Recently in one of my support groups, we discussed the topic of finding a sponsor as well as the importance of a group leader being genuine and humble, there to serve others and not to be served or to stroke his ego.
The meeting reminded me of a story about humility I heard years ago. As the story goes, there was a man who lived in a village. He was a very humble man who was always giving and serving others, expecting nothing in return. The villagers got together and decided to give him a medal to honor his humility with the word “humble” on it. One day, the village surprised him with the medal and had a celebration in his honor. Some time had passed when he decided to begin wearing the medal around the village. Eventually, the villagers took the medal way. The End.
The irony in the story is that there is a balance between humility and pride as well as being recognized and rewarded for that humility, which can become a double edge sword.
It can be life changing, powerful, and inspiring to have a sponsor or group leader like this. They give off an energy and light to all those around them that others want to be around. They give life to the group rather than take life from the group.
Now, like the story, a once broken and humble addict new to the group and the recovery process begins to be mentored by a sponsor or group leader. Some time passes. Weeks, months, and years go by, as they do the work to get healthy and eventually are asked to serve in a place of leadership.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, ego can quickly get in the way of leadership. In addition, price can get in the way too, as they believe they are right and others are wrong. They can believe and act like they are now “better than” others in the group, especially the newest members in their brokenness.
A person can quickly forget where they started. You see, what makes a group healthy is the new and the old members. Those working Step 1 or those working Step 10 for the third time. Each member is just as important as the others.
Those members who come in struggling week after week need the encouragement of those who are stable and doing well. Those who are stable need the ones struggling, because the very next meeting the roles might be reversed, as the stable become the struggling, and the struggling become the stable.
The judgment attitude of a leader can be felt by all, especially the newest members. The leader may know best and be correct in their feedback and concerns; however, if it is given in a heart of judgment or condemnation, that may the first and last meeting the new member will ever attend.
It is very common for people who have narcissistic qualities or even personalities to become “natural” leaders and sponsors. People who are empathic on the opposite side of the spectrum tend to follow narcissistic people. Now, I am not saying this is wrong or that a true narcissist cannot lead a group. However, it is very important that such a group leader with these traits be teachable and not have an attitude of entitlement. Narcissism is oftentimes misunderstood. I have written several blogs on this topic, but here is one most related to this topic, Narcissism and Pimp Culture: https://www.transformedhearts.com/narcissism-and-pimp-culture/.
A good recovery group leader or sponsor who is not corrupted by their position in the recovery community is eager to:
- Serve others as compared to serving self
- Seeks understanding rather than trying to be right
- Seeks to love
- Has healthy boundaries and is not codependent
- Exalts and allows others to lead and serve
- Continues to practice the principles of the program themselves
- Does not get easily offended when questioned by others
- Shows genuine gratitude and thankfulness to others
- Does not use or need the title of “leader” or “chair-person”
- Practices confidentiality at the highest level
- Serves as a team player
Now, I do not think this happens very often, but it happens enough that it needs to be addressed. Power, labels, status, and knowledge can corrupt…even those of us who have successfully recovered. It is life-long process, but with greater victories and success come greater temptations. Stay humble.
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.