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Monday, March 19, 2012

Altering Our Attitudes vs. Mind-Altering

Having brought up the issue of Bill Wilson's LSD experimentation (it is important to emphasize that he experimented with vitamins as well), I think it is critical to draw a conceptual line between engaging in mind-altering behavior.  There is a lot of that going around these days, from drugs to Tony Robbins/Joel Osteen or some other machine.

I want to be very clear: if you have a bad attitude, it is your responsibility to change it.  That is your job as a Christian.  Christ's Incarnation is not an excuse to have a bad attitude, be it self-pitying or condescending.

Obviously, our attitudes effect everything.  That's why problems of perception are BIG problems.

So, why not take LSD?  It makes you feel great (unless you have one of those legendary 'bad trips' that has you jumping off the roof or staring into the sun with binoculars) and potentially alleviate depression and poor self-esteem.

Let's throw some cold water on the problem and wake everyone up: the biggest problem with bad attitudes is that usually they are triggered by focusing on fairly minor issues and ignoring a great deal else.  If you are feeling poorly about yourself, an honest inventory of your life would not only reveal a great deal to not feel poorly about, but also many things that you really should feel bad about but conveniently ignore.

Orthodoxy, and much later AA, does something 'counter-intuitive': it forces the person seeking hope to further stare into the abyss of his hopelessness.  You must not run from despair, but throw yourself into it completely.  In the Steps, the Fourth Step is just such a plunge, where the 'stepper' eventually takes responsibility for all of his own suffering without blaming others.  This is a uniquely Christian idea; we do not blame, but completely accept blame and not only forgive, but ask forgiveness.

It can be said like this- if you want to climb out of the pit, you first have to stop falling.  The person who avoids falling into despair remains a prisoner of despair because he still inches downward and never really comes up.  Addiction is the vain attempt to not fall 'as far.'  But, it does not stop the descent, and provides only a small ascent for a short while.

The talking heads of 'positive thinking' want you to believe you don't have to hit bottom before you can 'turn it around.'  That's baloney.  Why?  Because in order to turn your life around, you have to look at all of it, even the really bad parts.  Tony and Joel are not going to tell you to do that.  It ain't easy and it does not sell books.  None of them would make the money they do selling a book entitled, You Really Should Know How Bad You Stink.

The Church teaches people to come to confession for precisely that experience.  The 12 Steps are all about laying it all on the line and looking at everything without sugar-coating it.  You must get to the bottom of the pit, so you can then start to climb out.

What the Christian knows is that if he hits the bottom, he will not die.  He will be in a totally miserable place, but will still have a light shining above him.  The person in the midst of falling only sees the darkness, and bits of light reflected off the walls.  To look up, he must hit bottom and turn around.

We believe that the light is Christ, and that His light is love and forgiveness.  Those glimmers of light at first, when you are far enough down, can seem very bright.  It is those momentary flashes of light that give the falling person hope.  They often keep the addict fighting the fall, but he really must finish the fall before he can turn around and see the real light.

In the first three steps, those glimmers are about all we have to convince the addict of his problem and the solution: fall all the way.  You can go to the bottom and survive.  Once there, then the climb begins.  Of course, it is not unassisted, but we must work.

We ought not to seek to 'adjust' our attitudes by ignoring or embellishing facts.  Lies are just more darkness.  Tony and Joel 'coach' people they don't know.  How can they help people 'feel better' when they don't know whether is feeling bad for a good reason?  Many times, bad attitudes are triggered by a dose of truth: we've all met the egotistical person who is, frustratingly, very good at something.  That's what's annoying about it.  The egomaniac can often see only his good, forgetting all the horrible things he's done.

Rather than trying to feel good, we should try to see the truth in the light of God's love.  We must be willing to 'make the plunge' into ourselves to see the truth and repent.  This is the ultimate 'attitude adjustment.'  We do not seek mind-altering attitudes or techniques.  We only need the hope of God's love, and then our attitude will naturally be changed, but only so long as we look at everything in the light of reality.

1 comment:

  1. Very beautiful description about 'falling all the way'! Something I relate to and have to work on.