Sponsors come from all levels of society, all cultures, and every gender identity. There are certain traits good sponsors share. These core traits are foundational to good sponsorship.
Sponsors are essentially leaders. They demonstrate through both word and action what “right” looks like. They communicate through deeds and creeds those things that will help their sponsees achieve and maintain long-term recovery. Here are a few thoughts on leadership from some great societal influencers. Let’s look at what they have to say in order to incorporate these concepts into our sponsorship practices.
- Bill Wilson (Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) Bill Wilson wrote the following on sponsorship, “Every sponsor is necessarily a leader. The stakes are huge. A human life, and usually the happiness of a whole family, hangs in the balance. What the sponsor does and says, how well he estimates the reactions of his prospects, how well he times and makes his presentation, how well he handles criticisms and how well he leads his prospect on by personal spiritual example -- well, these attributes of leadership can make all the difference, often the difference between life and death.” Bill Wilson, April 1959, “Leadership in AA: Ever a Vital Need,”, The Language of the Heart
- Albert Schweitzer (Nobel Prize recipient) Albert Schweitzer wrote the following about setting an example, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." Your sponsees are watching your every move and looking to emulate you. Are your deeds and creeds in harmony or conflict?
- Aristotle (Greek Philosopher) Aristotle called courage the first virtue. He claimed that it makes all of the other virtues possible. Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to move beyond it. Courage is the ability to move forward without knowing what lies before you. This is an important attribute for one new to recovery. The promises on pages 83 and 84 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous tell us that our lives will improve through the application of the 12 Steps, but we also know that growth is not linear. It takes courage to move forward in recovery when recovery takes a non-linear path. Sponsors can help instill courage in their sponsees by walking this non-linear path alongside them.
- Maya Angelou (Author and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient) Maya Angelou once said, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Angelou also said that people may forget what you said, or what you did, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. It has also been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Sponsors behave lovingly toward their sponsees. Sponsors help sponsees arrive at the truth gently. Sponsors help instill faith. Sponsors help instill hope. Sponsors help instill love. “But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13