The Christian Version of a Dry Drunk
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
Alcoholics Anonymous describes a dry drunk as a man who has quit drinking, while still exhibiting all the other behaviors that encompassed his drinking days. He may be sober, but he remains resentful, angry, and hopelessly self-centered. Often, the dry drunk will replace alcohol with some other addiction – food, sex, internet, or work. Yes, he’s sober, but something profound is still missing.
In my own recovery, this has manifested at frustration at others who still struggle. I’ve had to clean up my mess. Why can’t you clean up yours? It’s an arrogance (self-centeredness) that causes me to be unkind, ungracious, and most of all, unloving. In my recovery, I forget what it was like to once struggle and at times, I’m tempted to be judgmental of those who still do.
Though Paul wasn’t specifically referring to alcohol or addiction, it sounds to me like he’s describing the Christian version of a dry drunk. In today’s passage, he portrayed an individual who walks the straight and narrow life but doesn’t know love. He said this person is empty and useless. A man may live a flawlessly moral life, but if he isn’t filled with the love of God, he is nothing.
As Christians, we’re particularly prone to this. We may not indulge any of the big bad sins. We walk the straight and narrow, and we feel this gives us the right to be judgmental, condescending, and unloving. We may not consciously think of it this way, but neither does the dry drunk. In our moral superiority, we’re still hopelessly self-centered, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. In our arrogance, we remain blind to our ongoing struggles with the small sins – pride, gluttony, anger, resentment, greed, lust, and selfishness.
Often, we don’t know how to show grace, mercy, and love, because we’ve honestly not experienced these things ourselves. We believe we’ve cleaned up our own lives and so, we can’t see that we desperately still need God’s grace and mercy. We may think we’re living rightly, but, like the dry drunk, we remain empty. As authentic followers of Christ, we must daily drink deeply of God’s love, being filled with it. Then, we must allow it to flow out of us into the lives of those around us. If we aren’t filled with God’s love, then nothing else matters.