Office: 0141 222 2920

Do… But Do Not

During the epic Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, we find master Yoda imparting his Jedi wisdom to a young Luke Skywalker who is faced with a challenging situation: “Do or do not, there is no try.” While Yoda may have been encouraging Luke to be resolute in his mind as he approached his difficult task, have courage in the face of difficulty or just to simply make a decision, we too need to have the right wisdom as we seek to come alongside those who are battling an addiction.

Unlike Luke Skywalker, we may already have our minds set on the task ahead, we may even have the courage to step out and help others. We do want to do the right thing. However, doing the right thing might involve not doing something. Even when we are well meaning, it’s important to apply wisdom and weigh up what’s most helpful. Therefore, rather than a “do or do not, there is no try” Yoda method, we need to employ a “do and do not” approach. Here are some common areas where it is important to do something, but do not do it in a particular way!

 Do/Do Not Give A Good Welcome

Often, in 12 step recovery groups, the welcome is what keeps people coming back. The person with an addiction issue is bowled over at this given how unwelcome they have become in certain places and in people’s lives.

But there is a danger of overdoing the welcome. The addict can quickly feel smothered by people and their interest. If the individual keeps coming back, it can become tiring to be offered yet another book, another invite to lunch and an invitation to another event.

We have regular experience of people early in recovery who attend church and  enjoy the initial welcome but quickly become overwhelmed and feel under pressure and so withdraw. Give a good welcome but allow space for people to simply take in what’s happening and find their way.

Do/Do Not Give Advice

The person with an addiction issue may arrive at church with a host of issues, some of which are easily resolved and others a bit more complicated. Give the advice you can give, based on your life experience, but remember that it’s okay to say that you don’t know, and you’ll need some time to think or even take some advice yourself!

This is relevant because the addict may also arrive with a sense of urgency about life. There is a feeling that everything must be addressed immediately, but some things can wait, and jumping in with the wrong advice can turn out to be far worse further down the line.

Do/Do Not Give The Gospel

Whilst the gospel is the most important message, we can give for transforming lives, timing is significant. The first question you may want to ask an addict when they walk through the door of your church is not ‘do you want to know Jesus Christ as your saviour?’ but perhaps ‘when did you last use?’ or ‘are you plugged into wider support in recovery?’ ‘What does that support look like?‘ ‘Is it bible based?’ ‘What are your living arrangements and family circumstances?’

Do/Do Not Give Money

With partnering churches, we suggest that a mini policy should be in place when it comes to dealing with financial issues. It is tempting to put your hand in your pocket and give direct to an individual, but this can lead to dependency issues, and you may become an enabler yourself in funding someone’s addiction.

A policy should place some emphasis on the individual seeking financial help to demonstrate what the finances are for and how they will be spent. This creates accountability and shows that the church won’t be taken for mugs. All the better if the financial issue can be settled directly with the relevant third party so you know exactly where the cash is being used.

Do/Do Not Give Significance

There is a degree of glamour attached to the story of a life transformed out of addiction through Christ. It is often dramatic, full of twists and turns, unimaginable and spectacular given where people come from.

Yet there is a real danger in church that we elevate that story above other stories of conversion. It is just as dramatic, unimaginable, and spectacular that anyone would be transformed and become a Christian through a work of God’s spirit.

We have observed that sometimes in church, well-meaning people give pride of place to the testimony of those who have come out of addiction. We cringe when we see before and after photographs plastered on the publicity. We shudder when we hear people who are just weeks sober giving their testimony on the platform in front of a packed church. We recoil from showcasing people as trophies for we have heard too many stories where either the pressure or the limelight became too much to handle, and that person falls again.

Our suggestion to people on our programme is to avoid these circumstances for at least one year alongside the advice to avoid making any major decisions or changes for that year to allow time to settle and build a positive foundation in recovery. It would be great if churches took that on board themselves or even just follow the common sense of non-Christian recovery groups like AA and NA who at times do a better job with this kind of thing than we’ve sometimes seen in church circles.

Do/Do Not Give Your Time

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 13 about a man who wants to chop down a fig tree because it fails to produce fruit and is using up the good soil that the other fruit bearing trees would benefit from and flourish all the more.One thing the addict will benefit from is your time. It takes time to get to know a person and work with them. In active addiction people often had little time for the addict who is seen as part of the problem not the solution. Individuals need time and energy to receive help.

However, people also have to learn to stand on their own two feet and make choices for themselves. An inordinate amount of time can be spent with an individual who continues down the same path.

We have found that whilst giving time to people is crucial, it is also true that occasionally the best thing we have done for people who are intent on either using or ignoring advice or rejecting the path of change is to leave them to their own devices until they are ready once again. There are plenty of other people who need your resources so by all means give your time but decide when you’re going to pull out and settle in your heart that sometimes it’s okay to do so.

Do/Do Not Get Personal

Finally, it’s important to get to know the person you’re dealing with. It seems obvious but worth saying that you should seek to remember personal details. People in addiction are often sensitive about how they are perceived, and any small slight can be a catastrophe in their mind.

Get personal with people and get to know what makes them tick. If you do this, you will quickly find that the underlying issues leading to addiction are similar to the underlying issues that lead to your own sin. In that sense everyone has an addiction issue, and you can develop an affinity that helps them and you.

However, don’t try to get too personal, too soon. The paranoid addict can be wary of questions that might seem normal in your mid-week bible study. Allow the individual to find their moment to open up and move from there. Speak about yourself as much as the other individual and be honest about your own life to create the right atmosphere for personal relationships to develop bit by bit through building up trust.









Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *