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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Unwilling

One of the most common requests for advice are from people who have an addict in their lives and desperately want him/her to quit.  So, they ask me for an effective way to take control of the other person.

Well, they don't say it exactly like that, but pretty close.

Sometimes I have the time and patience to work with the person until he/she figures out that this is a problem.  But, since I am usually juggling 30 things in my head at once, they get the direct approach: "So, you think you want to control him/her?"

I have a parish full of people at various levels of spiritual growth.  I am usually judged not so much by how I deal with the enthusiastic parishioners, but it seems that everyone wants me to take control of the nominal people and compel them to come to church (and make a substantial financial contribution while they are there).

In both cases, I have to keep in mind that while we are all called to go after the lost sheep, we can only be reasonably expected to bring back the willing ones.  Sure, our Lord tells us to go out to the highways and 'beat the bushes' to find people, but he does not tell us to club anyone like a baby seal and drag them to church, let alone sobriety.

No amount of religious insanity or codependency is going to make up for the fact that people get to do what they want.  If they want to stay 'out,' that's what they get to do.

God does not force us into the Heavenly Kingdom.  So it is that we cannot force someone to stop using.  If we are honest, we may note that all of us struggle with sins we can't control.  Welcome to insight.

The unwilling are best dealt with when we ourselves are healthy.  In my church, I am supremely (over)confident that folks who don't come to church know what is going on and choose to not come.  They are not lost, or even strayed.  They just don't want to come.  The question is whether they are staying away for a good reason or not.

If we are crazy, then they have good reason to stay away and we should not interfere with that.  I don't blame my seminary classmates for not returning my calls or even trying to keep in touch (beyond the nearly obligatory 'friending' on Facebook) because I am quite aware that I am annoying and an overall difficult person to be around.  My friends are special people.

But, if we are healed, then the person who chooses to remain outside does so for no good reason.  What we should do, then, is not force anyone to do what they don't want to do, but rather remove the good reasons others have to stay away.  If we are healed, then our own illness does not become an impediment to others.

No one wants to stay in a house where everyone has the flu, even if he has the flu himself.  Sick people know sick people, and healthy people know healthy people.  We have to get healthy first before we start inviting people in.

There is no 'magic pill.'  There is only our own improvement and healing.


  1. Speaking of "lost sheep", Fr. George, have you seen the latest Orthodox entry in the field of addictions? "Returning the Lost Sheep" by Fr. Dimitrios Moraitis. I'll write a review and send it to you. It's self published, I purchased through Amazon. Would you still like a description of my treatment approach?