Paradox: The Sweet Spot of Truth
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The dictionary defines a paradox as: “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.” My first introduction to the concept was in Alcoholics Anonymous. There are so many direct or implied paradoxes, “you have to surrender to win,” “to keep what we have, we must give it away” or that “fixing your life is an inside job.” Embracing two things that seem to be opposites of each other can be a mind-bender. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular paradoxes and sayings used in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step fellowships.
You Have to Surrender to Win
Often, we are taught that surrender is a sign of weakness. To give up and surrender means to lose. Sometimes it’s our self-perceived definitions that hold us back. Imagine if you were sent to fight the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world.
Let’s say in this scenario you had never been taught to fight. You’ve never thrown, nor taken a punch. Oh, and you weigh just over one hundred pounds (heavyweights are over two hundred pounds). The only way to win would be to never step in the ring. Addiction is the undefeated super heavyweight. Addiction has never been successfully defeated head-on. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever trumped surrendering by turning active addiction into a winning lifestyle.
The only way to beat addiction and alcoholism is to surrender. We have to accept that we cannot beat addiction on our own accord. The only way to win is to admit that we are powerless and that we cannot overcome addiction. Surrendering to win is where the first step comes into play; we admitted that we are powerless over our addiction. Addiction is not beatable by force; you cannot will your way into sobriety against your addiction or alcoholism.
We can Only Keep What We Have by Giving it Away
Spiritual math doesn’t add up the same way earthly mathematics does. Our first clue to recovery is the statement, “Half measures avail us nothing.” In the real world when a person goes to work for half a week, they get paid half a paycheck the next pay period.
Doing half of the steps will garner zero results. The spiritual alchemy of the 12th step is something to be experienced, more than explained. Usually, when we give something to someone, we have less of it for ourselves. Spirituality works just the opposite in some magical way. As we share our lessons, growth, and life with others what we have is multiplied.
The more we give away what we have, the more we gain, spiritually. It’s not a simple 1 + 1 = 2 equation when it comes spiritual math. When we share our experience, strength and hope it gives it to another person by giving something away, we keep it. That, in turn, fills us with happiness and we can form new bonds knowing that we have helped another person by just sharing our truth.
The Contradiction of Oneness
When life is looked at accurately, it is filled with both paradoxes and contradictions. The sweet spot of life is to hold the contradictions in place until a broad enough perspective reveals the truth in the face of the contradiction. These paradoxes are a part of life, especially in the spiritual sense. One of the largest ones I see is that of “Oneness.”
At the heart of most spirituality is the idea that “We are all One.” I, in my body, claim to be one with all. What a paradox that seems that it can’t possibly be true. From this contradiction can stem many lessons. What I do to others, I do to myself is one extrapolation from this paradox.
On a literal level, this can be seen clearly in the example of, when I am mean to people they are usually mean back. The famous “Judge not lest ye be judged.” works similarly when taken out of its religious context of “If I judge others, God will judge me.” Through different lenses, this concept means when I judge others as “scum” for an unhealthy action, I set myself up. When my dysfunction shows up in my life I judge myself as the same “scum” I judged someone else as. The measuring stick is used both ways. These examples only point to the actual full paradox of I am you, and you are me.
“All of mankind experiences this spiritual paradox, but no man or culture will know true inner bliss until it sees past the illusion of separation/good and evil. All around us are these paradoxes. We imagine ourselves separate on many levels: sexes, families, cultures, nations, even worlds. The only thing that we are separate from at this point is Divine Truth!”