The Benedict Option

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2017 by jcwill5

Rod Dreher wrote both a book and a lead article in Christianity Today called The Benedict Option, calling for a strategic withdrawal by faithful Christians from everyday American society.

A Strategic Withdrawal

The goal he advocates is to form counter-communities where faithfulness to God, harmonious community, and beautiful alternatives to the barbarism of our times can be seen, experienced, and modeled.

It is touted as the only sure-fire way of passing down Christianity to our own children.

The history behind it is the 6th Century monastic movement of Benedict, begun under the collapsing Roman Empire and its waves of barbarian invasions–where civilization collapsed into violence, paganism, anarchy, and unchecked brutality.

Benedict created a rule of faith, a manual for how to organize and run monastic communities that anyone could copy anywhere in the empire, after founding such a place in Italy and seeing it become famous for its highest spirituality and quality of community.

His Thesis

Dreher states his thesis in two points.

First, “The culture war that began with the sexual revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives. The cultural left—which is to say, the American mainstream—has no intention of living in postwar peace. It is pressing forward with a harsh, relentless occupation, one that is aided by the cluelessness of Christians who don’t understand what’s happening.”

Second, “The idea is that serious Christian conservatives could no longer live business-as-usual lives in America, that we have to develop creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them. We would have to choose to make a decisive leap into a truly counter-cultural way of living Christianity, or we would doom our children and our children’s children to assimilation.”

So Dreher concludes, “If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith, both in thought and in deed. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs.”

By which, he means The Rule of St. Benedict.

In other words, we will need to form new monastary-like, fully immersive communities in order to survive and even thrive.

The link to the article is here:

The Critics Respond

Of course, his views have plenty of critics.

Christianity Today also published four articles by critics, which state The Benedict Option has blind spots, offers us a false dichotomy, falls short of genuine pluralism, and is not an Evangelical option.

A summary of these our responses is found here:

David Brooks, writing for the New York Times, has this response:

My Own Response

My own response to all this is to note:   there’s a pendulum here going from extreme to extreme.

This prescription would have us American Evangelicals go from the extreme of trying to make our society a Christian one, from a God-and-county kind of American Christendom, to the extreme of a long-term, full-scale retreat into isolated communities.

From theocrats to the spiritual equivalent of hunkered down preppers living out in the woods, stock-piling food, and certain the dystopian apocalypse is just around the corner.

And it’s a kind of all-or-nothing kind of thinking.

The truth is two-fold:

  1. We have gone from being a esteemed religious majority to a disliked religious minority.
  2. There are other, biblical, far more hopeful ways of dealing with this reality that bore fruit in both the New Testament and in the current Third World.

A Better Option

We therefore have one far better option.

For true Christians, being a part of a disliked religious minority is normal.

Such a status certainly didn’t stop the Apostles or the early, quickly expanding New Testament churches–despite vicious persecution, spiteful slanders, and popular hostility.

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also!” cried their frustrated, confounded pagan accusers.

The early Christians wielded disproportionate, positive influence far, far beyond their small numbers.

Their works of charity were unparalleled and broke all social bounds with indiscriminate agape love.

Their joy and fearless courage–singing hymns of a sure future with Christ while in the arena facing certain death–haunted and impressed the hard-bitten Romans.

Their exposing tirades against the follies and vices of paganism made the Romans embarrassed of their own religion and the immoral, childish conduct of their gods.

Their self-evidently transformed personal lives bore eloquent testimony to this sheer fact:  Jesus Christ transforms even the worst of lives and offers such grace to all!

They proclaimed the Gospel in private conversations, in public venues, in courts and arenas and marketplaces.

Non-Retreating Christianity

In other words, they didn’t retreat, they advanced boldly, even straight into suffering and death.

They didn’t lament, they praised with a joy inexpressible and full of glory.

They didn’t despair, they hoped and acted like their hope was undaunted.

