Guidelines are there for a reason

Anyone who has participated in a Step Study or a small group through Celebrate Recovery has heard the five small-group guidelines. They’re supposed to be read aloud before each meeting starts, just to remind everyone or to inform any newcomers.

Most of the guidelines are obvious and make perfect sense on the first reading. Anonymity is vital and as people who are submitting to God as our Higher Power, we should realize that we are in no more a position to “fix” each other than we are to “fix” ourselves.

There’s one guideline that puzzled and even annoyed me at first, that pesky no. 2.
“There is NO cross talk. Cross talk is when two individuals engage in conversation excluding all others. Each person is free to express his or her feelings without interruptions.”

At first I really didn’t understand the guideline. “Did they seriously need to tell us not to talk to each other while someone was sharing?,” was my thought.

But as the guideline was explained further, I better understood. We aren’t supposed to respond or discuss what someone is sharing as it interrupts their flow and potentially inhibits their sharing. This includes reaching out to offer a supportive touch or even a tissue. “What, we can’t even hand each other a tissue? That’s rude!,” was my next thought.

I decided it would be just “one of those” rules that a person follows for the group’s greater good even if the person doesn’t agree.

As time went on, however, I came to not only understand but appreciate this guideline of no “cross talk.” For one, the obvious reason is that it allows the person to share without interruption. It’s easy for anyone to feel like they can’t share if they fear being interrupted by even a well-meaning group member.

But what about the emotional support? Small groups are divided between men and women. Women tend to be the more touchy-feely type of supporters. I came to realize that it was a comfort that we weren’t allowed to reach out and offer verbal or physical support when a person was sharing. I found this comforting because when there was a time I might have normally wanted the supportive gestures and didn’t receive them, it was because of the guidelines and not because the other people didn’t care. Can you imagine how hurtful it would be to feel the need for such support but not receive it, even as others in the group may have received the support? That’s a breeding ground for worry and negative feelings that are not productive in a recovery environment.

CR Attendee


  1. Gail McConnell: I LOVE THE GUIDELINES IN CR. They are indeed guidelines that keep us all safe 1) from our own person and 2) from the persons of other human beings. Guidelines in my heart conscience are part of the spiritual discipline to stop the insanity of trying to fix others, trying to compete with others, trying to focus on others which keeps me from focusing on my own insanity and need for Jesus Christ to rescue me. Think about it. Speaking from "we" and "You" keeps me in the flesh insanity of putting my reality on others or thinking I can be God to others by controlling their reality. Both of these are
    not safe. Using I, me, my statements is ownership regardless of whether the ownership at the time is healthy or unhealthy. As for cross talk, directing my comments to one person or talking back and forth makes the others feel "less than". Whether I like it or not, rejection is a rampid fear in all human beings because we have experienced it alot. The minute a woman feels rejected or less than she will flee because of shame and lies that say she is not as valued as another. And tears....heaven forbid we should cry! Hello, tears are healing. We are not crybabies for shedding tears. Tears break the hardness of our hearts. Letting another person cry and get her own kleenex lets the other person release the pain and also keeps her from self-pity. She is able to cry with dignity, honor and respect in the presence of safe women/men who don't try to control or fix her/him but just accept him/her and empathize with her pain and suffering. As for anonymity...boy is that a challenge for people! I mean the human tongue (especially for women) is all about gossip! Go tell it so I can somehow get the drama going and hurt someone I don't especially care for anyway. What an entrapment of the enemy! The truth? I use to hate the guidelines because in my perverted mind they meant that "people in authority were trying to control me and have power over me." I had been hurt over and over by people more powerful than me. It was just another entrapment (in my perverted way of thinking) for the church to now dictate to me. I hated authority because I had been abused over and over by people in authority or in my mind (men who were more powerful than me and women who were always jealous of me and excluded me). WOW! What a new holy perception I now have of CR guidelines. I love them! As a leader of a group, I don't particularly like reinforcing the rules...that is part of my old pattern of wanting to be liked and of people pleasing others so they won't criticize me or reject me. Today I tend to be "a bottom line person" (except in my writings...that is a writer's privilege...and why writers have editors). MY bottom lineness gets me in trouble and can hurt women (not so much men as they are bottom liners). I need to be more sensitive about how I interrupt a woman breaking the guidelines. In the end, even with sensitivity, some women will be offended. When this happens I am kind to myself. Women being offended by correction over guidelines is just about them going through the growing process and about me loving them anyway. Once I do my part, to lead with responsibility and sensitivity, I have to let the way other women react go. That is a new process for me right now. I trust God to prune me. I trust God to make me a safe leader (safe doesn't always mean I will be liked...Jesus wasn't liked when He lead with Spirit and Truth)and to be willing to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Above all, I ask Jesus to help me continue to love through it all as though I have never been wounded. He is delighted to do so.

    Loving you,



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