Before I retired I had the giant privilege of working as a peer counselor, being available to co-workers in my agency who were having a personal problem affecting their work performance. In that capacity, I led a group of a 5 folks in early recovery from an addiction. Even now when I remember our group, I smile.
The thing about the group that made it so special was that our beliefs were totally out of sync. They each believed strongly in a higher power and my belief is in a universe without such a power. As some may know, recovery from addiction often includes dependence on a higher power, in a very positive way. The fact that we believed so differently would surely have caused problems if I had ever shown the least bit of scorn. But I never felt it. I welcomed whatever helped them, and frankly I admired them enormously for their willingness to face their addictions.
One woman didn’t want to go to 12-step meetings, believing her church gave her sufficient help. My training had specifically said that was a bad idea … and I said so to her and to the group. We agreed on a trial period with a condition … that if she relapsed, she would go to meetings. She never relapsed, and the group and I learned lessons about flexibility and the power of respect.
One has to keep one’s mind open to all theories while one works to help others. When the group ended, I remember one hug in which I thanked the hugger for being able to accept my non-higher power view of things and stick with me. She whispered back: “Well, Ellen, we all just agreed that you are a very spiritual person.”
I still smile with the deep delight of that. I know the profound respect and love that flowed back and forth strengthened us all.