First Segment - Principle 12 - Generativity - How do I pass it on?
GENERATIVITY IS HELPING OTHERS. Giving back. Contributing to society. Making a positive difference. Creating a better world. Leaving a legacy. Guiding and encouraging the next generation—and the many generations thereafter. The word generativity was coined by psychologist Erik Erikson. It is the seventh (middle adulthood, ages 40–65) of his eight stages of human development. Erikson observed that as we mature, we must make a choice: either we live in a generative way or we become spiritually and emotionally stagnant. Although generativity has multiple dimensions, all of them involve using our experience, insight, and passion to help others. Having found meaning in our life, we offer the best of ourselves to the world. We live intentionally, mindfully, and generously.
- Having read the above, how has your generativity progressed from addiction through your recovery up until today? Has it always been an upward trajectory or have you struggled in recovery with the idea of generativity?
The Call of The Moment
In every situation, generativity prompts us to ask—and answer—these questions: How do I pass on my gifts to others? How do I use my skills, knowledge, possessions, and relationships to make things better?
The answers to these questions are always practical and down to earth. We help push our neighbor’s car out of a snow bank. We babysit for our daughter and son-in-law. We organize a demonstration against corruption in our city’s government. We stay late at work to help a client or coworker in distress. We mentor a new hire, or a fifth grader. We leave the beach or picnic ground cleaner than we found it. We conserve water. We volunteer at the local animal shelter. We plant trees along the river to prevent erosion. We take in our homeless nephew. We lovingly toss him out again when we discover that, despite our clear prohibition, he has continued to take and deal drugs in our home. In each case, we answer the call of the moment.
- How do you pass on your gifts to others? How do you use your skills, knowledge, possessions, and relationships to make things better?
Every moment and every interaction is an opportunity for generativity. Even if we are simply sitting alone in a room, we open our heart and send loving kindness into the world. But if we also see that the floor is dusty, we sweep it. And if we suddenly conceive of a much better way to sweep floors, we share our idea with the world.
Generativity takes innumerable forms. Giving. Nurturing. Supporting. Mentoring. Leading. Guiding. Advising. Speaking out. Confronting. Creating. Following. Listening. Bearing witness. Standing up for a person or a cause. Simply being present with someone as he or she experiences great pain or joy or difficulty. Generativity can even take the form of mindfully doing nothing. Instead of shouting “no!,” we stand back and let our four-year-old grandson step onto the thin ice of our backyard pond. We watch silently as he breaks through and falls to his knees in nine inches of water. He screams, gets up, and runs back to us. Only then do we gather him in our arms, kiss him, and carry him inside.
Generativity is always intentional. Our inner observer monitors the situation, discerns how we can make a positive difference, and prompts us to do the next right thing. If it sees that a detailed strategy is needed, it asks for help from other parts of the brain. And if it sees that there’s nothing we need to do right now, it stays silent and watchful.
- How much of a role does “doing the next right thing” play in your recovery? Is it something that requires constant thought and effort? Is it a struggle? Or do you find it has become second nature?
Playing Our Music
Although generativity focuses on giving, there is a receiving aspect to it as well. Through generativity we connect with others, as well as to our own talents and to what gives us meaning and purpose. Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, “Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us.” Generativity encourages us to play that music for as long as we are willing and able.
One of the stories in Andy Andrews’s book The Noticer involves an aging widow named Willow who is waiting to die. She is healthy and financially stable, but she feels she has nothing left to live for or offer the world. Then she encounters the book’s protagonist, who laughs gently at the notion that she has outlived her usefulness. “Who gave you permission,” he asks her, “to decide that you had nothing more to do, nothing more to offer?” He reels off a long list of people who made a difference in their eighth and ninth decades of life. By the time they are done talking, Willow has moved from stagnation and hopelessness into the beginnings of generativity. She realizes that she still has much to give to the world and plenty of time left to give it.
- How do you deal with the periods in recovery when you don’t feel like giving to others? When you are in the mindset that generativity feels like too much hard work or that you have outlived your usefulness and have nothing to offer? How do you get back into the right mindset to move forward?
Generativity and Discernment
Generosity of spirit is a core aspect of generativity—but so are mindfulness and discernment. We give because we have things worth sharing and a willingness to share them. But generativity prompts us to not share anything that will hamper others’ growth or limit their ability to live the Twelve Principles.
For example, giving lots of money to our kids can damage them. As a therapist, I see a lot of emotionally stunted trust-fund kids—and similarly stunted adults. They inherited enough money that they don’t have to work, take risks, or push themselves. As a result, they face few big challenges in life—and they receive few opportunities to rise to them. Instead of growing spiritually and emotionally, they often become self-involved and depressed. They’re much like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. It has to struggle to force its way out. Yet that very struggle is what strengthens its wings so that it is able to fly. If we were to help the butterfly escape by slitting a hole in the cocoon, it would fall out, be too weak to fly, and die.
- Have you ever tried to help someone and on reflection questioned if it was the right thing to do? Are you ever quick to give suggestions or advice without being mindful of the potential negative impact on the other person?
Second Segment - Topic of The Week - What is honesty in “GA Terms”?
At first it's about being honest about the money we've spent (however we got it) but that's just the tip of the iceberg. That's the short term problem.
The biggest issue is being honest with ourselves, the same person we ultimately are working this program for. Think about "The Man In The Glass"
We are faced with 3 huge barriers to self honesty.
- False Pride - being forced to realise we are not who we once pretended to be.
- Fear - the fear of being found out, of others seeing us for who we really are.
- Self-Deception - possibly the biggest barrier as compulsive gambling in itself is Self-Deception. We constantly deceived ourselves when we gambled - that we were doing something destructive while looking for a positive outcome. As long as we continue in this mode, we will have the same trouble as we always did.
- How do we break these barriers down?
Third Segment - Quote of The Week
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure Suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel (born 1928)
We have heard it said that the program is circular—Steps One to Twelve, back to One and so on. Also true is that Step Twelve is a springboard to the study and practice of the Traditions. From there we seek opportunities for service and stewardship, in and beyond our fellowship. All anonymous Fellowships have done a great deal to convert predatory, narcissistic, self-destructive addicts into useful contributors to society—not to say that there aren’t other means of recovery equal to the task. Once we become whole we become useful again. If we are grateful, we will easily find a chance to pay it forward.
Causes and injustices will present themselves to us and encourage us to get our heads out of our own asses and engage in lives of service. Recovery brings a humble, clear-thinking approach to life’s woes. We may intuitively know what the right thing to do is. Like the Nobel Peace Prize winner and holocaust survivor quoted above, we will know what side to take and when to speak up. Our fellowship ought never be drawn into controversy but there is a time and place for us as individuals to stand and be counted. In developing the habit of being compassionate, we become more aware of our surroundings. Resignation is the greatest adversary to usefulness. We should never say “What’s the use?” or “It’s not my battle” or “What good could I do?” when we know in our hearts that it would be wrong to turn away and say nothing.
- Looking at my progress in recovery, can I see where I have become more of a giver than a taker? Do I see how my own special traits and principles bring value to the world around me? Do I know what I am prepared to stand up for in and out of the fellowship?