In dealing with those individuals from addiction, codependency, and other dysfunctional behaviors, a common thread runs through each story I hear. These people give up and give in. This behavior eventually leads to loss of personal dignity. Each person performs and puts on an act, while hiding and wearing an assortment of masks. They continue to hope that no one will find out how they deal with life and reality, their lives become a struggle. Loosing one’s dignity is not an over night quest. Year after year, they practice until this loss of dignity occurs. The result is simple; loss of respect joined with a low self-worth. When we focus our attention of actions, thoughts, and feelings of another human being, we are positioning ourselves to receive Gods?punishment for disobedience. In looking at the book of Leviticus, we see how the book of laws has a distinctive meaning to those people that have chose to turn their back on God.
God has promised to strip us of our dignity if we are not obedient. Lev. 26:16, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seen in vain, because your enemies will eat it (NIV). These are the types of people that I meet on a daily basis. Spiritually bankrupt, homeless, addicted to alcohol or drugs, their lives are out of control. They are blinded by self will run riot and there is no meaning to their lives. The choices they had made to turn disobedient and allow substances and other people to control their lives led them to annihilation. How do you deal with a person who by their own decisions has ruined their life and the lives of those who love them? The answer is simple: become obedient and He will restore your dignity.
This simple solution becomes perplexing when someone has spent a lifetime of self-control and their own sense of willpower to suddenly come to the realization that God’s will and His grace are the way out. The majority adopts this process, but it only lasts for a few days until some self-conscious feelings leave, and suddenly, the person is back in control and heading towards discouragement. The person quickly overlooks the pain, suffering, and devastation that occurred just a few days before the relief was sent from God. Titus 1:15-16, To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions, they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good (NIV). As this person heads back down the path they just left, what can we do as believers to change their course and provide structure in their lives? We model ! the things they lack, and keep modeling them until they realize what it is they need to do to recover.
1 Peter 2:1-3 says, therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (NIV). People in recovery are just like newborn babies. They have to learn to walk, talk, and behave appropriately just like a child. Addiction and dysfunctional behaviors stunt emotional growth. I see grown men and women acting as if they were still in teenager years. Working a program of recovery such as suggested by 12-step models helps restore dignity while providing a method to enhance emotional stability. Corinthians 4:1-2, therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in ! the sight of God (NIV). For some of us with major issues suppressed by our addiction and loss of control, lack of dignity plays a significant role in our lives. Not being able to look at ourselves in the mirror or having someone look in your eyes with no one looking back is the definition of loss of dignity. God helps us restore that dignity from the inside out. It is a tearing down of walls and denial that allows the dignity to return to the lost soul.
May I suggest that if you know someone or have a problem with addiction or other dysfunctional behaviors, it may be worth your efforts to look into a 12-step recovery program. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop the loss of dignity that someone or you may have suffered. *Currently we have eleven meetings, seven day a week, located at the church*. My ministry includes those who have serious and sometimes life threatening problems. The hours are long; the rewards are few and far between. It is the miracles that keep me focused on my own purpose. Watching someone grow from a newborn to a mature adult is one of God’s miracles that I experience on a daily basis.
Over the past ten years, I have devoted my life to recovery. My philosophy is simple: I do not look down on anyone unless I am going to help him or her up. When I made a decision to change my life and started my search, I was grateful that someone was there for me. This person told me that I had lost my dignity and he knew a way that it could be restored. I listened, I believed, I found it! I found out the hard way that through God all things are possible.
John G. Banks, C.A.S.