The Hardline Approach

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Brock
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The Hardline Approach

Post by Brock » Sun Apr 21, 2019 8:57 am

In the thread ‘Common Questions for Sponsors,’ shaunagus said this -
Someone was sharing during a main chair a couple of weeks back that some hard nosed oldtimer had said to him when he was newcomer something along the lines of “if you don’t think this disease will kill you and if you aren’t ready to take it seriously then f*** off” and we all laughed when he shared that and it worked for him. But if someone had said that to me as a newcomer you wouldn’t have seen me for dust. And if someone said that to me now, I’d probably never ask for his help again. The hardline approach doesn’t work for everyone and I’m just not a hard liner myself so that’s just the way I’d approach it I guess.
It is my belief also, that this hard line type approach is unnecessary, and does more harm than good. I have not seen it in my area for a while, and hopefully it is becoming less ‘popular.’ Anyone who is being exposed to that right now, and finding it difficult to accept, please understand that those hardliners are in the minority, and you will find the vast majority of AA’s, are kinder and more patient.

In 1999 I was trying to find my way in AA, and at every meeting there was this tough old American ‘Rusty.’ Now I have nothing against Americans, and find them as friendly and decent as any other race, but this fellow was a jackass. If I spoke in a meeting he would sometimes say in front of everyone, ‘you don’t know a rat’s ass about AA,’ when I was appointed my home group’s secretary, he kicked a stink saying I shouldn’t have the job until I completed the steps, and this was not his home group either. I now know that he was correct, I didn’t know much about AA, and probably should not have been group secretary, but there are ways and means to do and say things, and being downright rude and uncouth is not the AA way.

Some will say maybe he didn’t know better, but he did, because he was here doing a job at which he couldn’t have spoken to locals that way, and he married a local AA lady, who said he was quite polite outside of meetings, but believed in ‘tough love’ in AA. Others may say he taught you a good lesson, how not to do things, we AA’s bend over backwards making excuses for the plain ignorance of some oldtimers. Well the only lesson he taught me, was that I have patience I never knew I did. But finally after months of abuse, at one Sunday morning meeting, Rusty nearly met his maker at my hands. I am quite big but try to avoid fighting, however I lost it that morning and it took a good few members to restrain me, and it took many years for me to return to AA, and I only returned to meetings after checking that he was no longer around.
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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by Layne » Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:00 am

I am grateful to AA for teaching me about the serenity that comes when I practice the mindfulness of coexistence. It drives home the reality that life is not designed around Layne. Life is designed with the inclusion of hardliners, softliners, and inbetweeners as part of the plan. Any attempt I make at excluding certain personality types from Layne's world are merely my ego raising it's ugly head and pretty much guaranteed to wind up in an resentment.
We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were fin­ished we considered it carefully. The first thing ap­parent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived. It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. (from big book/ pages 65-66)
I am far from perfect and still squander time, but it is lessening as my growth with coexistence increases. I imagine myself to be in a room filled with balloons. There are hardline balloons, softline balloons, inbetweener balloons, balloons of anger, balloons of joy, balloons of grief, balloons of peace, etc. etc. etc. As I make my way from one end of the room to the other, I will occasionally need to gently move a balloon to the side in order to continue my journey. Also equally important is that I don't try to grab on to and hold any of the balloons because that would be upsetting the the natural order. I let the balloons be balloons.

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Spirit Flower
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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by Spirit Flower » Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:52 am

Sometimes I feel that the term "real alcoholic" is used in the same hard line manner; and some don't come back.

