by Dale Ryan
It will come as no surprise to any recovering person in the Christian community that some people do not like what recovery has to offer. It is not difficult to find Christians who are suspect of the whole idea of recovery. Many of us, for example, have heard “Why haven’t you just left all of this at the foot of the cross?”. The range of negative responses to recovery, however, is quite large. I have talked to Christians who are convinced that recovery is demonic, or new-age psycho-babble, or hedonistic self-ism, or ‘trusting the wisdom of men rather than the truth of God’s Word’ or ‘taking the easy way out by blaming others for your own sins’. If you have not yet encountered criticisms like this, you will almost certainly have an opportunity to do so.
It is probably reasonable to expect that as the distinctively Christian recovery movement extends it’s influence, we will experience increasingly vocal resistance from those who feel that ‘recovery’ is based on sub-biblical or anti-biblical convictions. So far, most of this kind of resistance seems to me to be poorly educated both about the realities of the recovery process and about the distinctively Christian convictions we bring to this process. Of course, even uneducated criticism can hurt. Even when it is rooted in ignorance, it can still discourage and feed our denial systems. For that reason, we need to expect resistance and to plan appropriate responses in advance.
Christians are not, of course, the only people who must sustain their recovery in a sometimes hostile environment. Recovery always takes place in a hostile environment. No recovering alcoholic can avoid advertisements for alcohol. Nor can recovering sex addicts avoid the sexploitation so common in the media. Recovering codependents will find that people remember fondly the days when they were more ‘helpful’. In addition to these difficulties, Christians in recovery will not be able to avoid suggestions from fellow Christians that we don’t have enough faith or that we would be better by now if we just prayed about it and trusted God.
By far the best response to criticism of recovery is to tell the truth. It is not our job to fix everyone’s attitude about recovery. We can share our experience, faith and hope. But, we cannot control how people will respond. A second positive response is to begin to take the time to understand more fully the Biblical convictions on which recovery is based. If criticism leads us to a serious encounter with Biblical revelation, then I am convinced that we will grow from the experience. A third positive response is to stay open to the possibility that we still have things to learn. There is no advantage to pretending that we already know everything we need to know. We have blind spots. We are capable of self-deceit. We need others to give us helpful feedback and to sharpen our focus with constructive criticism. That doesn’t, of course, mean that all criticism is helpful. Find ways to process criticism with other people who understand your story, who value you and who understand the process of recovery
May your roots sink deeply in the soil of God’s love.
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