They weren’t out to reform society, but to transform individuals and, if society changed for the better as a result of a critical mass of converted hearts, so be it.

In other words, the self-protective, self-isolating defensiveness of The Benedict Option is not compatible with the Gospel, with agape love, with the suffering required of faithful Christ-followers, or with our Lord’s orders for us all to “Go into make disciples….to the ends of the earth!”

We do not need to return to the monasticism that Martin Luther helped us break free from.

We need to return to the indomitable, undaunted faith of missionary, proactive, evangelical, joyous, contagiously transforming, hearts-aflame Christianity– which the only type of Christianity found in the New Testament.

If there is a kind of corruption we need to renounce, it is the corruption of a cold-hearted, worldly, Americanized, politicized, self-centered, control-loving, pseudo-Christianity we have bought into.

This corruption is coming mainly from the inside, not from the outside.

We therefore don’t need the Benedict Option, but a full-orbed return to our biblical roots–the Apostolic option!

From Cynicism to Joy

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2017 by jcwill5

In a disappointing world, is it ever possible to walk in joy?

In a world full of hurtful people and sorrowful events, can we escape becoming bitter, disenchanted, and cynical in our old age?

I not only hope so, I know so!

Idealism Run Amok

First, not all disenchantment is bad.

As young adults, we start life full of ideals…and an unspoken perfectionism.

We believe the world ought to be fair and can be made to be fair.

We think social justice (as defined by our ideals) is achievable in our lifetime.

We are convinced it is possible to remove all threats, end all sorrows, and eliminate all conflicts.

If only people were reasonable.

If only they simply followed our ideology’s plans.

If only they took the medicine that our prescription gave them.

And so we create this perfect picture in our minds of how life ought to be–and judge everything and everyone by it.

Necessary Disenchantment

Then we find that such cooperation is never given.

Human beings are fiercely independent, incurably rebellious when coerced or boxed in, and have a genius for gaming the system to their own advantage.

Our idealism crashes headlong into human selfishness, human pride, and human evil.

So we turn up the persuasion, we up the pressure, and we try to compel them into cooperation.

Making their resistance and rebellion worse, and provoking them into enmity and permanent hostility.

Which, of course, provokes us into counter-enmity and counter-hostility.

Revelation of Our Failure

And then we receive a revelation about ourselves:   we are no better than those we harshly denounce and personally blame!

We not only don’t, but we can’t live up to our high principles and idealistic morality.

We, too, are sinners.

We, too, have deeply failed and let others down.

The idealism that once inspired us now torments us with our own imperfections, faults, and wrongs.

From Idealism Into Addiction

It is here that we delve into a secret life of propping ourselves up–where we escape the pain and the hypocrisy, where we numb our sorrows and failures, where find pleasure and release.

And so a secret life begins–often harmlessly enough.

But it always progresses and deepens and eventually owns us so that we live under the prop’s domination, live for the release and relief, and become one more addict of one stripe or another.

Our idealism often leads to idolatry and our activism ends up in addiction.

We now enter the miserable stage, and joy seems impossibly far away from us.

We are in exile in the land of resentment and sourness.

Hitting Bottom

It begins to down on us that we, too, are sinners, that we, too, are unworthy of love and are no better than anyone else.

Our once high-flying ego, bloated with its own self-importance and unforgiving of its own failures, is tyrannizing us and tormenting us.

Even the props and escapes hold no appeal to us–for we have now hit bottom.

It dawns on us that we are hopelessly enslaved and cannot control our way out of this–our lives have become unmanageable and we are powerless.

We begin to look up, expecting to see the angry face of God and lightning bolts in His fists, having mocked His person and abused His name in our scoffing.

Instead we behold a face radiant in love for the lowly, the broken, and the sinner–a Person who died on a cross to atone for our sins and who rose to give spiritually dead people eternal life.

With arms opened wide, we hear a gentle, all-kind invitation to us to come close and be loved at the bottom of our lives.

We either spurn that love and cling to our cynicism, or we entrust ourselves to Him in utter vulnerability and without any controls.

