Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The tolerance tester

Every group has one. You know, the guy or gal who is that "minority opinion," has an uninformed opinion on everything, isn't afraid to, without any tact at all, voice said opinion, then wonders why everyone leaves the room when he or she arrives. Our group has a de facto visitor just like that. Although he's not a member of our homegroup, he arrives at our club every morning to play cards and at every potluck (emptyhanded), unkempt, loud and opinionated. He's the tolerance tester.

I went over to my home group this morning because our group decided, at its last group conscience, to purchase an answering machine so that we could let people know where meetings are or do twelve-step calls if asked. Our area's phone line leaves much to be desired, so rather than get involved in the politics of fixing it, which our group doesn't like to do, we decided we'd buy a machine and answer calls that came to our group since we're listed in the phone book, as well. (Each group is autonomous, remember?)

When I arrived, I saw our obstreperous loudmouth's vehicle and thought, darn, he's here. Resigned to my fate, I trudged in the door to happy destiny and began to set up the machine. I had parked in the shade on a hill so that Romy, who was riding along, could stay in the truck. The first thing he said when I came in the door was "I hope your clutch don't slip." Some of us do have automatic transmissions, I thought. I said nothing. Woo hoo, I was batting 0 for 1.

As I unpacked the phone, he remarked, "Some people aren't gonna like that. We don't like change, you know." My resolve to practice principles before personalities was slipping. I swung at his pitch.

"I don't recall that you're a home group member, here," I said. "Did you ever think perhaps this was decided at the last group conscience, where I didn't see you in attendance?"

"This ain't my home group," he said. "I have enough trouble straightening out my home group."

"That's the point," I said, "we don't 'straighten out' anything. We let the group 'straighten things out.'"

"I ain't seen a group yet that can do that," he remarked. I decided that I wouldn't bother to argue with an idiot and continued to hook up the machine.

These members, the ones that so sorely test our patience, are among us sometimes in great numbers, it seems. How do we deal with this? First, we don't pray for patience, or one magically appears usually within 24 hours of our prayer. Second, we set boundaries.

This particular member was so obnoxious and crude last Saturday when we had a group clean-up day that everyone was literally ill, but no one said anything to him. I was in another room and didn't hear him, but several people came to me and complained. Perhaps what we need to do, I suggested, is to tell him directly and politely, that "You may attend groups that allow that type of talk, but at this group we don't. So either clean up your mouth or leave." That is perfectly okay to do. This member has been kicked out of other clubs; ours wouldn't be the first club to ask him to leave.

Third, we pray for him. There's a seat in our rooms for everyone. To deny him access to meetings, unless he's a danger to others or refuses to follows the suggestions of the group, is wrong. But to put up with his mouth before or after meetings is unnecessary and refusing to set boundaries with him does him and ourselves a disservice.

I've seen some troubling things in meetings over the years, including one member's constant rage-filled tirades that ultimately ended in his murder of another Fellowship member. I don't think, in that particular case, that anything that there was anything the Fellowship could have done to change the outcome of that tragic event. That particular man was "sicker than others" and his illness went way beyond his addiction.

I do know this. When anyone, anywhere reaches out their hand, it is my responsibility to be there, if I can do so safely and with love and tolerance. I don't, however, have to put up with rude, obnoxious and offensive members today. Today, I am better than that.

1 comment:

Tough Rib said...

You so funny!

The thing I like best is that when people pick on someone else they are leaving me alone.

Yes you are better than that...and its good that you recognize it and accept it....that is growth.

Speaking of tolerance, I had a woman last night tell me that I was boring and had a dry sense of humor. It hurts but what can I say? Perhaps she is right. Perhaps the rest of the world thinks that about me also. Maybe I am just one of those people sent by God to help other people grow in their level of patience.