One of the interesting insights coming out of the 12-step literature is that it is counter productive to try to fix others. We can only fix ourselves. An atmosphere where we are constantly trying to fix others will quickly squelch honesty. I do not want a group that is constantly trying to fix me. If the group tries to fix others, no one will be honest. It does not matter how well-meaning the group is in this, fixing kills honesty.
Why Small Groups Should Not Try to Fix Others
I have seen this happen in groups many times. One person will bravely risk sharing something that is not working. Someone will tell them, “You just need to pray.” Another will tell them to, “Just forgive and forget. Another will tell them to, “Have more faith.” Another will tell them that if they just had more discipline all would be well. Everyone has simple answers to enormous problems. And no one puts a bandage on the wound. This is where Sunday school gets a bad name. To give a “Sunday school answer” is synonymous with a simplistic, unrealistic, or poorly thought through answers.
People do this fixing in a well-meaning way. They are honestly trying to help but it does not help. It only squelches the atmosphere of honesty. There is something almost magical that the Christian community can do for one another. If they will hear one another, really listen to the feelings as well as the facts, and bring those together to the Father, the group will find healing. As long as we are trying to fix each other, God isn’t allowed to do much fixing.
James 5:16 does not say, “Confess your sins, do your best to fix each other and then pray.” It is counter intuitive to what we think it would be, but fixing just messes things up. What we need to say is, “That must really hurt. I am sorry.”
Emotions are inherently a-moral and should always be validated. Actions are moral; emotions are not. If I tell you I feel a certain way and you rebuff me by saying I should not feel that way, I am not likely to share again. My emotions are not wrong. They are just feelings. Ethics has to do with behavior, not emotion. We need a place where we can hear each other say, “I understand why you would feel that way.”
It is true that it is wrong to cultivate certain emotions. It is wrong to cultivate lust and greed, which are essentially feelings. But it is not wrong for a person to admit that he is fighting these. In fact, we will never win the fight until we admit the war.
What we can do, instead of trying fix, is serve. Instead of fixing a person, try fixing a meal for a person. Pray for them. Send cards. Let your love be visible and felt. But don’t correct or scold. There is, of course, a place for admonition, but it is not in the context of the honest confession of sins.
This article by Josh Hunt on the need to fix yourself first appeared here with the Small Group Network, and is used by theor permission.