Does It Need To Be Said?
July 23, 2020
As most of you know, I am a member of AA. AA is a spiritual program that teaches people how to deal with life on life’s terms without having to pick up a drink in order to cope. Since drinking is mostly a way of avoiding some sort of suffering, AA is really about living life on life’s terms without suffering. Suffering is different from pain. “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional” (Haruki Murakami). Pain is felt immediately, but suffering is when we hold onto our pain. When I first heard this saying, my reaction was NO WAY! In my mind this was impossible. Today, I know it is possible, but can be very difficult to achieve. I am a long way from achieving this state all the time, but I have learned some tools in AA that have helped me take mini steps toward this goal.
One of the tools concerns thinking before speaking so I do not cause pain to another person. I was taught to ask myself several questions before I decide to give advice or information to another person. These questions include:
1. Does it need to be said?
2. Does it need to be said by me?
3. Does it need to be said now?
4. Is it helpful?
I have to admit that I rarely take the time to do this process and needless to say, I have gotten into well deserved trouble for it. However, there are times when I have practiced taking the time to ask all these questions with a yes. However, even when I answer yes to these questions, I worry that going forward might hurt the other person in a way I did not intend. Contemplating that kind of outcome makes me feel very uncomfortable, because I would never intentionally want to hurt another person. So what do I do when I strongly feel that I need to speak up? The answer came in an AA meeting from someone who had over 40 years of sobriety. She said that she had to learn to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. When I heard this, it suddenly dawned on me that it was okay to feel uncomfortable, and perhaps it was okay for the other person to feel uncomfortable too if what I said was out of love and concern. Knowing that being uncomfortable will pass on both sides, and therefore will not cause suffering, enables me to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I just wish I had known this when I was raising my two sons!
This lesson reminds me of John Lewis. How many times did he say things that needed to be said; that needed to be said by him; that needed to be said in the present moment; and that was helpful for the betterment of human kind? And how many times did he know that if he spoke up, he was likely going to bear some VERY uncomfortable consequences? Yet this did not stop him. He went ahead and did what he thought was right. Here is a true example of someone who was comfortable with being uncomfortable over and over again, and in the end became a leader and a hero that changed American history.
Prayer: God please guide our lips to say the right things at the right times. Give us the courage to speak up when it is appropriate and necessary without fearing the consequences. Walk with us as we learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable as a result.