Descriptive & Prescriptive

Descriptive & Prescriptive

Descriptive & Prescriptive

This morning, I was sitting in a study with some spiritually minded-folks and the leader of the study mentioned that in the literature we were studying, there are things that are “descriptive” and things that are “prescriptive.” For some reason, that jumped out at me. Later this afternoon, I took the time to look up the definitions of those two words:

“descriptive” – having the quality of describing; characterized by description

“prescriptive” – giving directions

In A.A., there are many places in our literature where our program of recovery is described and explained. When I first came into the rooms, I didn’t know how grateful I would become for those amazing descriptions of our program of action to help me deal with my problem – a hopeless state of mind and body. I wasn’t completely aware that was even my problem. But over time, I began to listen to the explanations provided for me, both from Bill’s experience as well as from the other contributors to our book. This morning, I had to ask myself the question, “How does this descriptive approach to Bill’s writings call me into action?”

Well, that’s where the prescriptive part comes in. As with the definition above, I am given clear cut directions on what I need to do. Whether it be:

  • thinking less of myself and more others (being other-centered instead of self-centered)
  • instilling a solid prayer and meditation regimen in life
  • or looking at the mess my life had become through inventory and personal reflection

…those are only a few of the directions given to us. With those directions, I can see clearly where just KNOWING about and understanding what my malady is isn’t enough. I need to become willing to take the direction laid out for me in our basic text (our design for living) and apply action to it.

Which leads me to another “__ive” word that came to mind – ACTIVE. We’ve all heard it a million times that ours is a program of action. And for me, just putting down the bottle and showing up to a meeting was never going to be enough. I needed to become willing to throw myself into the middle of A.A. and start participating in my own recovery by giving away what was so freely given to me. I remember once hearing a sponsor say to a sponsee, “I can’t work harder at your program than you do.” To me, that means I need to take an active role in the process of my recovery. In early sobriety, I remember thinking (and sometimes even saying out loud), “I’ll just come to meetings and let this sink in through osmosis. I don’t need to actually do the work – I will let ya’ll do it and just let it seep in.” Now, if that isn’t the definition of sloth, laziness, selfishness, and self-centeredness, I don’t know what is.

There are so many little things I can do in one 24-hour period that could add up to success in my recovery:

  • Attacking every task with great love, unconditional love of God and man
  • Turn those things that anger me into things that draw me closer to God (intentionality)
  • Do the small things with love and keep God in the center
  • Set an alarm in my day when I know that I will be in the middle of work to remind me to ask myself, “Am I doing this with intentionality and with love?”
  • Remember that “love” does not keep score. It’s a rigged system if I think that way. It can never be about the “what,” it has to be about the “how.”

The leader this morning in the study said, “In this world of climbing ladders, what if we get to the end of our life only to find out we were climbing the wrong ladder?” I need to ask myself, “Am I segmenting my life? Can I bring God into this part of my life or that part of my life?” Instead of asking those questions, I need to ask myself “Why can’t I bring God into all parts of my life – oh, and maybe there’s not even different parts… there’s just my life?”

I am grateful for today’s reminder that our literature is both descriptive AND prescriptive which calls me into being active. Just knowing what it is and what I can do about “it” (my hopeless state of mind and body) is useless without the action that needs to follow it. Thank God today for a willingness to be reminded of that and the courage to become teachable once again.

In love & service,


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