I write on a variety of topics and it touching to see how many requests and searches I get for ‘AA Slogans’ and Al-Anon Slogans’. Al-Anon slogans offer that boost of strength so many of us need for recovery. ‘Live and Let Live’ is extremely helpful. Sometimes just quoting those AA slogans in my head or aloud gets me through a tough time. Remembering my Al-Anon slogans and working my program have saved me from many a trap that I would have fallen into earlier on in my recovery. Do I still fall? All the time. But it’s easier to pick myself, dust myself off and move ahead, when I have the tools from a 12 Step program in my ‘toolkit’.
‘Live and let live’; as with the other AA and Al-Anon slogans, these four simple words are simple yet profound. ‘Live and let live’; what does that mean. We find in Al-Anon that the slogans can mean different things for different individuals at different times. The essence of ‘live and let live’, however, refers to that same idea that we say at Al-Anon meetings: ‘work your program’ or ‘I’m working my own program’. I need to be busy about the work of tending to my own life and issues. It is not given to me to work another person’s program for him.
‘But he’s not working his program’ you may say. That may or may not be. You can’t get into his head to know what he is or isn’t doing. I have been given one life to live: my own. If I’m busy tending everyone else’s business, my own issues won’t get the attention they need. If I go around with a siren on my head, putting out fires in the lives of others, who will be there to keep fire watch in my life? I’ve got to ‘live my life and let others live theirs.’
Does this mean that we don’t help others? No, not if it comes at our own expense or the expense of those we are responsible for. And it’s important to define ‘help’. Does the person want or need the help you are offering? Or are you muscling in on their territory and trying to organize their life? Here is an example. My husband frequently has to operate a large and dangerous welder at work. This is a team job: one person to weld and the other to keep fire watch. The welder must often work in a confined space with little visibility. The job requires tow pairs of eyes. On several occasions, one particular co-worker, on his turn to keep fire watch, has been so eager to tell my husband how he should be performing the job, that the co-worker was not paying attention and a fire broke out, endangering everyone. Had that co-worker practiced ‘live and let live’ a serious problem could have been avoided.
‘Mind your own business’ is another way to say ‘live and let live’. If I jump in to fix someone else’s issues, I may be interfering just at that crucial moment when they are about to make a great stride in their own program. I’m not the Higher Power (whom I choose to call God). Only a higher power can see the divine plan. I need to let go and let God. But he needs me, you say. Not as much as you need you. And if you work his program for him, how will he learn to work his own program? If you fix and care-take, you are depriving him of the joy of learning to take care of himself. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to detach in love.
There is a great need in our world for the hope and comfort that Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 Step programs offer.