Big fat disclaimer: In the following, I mention a 12-step meeting and something I heard at that meeting. I have several friends in AA and I often hear stories that are revealing and educational from them. However, none of these stories should be construed as “the official word” from AA on a given subject. There is no such thing, as AA takes no position on any issue whatsoever. I am not a member of AA and have no authority on the doings and workings of AA. And…disclaimer fini.
I thought I was missing something earlier when I was talking about witnessing, and I was. But it came to me through another source. I was at a 12-step meeting a few days ago (more on this later), and someone talked about the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and his take on talking with others in the program about sobriety. The founder, Bill W., describes in AA’s Big Book how he would go to detox centers and talk to other alcoholics about what he had found to help him quit drinking. But what he told them never did any good, and it was driving him nuts — it worked for him, why couldn’t it work for them?
Eventually, he says, he realized that the only person’s sobriety it was helping was his own. This perspective might take some of the frustration and fear out of witnessing to others. After all, you don’t have to take responsibility for what someone else does with what you tell them, and they have many reasons for doing what they do — and for not doing what you do. Your beliefs will probably be stronger when you think of witnessing as a way to nurture your own faith. It also might help you to avoid unintentionally undoing what you set out to do with others.