In Texas where I went to meetings, they did ask new comers point blank if they had a desire not to drink. If the answer was "yes" then a first step meeting and guys bending over backward to help. If the answer was "no" then we just went on with our normal meeting. There were lots of people on papers so we didn't mess with them unless they had a desire not to drink.
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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by JeffS. » Sun Apr 21, 2019 1:25 pm

The way he phrased it made it come off way to hard however he was right. There are alot of things old timers say and longtime members can laugh at. I remember when I first started AA and could not believe some of the harsh things said that resulted in laughter. After being a member for some time all you can do is laugh at our past behavior. To a newcomer I do believe this approach could scare them away. There is a way to have a hardline approach without the harshness. There is a member I know that every time there is a newcomer does tell them how if he kept drinking it would kill him. He explains his story and talks about being rushed to the hospital. The harsh reality of this disease is it often time leads to bad things. It is most important though to keep people in the doors and not scare them away. There is someone else I know who is over twenty five years sober and he said that at his first meeting an old timer also gave him the hardline approach. This led him to walking out of the meeting. However, another member followed him to his car and told him he was at the right place and to take what you can use and leave the rest behind. If a hardline approach is ever done I always make sure to talk to the newcomer after the meeting and tell them that it is a harsh truth but did not have to be expressed in the manner it was.

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by Layne » Sun Apr 21, 2019 2:59 pm

There are a variety of people and personalities in AA, hence there are a variety in personal approaches to sobriety even when centered around the 12 steps. What approach works for one person, may have the opposite effect on another person. Some people start their journey with the view of one approach and with time find their point of view switching to the other end of the spectrum. Some people do not.

The danger for me is when I think my point of view is the only valid and best one. However that also is human nature. If we didn't think our way was best, then why would do what we do.

Approaches don't drive people out of the rooms, their thinking does. It is unfortunate that some people fall victim to their thinking before they can be effectively exposed to alternative ways to think, but I don't know of a solution. If I do come up with a solution, I probably need to reread my second paragraph. :~)

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by shaunagus » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:17 am

I’m a heavy swearer in real life and I used to swear quite happily in meetings. My thinking was something along the lines of “we are all alcoholics, after what we’ve been through a little swearing won’t hurt anyone”.

It was on these forums a few years ago I saw the topic of swearing being discussed. I was all ready to respond along the lines of what I have written in the first paragraph when I saw a post someone had made about a quiet older lady who turned up for her first meeting and in that meeting lots of people were swearing and the person writing this post noticed (he felt) that she seemed uncomfortable. She never came back. It made me reconsider.

With a bit of recovery under our belts we learn to more easily co-exist peacefully with the bullies, the hardliners, the swearers, the attention hogs, the bores etc in meetings. But as newcomers maybe not so easily. I’m a shy, sensitive type. When I came into AA I was even more shy and sensitive, racked with fear about attending AA generally but also fearful of whether I would be accepted etc. Sure, my ego was out of control, it was self centred self seeking, fearful behaviour, self will run riot etc etc. But isn’t that how we all come in? It might manifest in our personalities differently from person to person but for some of us it makes us very tender and susceptible. What kept me coming back to meetings was the kindness I was shown, the understanding, compassion. One guy put a hand on my shoulder and told me I was in the right place with such kindness I almost cried.

I guess a comparison might be 13th stepping. Sure, someone with recovery can more easily withstand the leech and the predatory. But we recognise that newcomers are particularly vulnerable, that 13th stepping ultimately has the power to kill
and so rightly we are horrified by it.

I had joined these forums 9 years before I joined AA and got sober. I kept reading things like “I’ve spilled more booze than you’ve ever drunk” or “this person isn’t a real alcoholic” etc etc.

If someone leaves a meeting because someone tells them in their first meeting to “get serious or f*** off” or belittles them or because everyone is swearing their heads off and reinforces the sense they had that alcoholics are rough degenerate types and they don’t fit in etc etc they might end up returning in a few months or years if they get desperate enough.

But they might never come back at all. In their active alcoholism, their messed up ego and out of control fears might mean that all they learned was that the last chance saloon they had their hopes pinned on is not for them or they aren’t welcome at AA. The consequences of that might be catastrophic.

If my primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety, I have to ask myself if my behaviour toward them is helpful in that regard. For some people it will be for others it won’t. I guess I have to play it by ear.
“I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature, there is no weaker than I am,” Dolly Parton

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by avaneesh912 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:57 am

I kept reading things like “I’ve spilled more booze than you’ve ever drunk” or “this person isn’t a real alcoholic” etc etc.
A young dude had a response to this, "If you have not spilled that much of alcohol, you would have entered AA much earlier".. Ah Ah!!
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by Greywolf » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:20 am

Some say that referring to "real alcoholics" can run people off.

