I recently read/am reading two books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and What Good is God by Philip Yancey. Philip Yancey is one of my favourite authors and The Seven Habits is one of my favourite books, one that I'm now reading for the second time. It was interesting though, because of something I realized only through my concurrent reading of What Good is God.
In it, Yancey describes several different places where Christianity is making a positive difference in peoples' lives. Maybe my favourite chapter was the one that described Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and the role spirituality plays in their treatment. One of the steps in the Twelve Step program is admission that you are an alcoholic and that you are unable to overcome alcoholism. (Perhaps that's two of the steps, I don't know)
In any case, members are instructed to seek help from a higher power in order to stay sober. Of course not everybody agrees with this mentality. However, it does a beautiful job of leveling the members. All come together from a place of weakness and humility. There is no need for posturing or pretension because everyone is on an equal plane, one of mutual dependence and support.
In The Seven Habits, the reader is implored to self-improvement through personal effort. In the same way that the alcoholics are urged to change their behaviour during the meetings, the reader is urged to change her behaviour and to adopt the seven habits through force of will. Success comes from within, rather than from beyond.
The two ideas are diametrically opposed and yet I want to accept them both. Both have merit. Both, if taken unrestrictedly, lead to dangerous positions. There is the risk of accepting a victim's stance if you agree to the alcoholic's inability to change but if you think change comes entirely from within there can be big psychological penalties for failing in one's attempts to change and judgement for those who keep destructive habits.
Well, I've just about lost interest in writing this post. I just thought it was interesting to see these two ideas side by side. Makes you wonder. (Well, makes me wonder at least)