Tuesday, October 01, 2013

We are Restless or Maybe We're Just Human

You will hear it said twelve-step meetings—“We were restless and discontent.”  The accusation comes from the Big Book and recovering people often turn that accusation on themselves and others.

Sometimes I hear this injunction against restlessness said with a suggestion that if one’s sobriety was better we’d not be restless anymore. Or sometimes, more damming, if one worked the steps the “right” way that that damned restlessness would slip away.

But that attitude and belief disregards what philosophers and great theologians have taught us about being human. Epictetus and Aristotle and even Saint Augustine suggested that restlessness is part of the human condition. Augustine famously wrote, “God, you made us as we are and we are restless until we rest in you.” Augustine was not writing about addicts. He was describing the people that God created.

So, I wonder sometimes if it isn’t a kind of arrogance to suggest that if we alcoholics just did our program right then our restlessness would leave? And if it left us then we’d be, what?—better than other human beings? Where’s the humility in that?

If restlessness is part of God’s recipe for human beings, and if we are to be restless until we rest in God, then we might not want to suggest that we have a special path or that we are somehow smarter than God.

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