Becoming the Beloved

Then He loves us at the bottom of our lives.

Our idealism that led us into cynicism and enslavement now finds the perfection it was looking for all along, without the burden of self-producing it.

We become His beloved–a small and cherished person He lavishes grace upon and sets free to know Him and find our joy in being His.

Instead of losing our uniqueness and our self, we find we are more truly our selves than we ever have been as the distortions of sin are broken off of us.

In His love we find our created purpose–with the power now to become what we are most truly made to be.

Inside of us we have a secret source of joy–a joy that takes us outside and beyond our miserable, fallen self and plunges us into His limitless excellence and perfections.

And this joy now lives within us, framing all of life’s events and serving as a home we can always return to.

Because for us, always, the best is yet to come.

Because for us, always, we cannot lose in Him.

He will redeem everything–even life’s worst sorrows–and milk them for everything they are worth in order to grow us up and transform us fully when all is said and done.

There is a solution!

Keep Calm and Carry On

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2017 by jcwill5

Today’s politics is leaving us in a perpetual state of alarm.

Which contributes to our growing sense of national emotional exhaustion and inflamed irritability.

Outrage Overload

Every action, however small, of the new administration evokes a panicked reaction, a protest, and call to arms, etc.

And 50 days of this kind of hyper-vigilance, calling out, and reactivity has led to crisis fatigue.

Even SNL is finding their parodying of Trump hard to sustain–it’s not funny anymore and the all too human desire to change the subject has caught up with them.

Every day brings a fresh crisis, a fresh source of outrage over the President’s “tweeting”, a fresh counter-attack on the media by the administration, a fresh accusation or counter-accusation.

Protested Into Exhaustion

If Trump’s strategy is to provoke his opponents into chronic frenzy and bombard them until they are overloaded, exhausted, and worn out, he is succeeding brilliantly.

Sooner or later, most normal people will have to tune the opposition drumbeat out and get on with their lives.

Sooner or later, folks will shrug their shoulders and yawn– “Oh, him again…” and “Oh, you again…”

By making everything a crisis, and escalating everything into an emergency, Trump’s opponents are in grave danger of painting themselves into the corner of being completely tuned out.

And what’s worse from their point of view is their vitriol and spitefulness and personal loathing are turning them into mirror-like junior versions of Trump himself.

Which, of course, only further normalizes him and causes many of us to respond, “You’re just like him–can you please just give it a rest?”

But they can’t let go because Trump triggers them.

Unable to Let Go

He has them in a toxic, unbreakable embrace.

He pushes all the buttons an abusive husband or sexual harasser pushes, sending many women into outrage.

He creates a safe space for formerly underground, rightist opinions and overt racial offensiveness– which infuriates the egalitarian left.

He is an agent provocateur who excels at showmanship, controversy, and giving as good as he gets–frustrating journalists but sending their ratings sky high.

For those who need to be outraged about something, who need an oppressed group to champion, who have co-dependency issues, Trump serves their need for a villain in their life brilliantly.

But they also serve his egocentric need for grandstanding, name-calling, and constant attention brilliantly as well.

A Better Way

If I were to counsel folks concerned by him, I would simply say, “Give the guy enough rope and let him hang himself” and “He who is quietest, wins”.

Let him have tomfools for agency heads, let him surround himself with odd people who suck up to him, and even let him try to enact manifestly unwise policies.

Sooner or later, people will begin to recognize the emperor has no clothes.

His follies, his own words, rather than your reactions, will be the issue.

And his bloated ego will no longer receive the controversy it needs to remain engaged or provoke a fresh crisis.

Better yet, the disenfranchised, long-ignored white manufacturing class will finally feel heard instead of lectured and humiliated by those they blame for their misfortunes.

Some of their wishes will be granted, and they will begin to calm down–creating space for other needs in our society to be addressed.

It’s what the British did during the London blitz, as Nazis dropped bombs on them night after night.

