Google Do?) – If Jarvis is correct, what does that mean for churches? And what are the implications for Christian leaders? The practice of awareness includes being aware of the radical changes we are experiencing today.
Jarvis describes this new world as “upside-down, inside-out, counterintuitive, and confusing.” But it may not be what you think! I find his book helpful and hopeful as a Christian leader because the language he uses to describe the world after Google seems to me to be what God calls the Church to be – filled with:
That’s just in the first chapter. The intentional pun in the book’s title – rather than WWJD – suggests that as Christian leaders we need to pay attention to how the world is changing and how Christians and the Church can play a leadership role in helping the world be all God wants it to be.
I often say, only partly in jest, that when people have a problem with me I figure it’s their problem, not mine. I say, “It’s not about me; it’s about them and who they are.” I do understand, of course, that’s not always true. Sometimes it is about me and who I am. Sometimes I am at fault in what I said or did.
Awareness is partly about knowing who I am in this particular situation. What happened? What did I contribute to this problem between the other person and me? Could I have done or said it differently, in a way that might have prevented the problem? Is it about me? At least some of it?
Awareness of who I am in relationship to this other person will help me know what to do next. If I am aware that I could have done things differently, I can choose to apologize and accept responsibility for that part of the situation. If I am aware that I made good choices, I can stand firm in the conflict with humble confidence. Awareness is essential to successful conflict resolution.
From our friends, Dennis and Sheila Linn, we learned this saying: “It is almost always God’s will to do more of what gives you life.” When we’re seeking discernment about God’s will for our lives, we need to ask ourselves this question: “What gives me life?” What excites me, energizes me? What stirs up creative ideas in my mind and new dreams in my heart?
I find that when I seem “stuck” in trying to figure out what God wants me to do, I often feel drained of energy. I feel lethargic, perhaps even paralyzed, unable to do anything or to think of any way out of the situation. In those moments, if I can step back from the cliff of uncertainty and confusion and open myself to the Spirit’s creative imagination within me, I often find that something within me begins to stir. A flicker of light, like a door to the outside being opened in a dark room, begins to illuminate the darkness. New thoughts begin to come into my mind. New dreams begin to stream into my heart. I sense a renewed energy and growing excitement as I begin to see what had been hidden.
What gives you life? Where is the hidden energy within you? What might the Spirit be whispering in the ears of your heart? What creative ideas and new visions are even now beginning to come in through the door on those beams of light? Let the light shine within you and cast a brilliant light on your path as the Spirit leads you forward.