Sometimes we get taken hostage in a conversation. We ask a very innocuous question such as, “how are you”? After that, everything becomes a blur. As long as we are willing to sit there and listen, the person proceeds to tell us about how wonderful they are, how many things they have accomplished, and usually how much better they are than everyone else. Every time we attempt to interject a point about ourself, it is quickly disregarded and the conversation returns to the self absorbed individual. On some level they probably believe that the more they speak about themselves, the more you’ll come to appreciate just how special they are.
In program, we quickly recognize the character defects of arrogance and grandiosity. We are far more impressed by those who know how to engage in a true conversation. A true conversation includes a person talking openly and honestly not only about what is going right in their lives; but about their character defects and challenges. They know when to pause and give you an opportunity to speak. Most importantly, they know how to listen empathetically without being in judgement or giving advice. Those are the kinds of conversations we need to seek out.
Personal Reflection: Do I sometimes still take people hostage?
A member recently shared one of her initial experiences in the program. She had walked into a meeting in very early sobriety and someone had turned to her and said, “we’ve been waiting for you”. She looked at the speaker in puzzlement. She had never seen or spoken to the gentlemen in her life. She thought that quite frankly it was a strange thing to say, or maybe it was just a case of mistaken identity. Years later, whenever she sees a newcomer, she also says, “we’ve been waiting for you”. Now she understands the deeper meaning beyond that simple phrase. We in the program, truly understand what the newcomer has gone thru with their drug of choice. We understand, because we had to walk through those doors once too. We know how difficult it was to admit utter and total defeat. We want you to know that we are here for you. We will pick up that phone when you call us in the middle of the night. If you don’t have a car, we will make sure that you get a ride to a meeting. It will be with great joy that we share in sobriety celebrations and anniversaries. We were waiting for you because someone was waiting for us.
Personal Reflection: Do I make the newcomer feel welcome?
In the world prior to program there was a lot of “collision of instincts”. Hardly a day went by without someone stepping on our toes, or our stepping on someone else’s. As a result, many of us walked around holding onto resentments for days, months and often years. When we spoke to our sponsor about these resentments, his advice was to pray for the person who had offended us. “Surely you jest”, we queried. “You mean I have to pray for the person who wronged me”? Our sponsor with a smile nodded his head yes. Over the next few days and perhaps weeks we begrudgingly prayed for the person. It certainly was not easy. Every time we thought of them it reminded us about how they had wronged us. In frustration, we went to our sponsor and asked, “exactly how long do I have to pray for this person”? He looked at us and said, “until you mean it”. In that moment we realized that prayer wasn’t only for the other person. By praying for a person who had wronged us, we created change in ourselves. Resentment was transformed into forgiveness. By seeing that they too were sick and suffering, we learned about empathy.
Personal Reflection: Do you need to pray for someone today?