Their slogan became famous.

Keep calm, and carry on.

The Relief of Littleness

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2017 by jcwill5

We human beings really do have our limits.

It feels almost heretical to say it in our ego-bloating culture, but I can’t handle everything, all the time, at the highest intensity.

I can handle a few things, some of the time, for not very long, in mild-to-moderate doses.

This means I have to confess that I am very much subject to physical limitations, mental limitations, and emotional limitations.

And if I foolishly cross those lines, the price tags escalate and the delight turns into a death march.

Our bodies and minds and hearts can only take so much, and then they’re overwhelmed and begin to shut down.

The Hell of Political Bombardment

I hit my limit about 6 weeks ago at Inauguration Day with the constant FB bombardment of politics on my once-enjoyable feed.

“Ugh!  Another one!” became a daily groan.

I found myself irritable, restless, and unable to relax and deeply sleep.

Trying to stay in touch with the positives, I exposed myself instead to an intense bombardment of bitterness, accusations, acrimony, insinuations, and irresolvable outrage wanting the entire world to feel as miserable as they did.

It was then I realized that action was needed.

The Choice to Be Small

I admitted I couldn’t handle it anymore.

I began to choose the “see less of” option on my feed’s twelve worst repeat offenders.

And was shocked in a great way!

I began to see far more family updates, life events, and positive insights about areas other than politics.

Staying in touch was no longer a torment but a delight.

Sure, there were still a few political posts, but they were of the most thoughtful, least reactive, and worthwhile kind.

Then I noticed I was sleeping better and wasn’t so inexplicably irritable and emotionally oppressed.

I began to have space in my heart and soul for doing good, excess emotional energy to invest in the welfare of others.

True, some soul processing in the presence of God was needed to bring freedom to some deeper issues that made me vulnerable.

But now I was living well under my limits, and it was great!

The Happy Truth

I rediscovered the happy truth that it didn’t always need to be me, or heard by me, or spoken by me, and defended or protested by me.

It was freeing.

I didn’t need to know it all, respond to it all, voice an opinion about it all, or carry it all within me.

I didn’t need to see everything somebody else demanded that I see.

I didn’t need to float over the entire world from a position of loftiness, grinning at what pleases me and hurling lightning bolts at what displeases me.

I didn’t need to monitor the whole world, know everything going on everywhere, and pretend it all comes down to me.

And I’m just a five minutes a day, twice a day social media user!

I can’t imagine the emotional burden that other, far heavier users of social media are unwittingly carrying around within their souls.

You and I don’t need anybody’s permission to be small, lowly, and close to the ground.

We already are that.

It’s pretending we are vast and imagining we are high-flyers that gets us into trouble.

We can resume being tiny again, and offload the freight of the universe upon the only shoulders that can bear such a weight:  Almighty God.

When our culture rejected God and replaced Him with self, we didn’t become free.

We became egotistical nut cases.

The False Perspective of Social Media

Now I have this sneaking suspicion that the vitualness of social media and the worldwide, real-time connectivity of it are leaving us with a false impression of deity.

As if we are above it all and over it all and therefore determine it all.

As if our will is supreme, as if our vantage point is that of the Most High God.

So, for me at least, stepping back from the Facebook political barrage has cleared my mind and filled my heart with the fresh joy of smallness and the delicious humility of vulnerability.

Now I can let God alone be God at a deep, emotional level, and take my little place underneath the shadow of His wings.

It’s so nice to have emotional limitations.

It’s such a relief to lay down the grandiosity of emotionally owning and supervising the events of an entire nation, or even of an entire world.

That job is blessed taken, and that chair is well and perfectly occupied.

It’s a choice to recognize He is ultimately responsible over all final outcomes, and to allow Him to work on other people (who are always beyond my control), so I am freed up to focus my heart on my own little jobs, on my own soul’s issues.

The fights are His battles, and the resolution is His to bring about.

Even I myself am really His problem to solve instead of mine.

