Jeb the Dog joined twelve men on retreat this weekend. Because it was held at Dunrovin Retreat Center on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix river, Jeb thought he’d gone to heaven. The rest of us looked at ways we create hell here below with an eye to our way out.
This was all part of the Ignatian Spirituality Project that offers retreats to those who have experienced homelessness at some point and are “in recovery” from some type of addition. As all who work a Twelve-Step program know, it makes no difference whether you are there as part of the staff or a participant. We are all in this together, all of us recovering from one thing or another, all seeking a more authentic way of being human.
One simple acronym — FRED — got to the core of what our time together was all about. It stands for Fear, Resentment, Ego and Dishonesty. Pay attention to FRED and we will be well on our way to a spirituality of “some earthly good”.
FEAR — What “secret” festers in the recesses of our awareness such that its exposure would destroy us (or at least we are paralyzed by the prospect that it would)? Find a safe place to tell your story out loud to at least one other caring person.
RESENTMENT — People fail us, betray us, deeply hurt us. As one of the men said this weekend, “My resentment toward [——-] has had me by the balls for 50 years!” Let go of it! This may take time, bit by bit. Let it go — don’t give anyone this kind of emotional power over your life.
EGO — Many of us wear masks and try to project a picture-perfect image to the world. Take it from me, this is exhausting! We balk at being called “selfish” all the while our unbridled “control-center” bullies us and everyone within its reach. Try being honest, vulnerable, transparent, “real” — we find ourselves in good company (perhaps for the first time, our own!).
DISHONESTY — We may call them half-truths or “white lies” but we all tell them. We repeat stories so often they take on a reality of their own. We rationalize our behavior until it becomes acceptable, at least to ourselves. Denial and deception hang out in the same neighborhood with dishonesty! Yes, privacy and discretion have their place — not everyone deserves the whole truth, except ourselves. No one deserves a half-truth, most of all ourselves. Get real!
We don’t need to have experienced homelessness, at least in a literal sense, to recognize our need to get to know FRED better. We don’t need to have gone through treatment for drug or alcohol addiction but it helps!
Being in recovery is not just about abstinence from drugs or alcohol. It’s an honest admission that fear, resentment, ego and dishonesty too often have us by the balls. Folks in recovery are just honest enough to admit this universal truth and are willing to work on it.
Rarely am I among more grateful, genuine and unpretentious men as I was this weekend. We would all be blessed to be more like them.