How do you eat chicken wings? Not the boneless kind, but just normal, everyday chicken wings. You eat the meat and leave the bones. You consume the good parts and leave behind the bad parts. Obvious and simple when it comes to food, but what about in the world of ideas?
A good chicken wing is a “package”; the meat and bones travel together. I am going to sift through it with my fingers and mouth to get the good stuff. I may find that some unwanted stuff gets through that I have to spit out. The stuff I don’t want will be left behind and discarded.
I don't like seafood too much but I was eating with one of my buddies and he was pulling small pieces of meat from some kind of crustacean. I swear that there was more debris on his plate after he finished eating than before, but he seemed quite full and satisfied when he was done. He certainly knew what the good parts were and how to get them. And he knew what parts to leave behind.
The problem for me has been an unhealthy focus on “purity” and “orthodoxy.” Actually, that’s not quite true; it was the opposite. I focused on what I disagreed with or thought was wrong about something or someone. In my early 12-step meetings, I was hypersensitive to concepts, ideas, and people that I disagreed with. I wasn’t getting as much meat as I should have because I kept choking on the bones. As a result, I crashed and burned and left the program for a short time.
Here is the hard truth: in a world of imperfect people and programs, there is almost nothing that is perfect. No one is perfect and has it all together. Looking for perfection is a fool’s errand. Instead, look for the meat, look for the insight, look for something that will meet your current needs.
A newcomer once asked me, “My sponsor is not a Christian. What should I do?” I happened to know that his sponsor has decades of sobriety and has a lot of good wisdom regarding recovery and relationships. So the newcomer has to decide what is most important to him. But I know this: the doctor that performed heart surgery on me and held my beating heart in his hands is not a Christian. As far as I know, my accountant is not a Christian, but he saves me a lot of money every year. The guy with the 666 tattoo? He does a mean tuneup.
I was talking about politics with a stranger recently and he asked me how I could have possibly voted for the person that I did in the last presidential election. I said, “Like this,” as I pinched my nose with my fingers. “I plugged my nose and cast my ballot.” The candidate had a lot of bones on him but the ideological meat was more tasty than the other guy’s.
I am not suggesting that you be careless in your associations and consumption of ideas. I believe quite the opposite. “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” is the Bible’s admonition. But I will tell you that if you focus too much on the bones and not the meat, your world will get pretty narrow and your growth will be stunted. We have severely harmed ourselves in our addictions and we can’t afford stunted growth in recovery.
Economists talk about tradeoffs. Frankly, there is some 12-step dogma that I am not sure I agree with. But there are a lot more things in the program that have immensely contributed to my sobriety and recovery, including some precious friends that I have grown to love. So I accept the tradeoffs and stay in. Yes, there are some bones, but the meat has been quite nourishing and tasty.
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