He, not me, is THE Leader, THE Boss, THE Owner, THE King, THE Creator, THE Master, and THE One and Only God.

What a blessed relief!

From Despair to Hope

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2017 by jcwill5

shutterstock_316455458Reaction and counter-reaction.

Cycling ever upwards and leading to a crescendo of total social polarization where we are divided into warring camps waging eternal war.

Ugly Mirrors of Each Other

Each side monitors the other closely–eager to pounce on anything whatsoever that can and will be used against them.

Each side interprets the other in the worst possible way–ascribing bad motives and advancing conspiracy theories whenever possible.

Each side touts ideological sites and outlets that reinforce their world view and demonize the other–while pointing out the flaws in the other side’s “fake news”.

Each side wages a “zero sum game” where anything positive from the other side is to be opposed at all costs, and where any positive on their own side requires pain from the other side.

Instead of win-wins, one side’s allies and friends are determined to impose, force, and compel the other side to bear the economic costs of their program, and live by their side’s moral values with no dissent allowed.

Each side denounces the faults and failings of the other side when, in fact, they exactly mirror each other in narcissism, pettiness, and name-calling.

Each side fails to recognize that in their relentless obsession to denounce the other side, they diminish their own standing, shrink their own moral credibility, and cry wolf to the point of losing their audience.

It’s like we have become addicted to partisan rage and absolutely incapable of any empathy, common humanity, etc.–except when it serves our own ideology.

Despairing Withdrawal

Meanwhile, the rest of us are fed up and begin to tune it all out.

Meanwhile, the apathy party continues to gain new members.

Meanwhile, our common core of shared values, heritage, and beliefs as Americans continues to shrink until we have nothing left in common at all.

Meanwhile, long-range problems like the national debt, entitlement under-funding, and dissatisfied foreign powers pursuing aggressive nationalist policies go unchecked and unchallenged.

Meanwhile, we retreat into our personal lives, private affairs, and individual pursuits–wishing to be left alone while society goes to Hell in a hand basket.

Is this what we really want?

Is this what we most need?

Will any of this end well?

Ideological Dead Ends

This is not just a “them” problem.

This is a “me and my own group” problem because we all own this problem.

Change begins with two truths:   “I, too, am partly responsible and therefore guilty” and “I myself need to repent”.

The reality is our ideology will only take us so far.

It can validate us to some degree, but it will never be the glue that holds society together.

Cherishing Both

The conservative impulse, to preserve and protect what is good and what ought never to be lost, is found inside all of us.

The progressive impulse, to adapt and change to meet new challenges, is found inside all of us as well.

Everyone loves their kind of routines, habits, and cherished customs.

Everyone likes their kind of variety, novelty, and fresh challenges.

None of us would be well served by civil war, by social breakdown, or by anarchy–the chaos of denying and violating all boundaries.

None of us would be well served by uniformity, by social rigidity, by authoritarianism–the suffocation of imposing and mandating all boundaries.

We were created to be well-governed and created to be free.

From Self to God

The problem is the self–what we mistakenly worship most as a society– is insufficient for both of these impulses.

We need something better than our self to govern us in ways our self doesn’t want, and to free us in areas our self enslaves us.

We need a Someone to keep us from destroying ourselves, and to love us where we are self-oppressed and self-enslaved.

We need a Supreme Governor to provide the good kind of order we crave, and to liberate us from the painful, selfish chaos inside of all of us.

We need a Savior who both governs and frees us well, who will be good to us despite our evils, and who transforms us individually and who creates a new kind of counter-society of transformed people.

There is a solution!

Who Are You?

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2017 by jcwill5

identity-792366_640I believe that who we are flows out of whose we are.

All identity comes from belonging.

If this insight is true, then the chief question of our existence will be:  to whom or what do we belong the most?

Some will answer a physical characteristic.

Gender determines your identity and sexuality defines you.  Therefore, sex and gender wars explain everything.