What does the Big Book have to say about "real alcoholics"? How many has the BB run off?


Chapter 2. There is a Solution
But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.
... The tragic truth is that if the man be a real alcoholic, the happy day may not arrive. He has lost control. At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected.

Chapter 3. More about Alcoholism
... Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.
... We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals usually brief were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.
... Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self- deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right-about- face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!
... As we look back, we feel we had gone on drinking many years beyond the point where we could quit on our will power. If anyone questions whether he has entered this dangerous area, let him try leaving liquor alone for one year. If he is a real alcoholic and very far advanced, there is scant chance of success. In the early days of our drinking we occasionally remained sober for a year or more, becoming serious drinkers again later. Though you may be able to stop for a considerable period, you may yet be a potential alcoholic. We think few, to whom this book will appeal, can stay dry anything like a year. Some will be drunk the day after making their resolutions; most of them within a few weeks.

Chapter 7. Working with others
... If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic, begin to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady. Show him, from your own experience, how the queer mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power. Don't, at this stage, refer to this book, unless he has seen it and wishes to discuss it. And be careful not to brand him as an alcoholic. Let him draw his own conclusion. If he sticks to the idea that he can still control his drinking, tell him that possibly he can - if he is not too alcoholic. But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little chance he can recover by himself.
I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care.

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by PaigeB » Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:11 am

Nice lay out - Thanks Grey Wolf.

When we have a hard situation we do find that AA has a solution - especially when we are talking about alcoholism! I can't help but recall a part in the BB that I cannot find now to quote! I balked at it - which is why I remember it I suppose. It says something along the lines that when we are working with a newcomer we are to "drive home the hopelessness of his condition." I didn't think that sounded very nice, but I used it on a young lady I sponsored and she finally stopped saying "Yeah - but..." I didn't realize how much I SAID THAT! But there it was - painfully out in the open. "Young lady - you can be like me and drink all the way through the lives of your children. It is ugly and here's how!"

That is pretty hard line if you ask me.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by D'oh » Wed Apr 24, 2019 4:36 pm

We can Coddle the "Scarcely more than a Potential Alcoholic, Spared the last 10 or 15 years of Literal Hell" but some (like myself) have to live it out. And hopefully make it back, but chances are, they won't.

But, I have yet to see "Anyone" walk through the Doors of AA by Accident. It doesn't say "Promotion" but it does say "Our behaviour will convince them more than our words" yes (Family aspect but Alcoholics are family). It does say about they may come to realize "Maybe those AA's were right"

I can tell Anyone, that AA really screws up one's Drinking afterwards.

Be Tactful, and "Absolute Love, Absolute Honesty, Absolute Unselfish and Absolute Pure" But tell them what you know.

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by PaigeB » Thu Apr 25, 2019 9:20 am

April 25th

ENTERING A NEW DIMENSION

In the late stages of our drinking, the will to resist has fled. Yet when we admit complete defeat and when we become entirely ready to try A.A. principles, our obsession leaves us and we enter a new dimension—freedom under God as we understand Him.

AS BILL SEES IT, p. 283

From the book Daily Reflections
Copyright © 1990 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
AKA - the Gift of Desperation.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by Greywolf » Thu Apr 25, 2019 12:29 pm

Hardline is a term some people use for the straight talk Bill W. and other long-timers sober in AA use to help newcomers stay sober.
The hardline approach doesn’t work for everyone ...
That's correct. The hardline approach only works for those Bill W. calls "real alcoholics" -- those who have tried controlled drinking; tried to stop drinking on their own; tried treatment; tried psychotherapy, etc. Straight talk works very well for those who are now willing to go to any lengths to achieve sobriety.

If you have a desire to stop drinking, come to AA with the attitude that sobriety is more important than your feelings, your ego, or your affinity for kid-glove treatment.

In most AA meetings with a discussion format expect to hear some serious and straight talk either about stopping drinking and staying stopped or one of the steps from the program of recovery.

