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“We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. That might just be the central message of how spiritual growth happens, yet nothing in us wants to believe it.”*

I would think this quote absurd if I had not lived it repeatedly in my own life and seen it repeated in others. This belief is one of the foundations of twelve step recovery. It is by “doing wrong” that alcoholics and addicts are driven to “hit bottom” by the consequences of their actions, and it is only by hitting bottom that they can admit defeat, surrender, turn to a higher power for help, and grow spiritually.  Mistakes or doing wrong can lead to the miracle of spiritual growth—and recovery for those of us who realize we need to recover.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be in a twelve step recovery program to experience the truth of what Rohr is saying in this quote. We all learn and grow from our mistakes——or we don’t, and we keep making them over and over again. The whole point is that our mistakes and imperfections either destroy us or help us find God and spiritual growth.  Mistakes and imperfections can and do serve a very noble purpose.

It is our false self, our “ego-centeredness” that demands we do everything perfectly and never make mistakes. This sort of expectation sets us up for disappointment, guilt, and self-hatred because it is impossible to attain. When I was finally able to admit my humanness and accept my mistakes and imperfections, I was able to “let go” of that false-pride and reach out for God’s hand that had been extended to me all along. Only then was I able to start growing spiritually.

Last night I was privileged to sit in an open 12 step meeting where people new to recovery gave voice to the pain of their suffering and the realization that it had brought them to this point, the point  of actively seeking spiritual growth and the help of a higher power. I have heard this discussed in meetings before, of course…..but often it seems superficial and as if people are just saying “the right words” rather than speaking them from the heart. Last night people spoke from their hearts, and the power of God’s love and healing was palpable in the room. It is in meetings like this that the words of “wee children” brand new to  recovery allow those present to feel, see, and hear the  miracle Rohr is talking about. It is as if the miracle materializes “before your very eyes” and lands  in your soul—-where it really matters. I am so grateful to be allowed to share moments like that; they renew my soul and my recovery.

Please comment and share your thoughts about the relationship between mistakes, imperfection, and spiritual growth. May God bless and keep you.

* Source for today’s quote: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, “The Demand for the Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good, Meditation 23 of 51, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, p. xxii-xxiii.