Race determines your identity and skin color defines you.  Therefore, racial conflicts explain everything.

Nationality determines your identity and your country defines you.  Therefore, your national origin explains everything.

Family determines your identity and your parents define you.   Therefore, family ties explain everything.

Some will answer with a societal classification.

Class determines your identity and your social status defines you.  Therefore, class divisions explain everything.

Income determines your identity and your paycheck and job define you. Therefore, economic disparities explain everything.

Culture determines your identity and your shared values and perspectives define you.  Therefore, cultural biases explain everything.

Individuality determines your identity and only you defines you.  Therefore, our own uniqueness explains everything.

Still others answer with a self-chosen activity.

My purchases define me, and I am what I own.  Therefore, abundance or lack of possessions explain everything.

My achievements define me, and I am what I achieve.  Therefore, success or failure explains everything.

My politics define me, and I am what I use power to progress or conserve.  Therefore, our ideologies explain everything.

My art defines me, and I am what I listen to, watch, sing, play, write, build, or create.   Therefore, our entertainments explain everything.

On a darker note, we can have:

My addictive substances, experiences, and relationships define me, and I am what I use.  Therefore, our compulsions explain everything.

My wrongs define me, and I am what I violated.  Therefore, our punishments explain everything.

The wrongs done against me define me, and I am how I’ve been violated.  Therefore, our victimization explains everything.

My complaints define me, and I am what I object to and protest against.   Therefore, our dissatisfaction explains everything.

On a biblical note, we all this to contend with:

My sin nature within defines me, and I am a slave of sin.   Therefore, sin explains everything.

My religious affiliation defines me, and I am that label.   Therefore, being inside or outside the group explains everything.

My religious morality defines me, and I am whatever level I’ve reached on the pyramid.   Therefore, being more moral or less moral explains everything.

My idol defines me, and I am a worshipper of this person, place, activity, or thing.  Therefore, I am becoming like whatever I worship.

The Surprising Way Out

Here’s the twist:   all of these identities are part and parcel of this current world order, this fallen universal regime–the tired old creation populated by the same old humanity.

Light a supernova of illumination comes this truth:  the only way out of these imprisoning identities is to find our identity in belonging to Someone outside of it all and infinitely beyond it all.

It’s in simply being His.

It’s in belonging to Him first, foremost, and ultimately in a way that overshadows and transcends all of our other belongings.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” says the ancient prophet.

“Abide in Me and I in you,” says Jesus.

Dividing Then Joining

And now the Cross of Christ makes terrible sense:   God had to find a way to sever us from our sin and all of its belonging, to divide us from the monster living within us, and join us to Himself in a brand new way.

He did so by joining us in our sin to Christ on the Cross, and putting it and us to death in Him.

When He died, we died with Him and all of our old ties, connections, and belongings died with Him.

When He rose, we rose up with Him a new person with a new identity–joined to Him forever and in union with Him perfectly.

All of the identities of this current life, everything based on the characteristics, classifications, and choices of our old nature, are invalidated and inoperative.

We belong body and soul to Him.

He and His choice alone defines us.

His love alone and being His beloved defines us.

By worshiping Him, we are becoming more and more like Him.

Being a new creature in Christ defines us.

This is the blessedly simple, and shockingly upsetting, answer of the biblical, born-again faith to questions of identity!

The Real Revolution

Hopefully you now understand why Christians are the most persecuted group on earth, why dictators and ideological one party states fear us so frantically and loath us so irrationally.

All the belonging and identities these bullies use to maintain their grip on power are rendered irrelevant by what God has done for us on Good Friday and Easter!

Not even death, which merely divides the soul from the body, can reverse what God has done!

The powers that be and all the identities they hawk are now irrelevant and utterly insignificant in the face of heavenly invasion now upon them.

The revolution of the new identity in Christ, the ultimate belonging to God, is the most subversive, most revolutionary movement to ever hit planet Earth!

All our old ties and present system-based allegiances are superseded and trumped by the supreme Christ and our relationship to Him.

