Facts vs Feelings: “Acceptance was the Answer,” a story in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
First, a word of warning: If you’ve subscribed to my Medium feed in hopes of lazily written tech articles, prepare to unsubscribe. I’m going to live out loud, for my own sake. You may find more personal stories than “professional” (ha!) writing going forward. Sorry to disappoint.
These days I have a lot of unpleasant conversations and this weekend has been no exception. Without going into details, I’ve found myself praying to God several times, asking Him to guide the person I’m talking to beyond their anger, and to help them find peace. Then I disengage, and I stick to facts alone.
The exchanges I’ve had — mostly over text messages, because there’s a lot of hurt that both of us would rather allow to own us than talk about it directly — reminded me of a passage from “Acceptance Was The Answer,” a story in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, where the author says, “Today Max and I try to communicate what we feel rather than what we think.” And as I turned the phrase around in my head, and coupled it with my prayers to God for peace, I made two mistakes.*
First, I assumed that dealing with an angry person by scrubbing what I say of any feelings whatsoever, and patiently praying for God to bring peace, was the moral path one should follow. And maybe it is, depending on circumstances? Maybe it’s the best one can do.
Reducing conversations to “facts” is a symptom of a sick relationship. You’re not doing God’s will by shrinking behind facts. Sticking to facts means that all other means of communication are closed. Instead — given the ability to be present and to engage — you should deal in feelings and how to move beyond them. Specifically, you should put aside your rights and ask your partner simply how he/she feels, and ask what you can do to make him/her feel better and move towards the goal you want to achieve. I need to work on that.
Second, I substituted the word “fact” for “thought.” The passage doesn’t say “Today Max and I try to communicate what we feel rather than the facts.” Sometimes we are honest but not truthful, and sometimes we insist things are facts when they are just our opinions. I’m not ready to write about that right now.
The bottom line: I spent a good deal of my weekend thinking “retreat and pray” was the unselfish thing to do, and maybe it was. But the *complete* thing to do would be to engage and to heal. Considering my conflict over the past weekend, I don’t know how to do that yet. But I’m willing to try.
Footnote: I probably made more than two mistakes. :)