Obedience is not a word most addicts in recovery want to embrace. The heart of an addict revolts against such a word. It takes time for an addict to embrace the fact that obedience can be a virtue, not a vice.
Obedience implies that one is being ruled over by another in authority over them. Generally, the addict has spent much of their life pushing back against authority for many reasons, such as being hurt by authority. They feel they know better and are not willing to be teachable or may even be proud and entitled.
Obedience can be voluntary or involuntary. Generally, voluntary obedience requires the that one being ruled over has a relationship with the one ruling over them. They know the one in authority has their best interest in mind and is protecting them. Involuntary obedience may indicate that there is no relationship, and the one being ruled over is not in agreement with the authority figure. They might obey with external behavior; but behind closed doors, their hearts are far from being obedient. Offense, bitterness, and resentment will grow and feed current or future addictions.
Let’s look at this through the lens of a parent/child relationship. A loving parent wants what is best for their child to help keep them safe from harm and protect their innocence for as long as possible. A loving parent does not let their child play on the street or any street for that matter.
The loving parent expects obedience from the child. Over time, the child learns that mom and dad do know what they are doing, especially after a close encounter with a car. The child willingly submits their own will to the will of the parent, because they understand the love the parent has for them.
They now move to compliance. Over time, the child becomes a young adult and continues to submit their selfish will. They learn that not everything is right or wrong but understand their parent has given them free will to choose wisely or foolishly. Life can teach hard lessons; but through trial and error, they learn how to make wiser choices in all areas of life.
They also learn that if they consistently listen to their parent, they can conform to the wisdom of their parents without going through the “school of hard knocks.” Conforming to the wisdom of their loving parents brings them greater freedom and success than their peers. They have learned their parent’s rules have kept them from destroying themselves, not prevented them from having fun. In fact, they have greater freedoms than their friends that live in disobedience.
Now, let’s look at this from the perspective of a parent/child relationship in the other direction, when a child does not learn the importance of obedience from a loving parent. Perhaps the child was abused or neglected by the parent, they had poor parental models or no parents at all. The parent did not bond with the child appropriately.
Now as an adult, the child has to submit their selfish will and involuntarily conform to the norms of society. Behavior might fall into place, but their heart is filled with bitterness, resentment and contempt toward any and all authority. Their heart becomes hard. Pride and entitlement grow deep roots, and they are no longer teachable or open to listening to a loving parent that is begging them to get off the street to avoid being hit by a huge truck that could end their life.
They disagree believing parental rules keep them from having freedom and fun. The child feels forced into compliance by the law of the land. The law of the land will force obedience in the form of prison or the threat of persecution or death. Deceived by their own beliefs and foolish choices, the child now lives in bondage.
What does all this have to do with recovery? In my last blog, I wrote about what it means to stay hungry in recovery. Is it easy to identify if you are starting with obedience or conformity when you begin your road to freedom? They end very differently. Not only is it important to stay hungry in recovery, it is also important to stay obedient in recovery. But obedient to who? Perhaps you did obey your parents and had a good childhood. How did you end up with a sex, drug or alcohol addiction?
In recovery, I have learned that ultimately I am accountable to be obedient to God and His Word. In fact, as an adult in my journey of self-discovery in recovery, there have been times I have had to be disobedient to the things of this world and even my own parents.
Some things to consider about obedience:
- It places all selfishness aside.
- It takes great faith and courage.
- It is about being consistent, intentional and accountable.
- It has nothing to do with how you feel.
- It is about being teachable.
- It is about humility.
- It is about serving others at the lowest level.
- It is about listening twice as much as you speak.
- It is at times being disobedient, rebellious, and noncompliant to the world to remain obedient to God.
Finally, re-read the above metaphor above and replace the “loving parent” with God and “child” with your own name.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.