Absurd and practical paradoxical truths.
I am a person who can very easily become distracted and obsessed over all things linear, logical, balanced, and simplified.
I am also someone whose recovery has benefited most from these seemingly contradictory nuggets of wisdom.
How’s that for paradoxical?
My growth happens inside of the unknown, in the midst of facing the things I fear.
I am at my best when my eyes are open, facing the culprits lurking behind my anxieties.
The truths that scare me, the ones that don’t make the most natural sense to me, are the ones that hold my most meaningful discoveries about myself and the world around me.
What my recovery program and my walk with Jesus have asked that I give up, give away, let go of, walk away from, tweak, or to stop doing altogether, have always led me right into the eye of unfamiliar territory.
If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, or if you are living a life built on recovery principles and are committed to being of service in sobriety, I know that you have experienced the exhilaration that manifests as a result of the ironies I am talking about.
Somehow the paradoxical ingredients always deliver and help us on our walk.
They aren’t meant to aid us in an escape from our old ways, or to rid our lives of our delusions or destructive patterns, they show us a new way to think, a new way to see, and finally, a new way to be.
From the gate we are actively learning and slowly begin the process of replacing old torn and tattered ways with new ways.
It doesn’t take long for us to realize that they’re all around us, everywhere, everyday. They hold so much wisdom, and can become the solid pillars that serve as strong components in our new lives.
There are hundreds of paradoxical examples in the Bible, but here are eight that I plucked out: (NIV, NLT translations)
- Each time he said, “My Grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:9) When we are weak in ourselves we can be strong in the Grace of Jesus. We can do hard things. We can heal. We can move forward.
- Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25) When we give our lives to purposeful living in who God created us to be, to live a life of service, we discover our real purpose.
- Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
(Proverbs 11:24) We are blessed when we give freely to others. We reign by serving.
- If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.
(Luke 17:33) Our spiritual life of faith is even more important than our physical life here. Ironically, if we let go of the need to control in faith giving God the control, our lives here reflect a thirst-quenching, crazy exciting kind of spiritual freedom. We will be given a better life than we ever imagined having, only after we lose it.
- If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18) Wisdom is valuable, and pursuing knowledge is encouraged, let’s just make sure we aren’t chasing our old ways of thinking. We can’t value the world’s standard of thinking and God’s ways at the same time.
- But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12) Humbling ourselves helps us to stay grounded. There is a fine line between feeling confident in who we are and exalting ourselves above others. In recovery pride always comes before our falls.
- I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:10) We don’t have to identify as poor, weak, or passive. But it benefits us to recognize that in our own strength, we fail. When we choose to depend on God, His power will sustain us and help us to be the most effective and useful as we do valuable and lasting work. We find strength through our weakness.
- Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. (Romans 6:18) Every single one of us are all serving something or someone who we identify as a master in our lives. We can choose to be a slave to our fears, our doubts, shame, our drug of choice, or we can be slaves to reckless hope, love and service. What consumes our thoughts, controls our mind, and what controls our mind, usually dictates our actions.
There are so many recovery paradoxical examples. Here are a four from the list of the “12 Laws of Life Recovery,” from the Life Recovery Bible:
1. Powerlessness will result in Strength.
Powerlessness and hopelessness or helplessness are not the same thing. We can be powerless without being helpless, just as we can be able to do something, but not capable.
2. Surrender will result in Victory.
Surrender, historically, signifies defeat. In recovery it means that we are finally willing to yield to something else by giving God our surrendered life.
3. Sacrifice will result in Fulfillment.
Sacrifice sometimes holds a negative connotation, as if we are giving up something reluctantly. But it can also be fulfilling. In recovery and faith we learn that true fulfillment comes from sacrificial giving and serving.
4. Confession will result in Healing.
Confession just sounds painful, doesn’t it? I used to view it as My very first moral inventory didn’t kill me, but the anxiety preceding probably could have. I was terrified of myself. I was filled with fear of what people would think if my dark areas were illuminated, what this Jesus guy would think. And this is the place where my healing picked up the pace and I felt more confident than I had ever felt up to that point in my sobriety.
Here are a few of my favorite psychological/emotional paradoxes:
1. In order to step forward, sometimes you have to take a few steps back.
I don’t know about you but I benefit from reflection and ‘the pause’. If I try to run too far ahead, nothing helps more than taking a step back.
2. What we dislike in others likely indicative of a trait or quality we disapprove of in ourselves.
Carl Jung. Thanks bro. Projection is a subconscious thing that self-realization can really help us with. Awareness of our personality can help us cultivate self-knowledge and when we start to recognize our own places, we stop focusing so much on everyone else’s.
3. The person with the over-inflated, egocentric personality is actually over-compensating or avoiding feelings of weakness.
This one promotes a false sense of control or dominance to overcompensate for feelings of inferiority on some level.
4. The quieter a person is the louder they are.
I am a tiny bit (a lot) socially reserved, but I will tell you a secret: There is always a lively, imaginative party going on in my head, some story formulating, questions brewing, lists forming, and notes being taken.
These are only a handful.
Blessings are often found within the linings. The answers we seek can be found in our everyday, routine encounters and interactions. They’re there, just take the time to look for them.
The wisdom found inside of paradoxical theories can feel like the most perfectly yoked marriage between rationale and a dream.