It’s the only solution!

America: One Big Alcoholic Family

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2017 by jcwill5

shutterstock_620961851I’ve written before how America is like an alcoholic family.

Tell-tale Signs of an Addicted Society

In alcoholic family or society, instability reigns.

The addiction warps everyone’s thinking, emoting, and relationships.

The result is that the world is divided into villains and victims.

And punishing villains and pampering victims is the mission.

So the big arguments are about who is the villain and who is the victim.

We become consumed with a fight over who deserves to be blamed and shamed, and who needs the protection and championing.

Narcissism and co-dependency thus increasingly mark us as individuals and as groups.

We are left with a choice between a calloused disregard and the punitive opposite of compassion, or an obsessive indulgence and a sick protection from deserved consequences.

Nobody will take personal responsibility and everyone blames somebody else for all their misfortunes.

Sound familiar?

As addictions escalate in intensity and number through the aid of technology, the politics and social interactions of more and more people are addition-fueled.

As their addiction “age-of-onset” begins earlier in life and reaches a hard-core phase earlier in life, the intensity level of our conflicts grows exponentially.

Our emotions rage at higher levels, are less often resolved with greater difficulty, and catharsis becomes our new normal–which fuels even deeper addiction and sets off the next round of conflicts.

It takes less and less offense, irritation, and surprise to knock us off our stride, to get an intense reaction out of us, and to see us erupt into relationship-destroying outbursts.

We become both helpless and far more harmful.

We leave a wake of wounded spirits, broken relationships, and dead communities behind us.

We keep beating the drum of our cause, our outrage, our victimhood, until the room clears and nobody is listening to us anymore but the self-justifying echo chamber of our own mind.

Not Even Hiding Helps

There’s also a third group:  the hiders and runners.

They are forced to listen and feel trapped in the “hell-on-earth” family.

They just want to escape the toxic family and leave it in the rear view mirror.

These hiders withdraw and retreat into studied apathy and isolation, biding their time until they can make good their physical escape.

But they, too, are scarred by the intractable, abusive conflicts of their alcoholic family of origin.

Escape and escapism that numbs the soul and withdraws them from positive society mark their lives.

The Way Forward

Although the Recovery movement isn’t perfect, and has strayed somewhat from it’s theocentric roots, there are some little slogans that counter-act the toxicity of alcoholic thinking and feeling.

The trio of short sayings are easy to memorize and capture the surrender of control necessary to maintain sobriety in the face of life’s upsets.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

“One day at a time.”

“Let go, let God.”

In the Serenity prayer, we are taught to differentiate between what we can do something about, and what we are powerless over.

We humbly ask God for daily wisdom to show us the things we cannot fix that are outside of our control, and those we can take responsibility to improve, heal, and redeem.

In releasing control over the things we never had control over, we have energy to address those things about our selves that sorely need our attention.

We give up on blaming and accusing, and we begin to take responsibility for our own choices and to make amends for our wrongs.

We let go of the uncontrollable stuff, and let God handle it because He, not we, is God.

We get off of the throne, and yield the chair to Him.

And we do this every single day, one day at a time, moment-by-moment.

The Payoff

If we practice this trio of daily habits, we’ll find increasing peace on the inside, avoid embroiling ourselves in resentments and impossible fights, and enjoy new positive outcomes and healthy relating.

We’ll avoid relapses into our idolatries, and will be less able to be triggered and, hence, controlled by events and other people.

We’ll become part of the building crew, and get off of the wrecking crew, in our groups and relationships.

We’ll become resilient and are able to suffer more and sacrifice more for worthy goals that take self-denial and perseverance to fully realize.

These slogans are restatements of time-honored truths taught in the Bible:  daily surrender of one’s will to God, taking each day as it comes under His care, and resting in the peace of His good reign so we can focus on our own responsibilities under God.

Is this not what we need most as individuals, and as a society, right now?

There is a solution.