Those "crude? and ungentlemanly long-timers know how to stay sober (otherwise they would not be sober and recovered) and we as new comers are privileged to listen as they share their experience, strength and hope with us in whatever manner they can. Pay attention to the message, not the messenger. Your sobriety and your life might depend on it.

Just because the long-timers aren't pushing you to read the BB or do the steps right away doesn't mean they haven't taken the steps themselves. In chapter 7 of the BB Bill W. suggests that we NOT try to get them to read the BB right away.

Our 12th tradition – Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities - might be worth reviewing before we place personalities before principles.

One life's rules works well in AA also. The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off. When I get ticked off at something someone says, if it's my lucky day, I remember this rule and look to see where I am wrong, then deal with that pesky 10th step. =biggrin
I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care.

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by shaunagus » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:07 am

I guess context is everything.

I don’t view Bill W as being a hardliner or the BB as taking a hardline approach. Neither he nor the big book say to anyone that they should “f*** off” if they don’t see things quite the way he does. Quite the opposite. He and it go to great lengths in chapter after chapter to sincerely and supportively try to explain what alcoholism is and to give newcomers (those reading the BB for the first time or at the very beginning, newly blessed with desperation) a supportive, intelligent, thoughtful and deeply compassionate understanding of the nature of he disease and what is needed to recover. As I read the BB I am struck by the humility and deeply spiritual desire to speak to the heart and soul of suffering, broken people. Neither he nor the BB talk down to or patronise or belittle people, display arrogance, or assume that even what they know is the full story. Instead he and the BB stress that more will be revealed, that they know only a little, that what is offered are suggestions only because he understands that he is speaking to frightened, desperate people in need of a hand offered in friendship not a slap across the face.

I absolutely love the BB and the various passages that have been quoted above. They resonate with me deeply. I love their descriptions of the real alcoholic, written to offer understanding and insight to the newcomer who may be desperate but still in denial, lost, confused, mentally unstable, cogniscently damaged and unable to understand the nature of the malady. The powerless and insanity is laid out so clearly, as I read them I see a description of the physical and mental malady and it sets this out as the core of alcoholism rather than what we drank, how much we drank or how much we’ve lost which before reading the BB was a real barrier to me understanding what alcoholism is and that I was an alcoholic, even though I drank wine, had a mortgage and a job.

For me there is a world of difference between how Bill W and the BB lay out intelligently, articulately and heartfully what a real alcoholic is versus the way I’ve seen or heard people in these forums in the past or in meetings try to elevate themselves as real alcoholics above other alcoholics. When someone says “I’ve spilled more than you’ve drunk I’m a real alcoholic” or “if you won’t accept (at your very first meeting no less, stumbling in shattered and bent - that you can f*** off if you don’t like my approach” I see no congruence between the BB message of real alcoholism and the ego of that hardliner

I’ve heard people in shares say they are a real alcoholic while sharing their drunkalogue. The first time I heard it as a newcomer having no understanding of the big book I thought they were having a dig at people in the meeting they had judged not to be real alcoholics because they didn’t follow that statement up by explaining the meaning of what a real alcoholic was. Sure, I was lacking awareness, sure I had lots to learn, sure I was responding on an ego level but I was a newcomer. Am I really expected to arrive at AA fully spiritually recovered enough to be able to analyse my reactions and step 10 myself and be able to respond on that level? Or is it the the person with more recovery who is supposed to “be responsible” for questioning their own behaviour to ask themselves if it meets spiritual principles and is the best approach. I honestly think Bill w and the BB came at it with the perspective of the newcomer, recognising what being a newcomer is in terms of states of mind.

And many people in AA are just as arrogant and bullying as when they came in. They dress their arrogance up in “being hardline” like an outfit to mask their own ego. I see the BB like the bible in that sense. Some people read the bible and see a message of love - others read it and see a hardline message. Sometimes different passages are quoted to justify their approach, sometimes people see different things in the same passages. Different AA meetings spring up appealing to different core personalities of the people reading the BB. Some AA meetings deliberately ignore the BB sand the steps, others spend their time castigating other people who’ve never read the BB and don’t work the steps “correctly”.

