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Yount: Collaborating in our own redemption

July 24, 2010|By DAVID YOUNT / Scripps Howard News Service

Years ago, I published a book that invited readers to collaborate in their own redemption. I promised that "if you are on tolerably friendly terms with yourself and willing to confront your own inconsistencies, you will succeed, emerging a happier person on your own terms."

Then the mail came. Many readers made clear to me that, in fact, they were not on tolerably friendly terms with themselves and felt incapable of confronting their inconsistencies with any prospect of resolution. They complained that contentment remained a goal beyond their grasp.

I now accept that plenty of people, far from being in a position to claim happiness, have difficulty even staying alive. According to some estimates, in the next 15 minutes an American man, woman or child will commit suicide because life has become too painful to bear.

Before people can claim contentment, they need to be saved not just from their circumstances, but from themselves.

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The National Survey on Drug Use estimates that as many as 88 million of our fellow Americans are either chemically dependent or living with someone who is. One of every four American families suffers from alcohol- or drug-related problems alone. Millions more are prisoners of food, sex, spending, gambling, work and co-dependency.

Addiction aside, few American families escape alienation of affection: parents and children who no longer speak to one another, spouses who live together but no longer communicate.

Unless we are desperate, we tend to deny our need for redemption. Addicts are desperate; accordingly, they actively seek redemption or, as they politely put it, recovery.

Twelve-step programs are based on the premise that redemption comes equally from without and within. The afflicted need the help of others and must make themselves receptive to that help.

Must one believe in God to be redeemed? Twelve-step programs stress reliance on a higher power without specifying the source of that power. Program members believe that they are not alone in seeking to be saved from themselves and their circumstances, and that they are also loved and empowered to rise above their present condition.

Doubtless, there are tragedies from which many of us do not recover.

But in life God offers second chances, and often many more. We need only accept the grace to redeem ourselves. To be saved we must first admit to being lost, or at least confused. It is the human condition to wander in the wilderness of doubt.

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