“We speak much more of moral rebuilding, without which nothing can happen, and know that such cannot come about unless each of us begins with his own personal moral building.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a sermon reflecting on Psalm 127 (May 20, 1926)
Lately, there have been many statements made on social media and within the news outlets that speak of tolerance, hypocrisy, racism, inclusion, etc. While one side of the political arena touts the greatness of its leader, the other side lashes out with insults and hatred. In addition, while certain groups stand up for their beliefs and causes, others do everything in their power to knock them down. It seems to me that everyone has lost sight of how real change for the better – healthy change – actually happens.
Healthy change doesn’t happen because one is forced to believe something he or she doesn’t believe. Healthy change doesn’t happen because someone is shamed into changing their opinion. Healthy change doesn’t happen because one side shouts louder than the other. Healthy change happens because individuals recognize their own deficiencies and work toward bettering the only thing they can – themselves.
Let us look for a moment at the 12-Step anonymous programs of recovery from addiction. The first of which was Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935 by two hopeless drunks who were trying to live without alcohol. Those two men (with the help of a few medical and religious professionals, caring spouses and other hopeless drunks) went about creating a program that focused on the need for individual change. Each alcoholic had to stop blaming the world around themselves for everything that was wrong and start looking within to change and grow into the person their Higher Power created them to be. The focus of the program has always been for each individual member to learn acceptance of the way things are, tolerance of others, and reliance on a Higher Power, rather than on self. Furthermore, no one member in the program is any more or less important than any other member in the program. Each member is encouraged to attend meetings, work with others, and give service to the program in order to assist with the maintenance and growth of each local group and the greater fellowship of the world. Since its founding in 1935, it is estimated that the membership of Alcoholics Anonymous has risen from those two men in Akron, OH, to 2,103,184* worldwide in 2017! The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is by no means perfect. But, these statistics don’t lie. When a group of people decide to take responsibility for their own lives and stop pointing at others in blame, true fellowship happens.
I believe this is what we have lost sight of in today’s world – most especially in the United States of America. We are all so busy pointing at the bad behavior of others that we cannot see the hatred in our own eyes; or hear the hypocrisy of our own statements; or recognize the things within ourselves that need to be changed in order to have healthier and more loving relationships with others. Maybe it is time for all of us to pay attention to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s suggestion above. Maybe it is time for each and every person who shouts for “moral rebuilding” to stop shouting at the world and start “with his own personal moral building.”
A great way to start is by following a statement written in the main text for alcoholics by its founders: “Love and tolerance of others is our code.”** What if, for just one day, we all made this our code?
*2017 statistics published by the A.A. General Service Office
**Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 84
Thanks for this, Jessica!
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