In most, if not all, 12-step recovery programs, a common mantra is “sharing our experience, strength and hope.”
Members don’t (or aren’t supposed to) give advice or pontificate. Members don’t tell other members what to do.
Instead, they share their own experience, strength and hope.
It’s a way for those who are sharing to remind themselves of the progress they’re making, of the way God is at work, making them better, giving them strength to do the right things, the better things, the hard things.
It’s also a way for the other members who are listening to gather strength — and hope.
“If God did that for you, maybe he’ll do it for me, too.”
In these groups, people often share their deepest anguish, talk freely about their failings.
In the healthiest groups, there’s no judgment. Everyone there is there because they know they are powerless and their lives have become unmanageable.
The playing field is level — everyone is a mess.
It’s how church should be. We come because we’re needy — we need God and we need each other.
What we don’t need is others pretending that they’re OK when they’re not, either by keeping silent about their struggles or presenting a false face.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, about strength and weakness, aloneness versus community, and hope.
I think a lot about hope.
Being stoic, putting on a strong face, isn’t strength, but rather it’s weakness.
It takes courage to tell the truth about yourself. It takes the strength of humility to admit you are weak and to be willing to accept help.
It goes against our American sense of individualism. We love DIY.
But DIY is not what God calls his people to.
In my church are two men, both of whom recently lost
One man, Harry, is in a nursing home after a fall that broke his hip only a week or so after his wife died.
He was very depressed, hopelessly distraught, until the other man, Bob, started visiting him several times a week, bringing doughnuts, sharing his own experience, strength and hope.
Harry’s daughter told me that Harry’s whole emotional well-being has improved 100%.
Harry has someone who’s been there, done that, and has experienced God’s strength, which gives him hope.
And instead of keeping it to himself, Bob gives it away, which in turn strengthens him.
It’s a living example of the Apostle Paul’s words:
“What a wonderful God we have — he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
We were created for this, and it’s a beautiful thing in this sad, crazy, tragic, chaotic world when it happens.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at email@example.com.