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Selfless: What comes after I?

Painting of a man looking in mirror at the back of his own head.

If you spend any time at all observing people, it becomes evident that a person's nature is a complex and woven tapestry consisting of their worldview, perceptions, lived experiences, and the knowledge they have acquired along the way--both good and bad.

In the realm of recovery and reentry, there's a pivotal moment when a person's mentality shifts from "I" and "me" thinking to a concern for others. This transition is profound in the sense that it signifies a deeper understanding of oneself by framing the self as part of a larger collective moving a person toward a commitment to reasoning beyond their personal needs or desires. It's great to feel something, right?

The apostle Paul proclaims in Philippians 2:3-5: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Paul's continuation of his admonition to believers would be summarized by a central statement in verse 5, "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus," after which he continues his letter describing the ultimate humility of Jesus and how we are to imitate this humility in our dealings with one another. C.S. Lewis had a great quote on humility that put it in perspective, he said,

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less" - CS Lewis

By understanding God's promises for those who consider others before themselves, we can see His universal law, "He who humbles himself will be exalted" begin to work in a person's life (cp, Matthew 23:12). This universal law is paramount to the process of spiritual formation.

You may be wondering, are we addiction specialists? Who knows... what we do know is that we are the redeemed who say so, pulled out of the enemy's hands and washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. It is the Holy Spirit that does the work. Who better to plunder hell seeking those who are lost and hurting to bring them to the feet of Jesus than those who possess the road map for both sides? It's an interesting thought.

As we move a little bit deeper into our understanding of the nature of the "I" and "me" mentality, we must delve into the psychological framework of Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg, an influential psychologist, proposed six stages of moral development, categorized into three levels: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. At the pre-conventional level, individuals are primarily self-centered, driven by personal gain and avoidance of punishment. As one progresses through the stages, there's a gradual shift towards considering societal norms and ethical principles, ultimately reaching a stage where decisions are guided by universal ethical principles, transcending personal interests (Kohlberg, 1968).

Similarly, in the journey of recovery, individuals often start at a self-centered stage, focusing exclusively on their own needs and struggles. However, true progress emerges when they move beyond this egocentric mindset, embracing empathy, compassion, and a sense of responsibility toward others.

Altruism /ˈalˌtro͞oˌizəm/ n. (the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.

Studies in sociology and substance misuse consistently highlight the transformative power of altruism and community support in recovery processes. Research by scholars like Dr. David Best emphasizes the significance of social connections and meaningful relationships in sustaining recovery efforts (Best, 2017). When individuals extend their focus beyond themselves and engage in acts of service, they experience a profound sense of purpose and belonging, essential elements in the journey towards holistic healing. As we talked about in our last article, your circle does matter.

Central to the Bible's teachings is the concept of love and selflessness exemplified by Jesus. The biblical principle of "love your neighbor as yourself" encapsulates the essence of selfless service and altruism. By embodying these values, individuals in recovery not only find strength and resilience but also contribute positively to their communities, fostering a ripple effect of healing and transformation. What are you going to do with your roadmap?

The shift from "I" and "me" thinking to concern for others signifies a maturation of moral consciousness and spiritual growth. It's a recognition that true recovery extends beyond mere sobriety; it encompasses a profound shift in perspective toward a life of service, purpose, and interconnectedness.

In conclusion, as individuals progress through Kohlberg's stages of moral development, they embark on a parallel journey toward selfless recovery. By embracing empathy, compassion, and a commitment to others, they transcend the confines of self-centeredness, finding fulfillment in making meaningful contributions to society. In recovery and reentry ministry, this transition is not only encouraged but also celebrated as individuals embody the transformative power of love and service. So, let us embark on this journey together, moving beyond "I" towards a brighter, more compassionate future.


Recovery Networks and Community Connections: Identifying Connection Needs and Community Linkage Opportunities in Early Recovery Populations. (2017). Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly.

Kohlberg, L. (1968). The Child as a Moral Philosopher. Psychology Today, 2.

Rob Frazier, Director of Development

This is Living Ministries, Inc.

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