When I came in I was drawn to happy people, people who seemed to care, I needed kindness, compassion and thank god I found it. I don’t believe hardliners “read” newcomers and accurately gauge “hmmm, I think being hardline will work for this person rather than a different approach” I think they just do it because they are hardline at heart or have just learnt that’s the right way do it.

However, I’ve learned that I don’t know everything and so I may be wrong. Maybe if a person is truly spiritually recovered their compassion will shine through their hardline approach and resonate with newcomers anyway. Maybe someone telling someone to f*** off is said with a wink or a hand on a shoulder and said with care. Who knows. Maybe those who use the term “real alcoholic” qualify that in the same way that the BB does rather than boastfully. Who knows. Maybe for every newcomer who needs compassion there is a newcomer who needs a hardline approach and having different personalities is a bonus in that way because what works for one won’t work for another. I do know though that it wouldn’t have worked for me.
“I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature, there is no weaker than I am,” Dolly Parton

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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by shaunagus » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:41 am

Greywolf wrote:Hardline is a term some people use for the straight talk Bill W. and other long-timers sober in AA use to help newcomers stay sober.
The hardline approach doesn’t work for everyone ...
That's correct. The hardline approach only works for those Bill W. calls "real alcoholics" -- those who have tried controlled drinking; tried to stop drinking on their own; tried treatment; tried psychotherapy, etc. Straight talk works very well for those who are now willing to go to any lengths to achieve sobriety.
As I’ve shared, the hardline approach doesn’t work for me. So I’m not a real alcoholic? Cheers mate, best news I’ve had all day =biggrin =biggrin =biggrin
“I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature, there is no weaker than I am,” Dolly Parton

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Brock
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Re: The Hardline Approach

Post by Brock » Fri Apr 26, 2019 11:20 am

shaunagus wrote:When I came in I was drawn to happy people, people who seemed to care, I needed kindness, compassion and thank god I found it. I don’t believe hardliners “read” newcomers and accurately gauge “hmmm, I think being hardline will work for this person rather than a different approach” I think they just do it because they are hardline at heart or have just learnt that’s the right way do it.
I agree with everything in this excellent post, but quoted just one paragraph, which speaks about people doing it the way they were taught.

In the past I have mentioned some things we hear in AA, which I wish we didn’t. One of these is, ‘that’s the way my sponsor showed me, that’s how I show others.’ It’s almost understandable, hell this worked for me it should work for you. It is often found in the sort of sponsors, who cause people to come on here, and question what they are being taught. We had one not long ago, questioning their sponsor saying step four can take a year to do. We have 'saved' others who reported such hardline treatment as doing push ups as punishment, when their sponsor thought they did something wrong. Obviously we have the ones who were given the hardline treatment, and it worked on them. And quite likely their sponsor wasn’t intelligent enough, to realize he probably put several others clean off of AA, when he tried the same thing with them, I bet he said it didn’t work because they weren't real alcoholics. Unfortunately if he is successful with anyone, they tend to use this method as well, in the spirit of 'it worked for me....'

But I am not in favor of being overly tender and supportive of the newcomer either, we have a situation of people thinking AA works because people get ‘support’ in meetings, everything these days seems to center around emotional support, especially in so called first world countries. Where I live in the West Indies, someone saying they have a dog for emotional support, would be looked on as half crazy, and taking a ‘support animal’ into somewhere like a restaurant, is unheard of. At school or in sports competitions here there are winners and loosers, the winner gets a prize the rest get nothing, except perhaps a ‘good effort’ comment. In the US I have seen everyone getting the same prize, and apparently because they don’t want anyone to suffer emotionally. It might seem a ‘stretch,’ but this sort of upbringing, is what I think leads to people these days, thinking everyone and everything must be supportive. Why shouldn’t I come to your AA meeting and say how terrible my day was, so you can all be supportive with a pat on the back, and reassure me that all will be OK, never-mind that I have been in AA for years, and should be depending on a higher power instead of people.

There surely is a middle ground to be found with just a little common sense, and I agree that the Big Book is a good example of that. Tough and straight forward where it’s needed, and encouraging and supportive in other places.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."

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