Healing Partisan Politics:
Embracing the 12 Steps of Recovery for Unity and Progress
By Brock Cravy
In an era marked by deep political divides and incessant ideological battles, it is becoming increasingly evident that partisan politics is not only obstructing progress but also eroding the very foundations of our democratic society. The chasm between opposing viewpoints has grown to a point where dialogue has been replaced by vitriol, cooperation by confrontation, and empathy by hostility. Perhaps, amidst this alarming situation, it is time to contemplate an unconventional approach – one that draws inspiration from the principles of recovery. Could the 12 Steps, originally developed to help individuals overcome addiction, offer a blueprint for healing our fractured political landscape?
Step One of the 12 Steps of Recovery is a powerful reminder: "Admitting that we are powerless over [our addiction]." If we were to apply this principle to partisan politics, the equivalent statement could read, "Admitting that we are powerless over division." The acknowledgement of our collective inability to escape the clutches of division is a crucial first step towards positive change. It compels us to set aside our egos, recognize the limitations of our perspectives, and accept that true progress requires a collective effort. Just as an addict must recognize the extent of their problem before seeking help, acknowledging the corrosive impact of division is the first step towards a healthier political discourse.
Step Two introduces the concept of faith and hope: "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." Translating this into the context of politics, it could be phrased as, "Came to believe that a power greater than our partisan differences could relieve us of our division." This step prompts us to envision a future where cooperation, empathy, and compromise are valued more than rigid adherence to party lines. It challenges us to have faith in the power of constructive dialogue, compassionate understanding, and the belief that common ground can be found. Just as recovery involves placing trust in a higher force, healing our political landscape requires placing trust in the ideals that our nation was built upon.
But what could this "greater power" be in the realm of politics? It could be the fundamental values that unite us as a nation – liberty, justice, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. It could be the realization that our shared humanity transcends our differences. It could be the profound impact we can have when we work together for the betterment of all citizens.
Steps One and Two have led us to acknowledge our powerlessness over division and to believe in a power greater than our differences that can restore unity. Now, we delve into the next phases of recovery, examining how Steps Three through Eleven could reshape our approach to partisan politics.
Step Three: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." Translating this step into the realm of politics, we might say, "Made a collective decision to turn our political will and the direction of our nation over to the principles of unity, compassion, and progress." This step encourages us to relinquish the egocentric pursuit of power and to prioritize the well-being of our society as a whole. Just as recovery involves surrendering to a higher power for guidance, healing our political discourse entails embracing shared values that transcend party lines.
Step Four: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." In the context of politics, this step invites us to conduct a comprehensive examination of our political systems and personal biases. We must fearlessly confront the role we have played in perpetuating division and inequality, acknowledging the areas where our politics have fallen short. A sincere moral inventory prompts us to recognize that change is essential and opens the door to transformation.
Step Five: "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." Transposing this step, we must admit our political wrongs not only to ourselves but also to our fellow citizens. Transparent dialogue about our political mistakes is the first step toward accountability and reconciliation. Just as in recovery, acknowledging our flaws paves the way for growth and healing.
Step Six: "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." In the realm of politics, this step encourages us to be ready to let go of our political dogmas and biases in favor of a more inclusive and empathetic approach. Recognizing our defects of character as a society and being open to change is a vital step toward progress.
Step Seven: "Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." In politics, humility becomes a cornerstone of progress. We must humbly seek to rectify our past mistakes and actively work to overcome the shortcomings that have hindered unity and cooperation.
Step Eight: "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all." In the context of politics, this step calls for acknowledging the individuals and communities that have been harmed by divisive policies and attitudes. It prompts us to be willing to make amends and reparations, ensuring that our pursuit of unity is accompanied by concrete actions.
Step Nine: "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." Transposing this step, we must make sincere efforts to mend the divisions we have sown, reaching out to bridge gaps and rectify past wrongs. However, it's crucial to recognize that the process of healing should not cause further harm.
Step Ten: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it." Just as recovery involves ongoing self-reflection, we must consistently assess our political actions and admit when we veer off course. Promptly acknowledging our mistakes helps maintain the integrity of our healing process.
Step Eleven: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him." In the realm of politics, this step encourages seeking a higher understanding of the principles that bind us as a nation. Through thoughtful contemplation and open dialogue, we can improve our collective understanding and work toward a shared vision of progress.
Steps One through Eleven have led us on a journey of self-awareness, humility, and accountability, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges that have fueled partisan divides. Now, we arrive at the culminating step, Step Twelve, which carries the promise of a spiritual awakening and the call to action for a better future.
Step Twelve: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." In the context of partisan politics, this step encourages us to seek a collective spiritual awakening – a profound realization that transcends party lines and leads us to a higher level of understanding, empathy, and cooperation.
The concept of a "spiritual awakening" in politics may not be religious in nature, but rather an awakening to the shared humanity that underpins our democratic society. It is a recognition that we are all stakeholders in the well-being of our nation, regardless of our political affiliations. Just as recovery fosters a deep transformation within an individual, a political spiritual awakening prompts a shift in the collective mindset, fostering an environment where unity is prized above division.
This awakening also highlights the responsibility to "carry this message." Just as individuals in recovery become beacons of hope for those still struggling, we, as politically engaged citizens, must actively promote and embody the values of unity, empathy, and progress. We must transcend the echo chambers of our own beliefs and engage in thoughtful, respectful dialogue with those who hold differing viewpoints. Through open conversations, we can bridge gaps and foster a shared understanding of the issues that affect us all.
Furthermore, Step Twelve impels us to "practice these principles in all our affairs." This means that the values we cultivate through this transformative process should extend beyond the realm of politics. We are called to integrate these principles into our daily lives, ensuring that empathy, compassion, and collaboration become the bedrock of our interactions – whether with our neighbors, colleagues, or family members. By embodying these principles, we contribute to a culture of respect and unity that extends far beyond the political arena.
Critics may argue that these steps oversimplify the complex nature of political discourse. However, the essence of the 12 Steps lies not in oversimplification but in providing a framework for personal and collective growth. Just as recovery is a lifelong journey, the transformation of partisan politics requires sustained effort, introspection, and a commitment to change.
The 12 Steps of Recovery offer a powerful blueprint for healing, reconciliation, and progress. By embarking on this journey, we can foster a spiritual awakening that transcends party lines and ushers in an era of unity and cooperation. Let us rise above our divisions, embrace the principles of humility and empathy, and strive for a political landscape where our shared humanity is the guiding light that leads us toward a brighter, more harmonious future.