In Twelve-Step small groups, men or women with similar life-struggles gather together to speak plainly about their pasts and their present progress (or frequent lack thereof) in emotional and spiritual maturity. (Y’know, those touchy-feely subjects that aren’t taught in week-day school.) The purpose is to provide a non-judging and supportive environment in which each – before his/her Maker, and before witnesses – can describe learning and practicing this thing called integrity, aka self-honesty – the opposite of the self-delusion each had previously perfected.
One of the guidelines for participation is to “keep your sharing focused on your own thoughts and feelings.” We meet to provide support to each other, not to ‘fix’ each other (like by giving advice).
In my meeting, it has been noted that a common deviation from this direction is the use of the Second Person Perspective, or saying “you/your” when what is meant is “me or I or my.” For example,
“Y’know, when you just can’t help yourself, and you relapse.” (<-yes, a period not a question mark. This is accusatory, not supportive.)
“I felt helpless and couldn’t keep myself from falling. Have you ever felt like that?”
I find this interesting (and worthy of a Sharing God’s Story blog post) because it has a direct relation to how I am currently communicating internally. Do I “speak of myself” or “talk to myself”? Am I sharing my testimony or presuming to know exactly what another human has done and his/her motives for doing so?
I find this important because it indicates whether I’ve ‘got out of myself’ and am in danger of the old habit of judging or self-condemnation, or observing my own obviously self-destructive behavior as if it were someone else’s (and, therefore, out of my control). For example:
“So, you drank again after you said ‘never again’. Big surprise. Loser!”
I believe that maintaining a First Person Perspective (and Present Tense) is a key part of my recovery journey, perhaps, primarily, because it reminds me of 2 Corinthians 5:17
Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten and everything is new.
If I am talking ‘to’ myself, saying “you”, then I’m interacting with that old me, the one who thought he was only a victim and therefore deserved to (fill in the blank). I may then also be dragging down others, guilty by association.
Instead, when “I” remain “me”, then any use of the “you” pronoun will refer to God (and not my fellow attendees). This helps me to stay in a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, loving him with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. This reinforces the purpose of the sharing:
I acknowledged my sin to you,
And I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
(Psalm 32:5 ESV)
“I confess and you forgive.”
“You confess and he forgives.”
In a sense, if I am looking to others for supportive understanding, rather than seeming to presume them guilty (or becoming judgemental of them), I am better able to love them as myself.
Heavenly Father, You are holy, separate, different, special, sacred. Lord, I choose You and Your way for my life. I confess I cannot do this perfectly, but I seek daily to become more like the man You made me to be. I know You forgive me these faults, as I humbly admit them to You, to myself, and to my neighbor, that I may be a source of Your forgiveness, understanding, mercy, encouragement, strength. God bless us all. In Jesus’ life-saving, life-changing name. Amen.