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Meeting topic: Those Tricky Little Foxes & Annoying Broken Windows

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

By Dean P

Meeting Topic for AMP Recovery Pacific meeting on 2/13/2023

“Take us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.”

— Song of Solomon 2:15

There is an important principle captured in this simple statement from scripture, “The little foxes spoil the vines.” Fences are built around vineyards to prevent animals from coming in and eating the grapes. Imagine a deer feasting on ripe clusters of grapes hanging from the vines. Little foxes are smaller animals that cannot reach the hanging grapes so instead they gnaw the vines off at the ground, causing the out of reach fruit to fall with the ruined vine. It is one thing to lose some of one seasons grapes, but it is far worse to lose forever a vine that took 12 to 14 years to mature.

The vine represents our life and all the progress we have made; progress that took a lot of time and hard work. The grapes represent the fruit of our progress. Healthy living will produce positive and enjoyable things in our lives and we are quick to defend our grapes from obvious things that threaten them.

Little foxes represent the small things we often ignore, little things and details that go unchecked, things we choose not to deal with. While pesky and annoying, we tend to dismiss the little foxes in our lives as "no big deal." Those of us in addiction recovery can often excuse dealing with these crucial "little" details by pointing to the progress we have made with larger issues. The conversation might go something like this, “I know I ought to deal with my (fill in the blank with things like anger, lack of accountability, selfishness, negative attitude, diet, unhealthy relationship, etc..) but at least I am not shooting heroin anymore. I’m not looking at porn, or having an affair..” I often wonder how many times, “If you knew how far I have come,” has been used to dismiss a friend, counselor, family member, or pastor trying to help someone in recovery recognize and deal with their tricky little foxes?

Much of the mystery surrounding a relapse can often be traced back to avoiding or overlooking what seems small when compared to larger and/or uglier life issues. Yet the little foxes gnaw away at us day in and day out. The damage they cause is not usually immediately noticeable and this is why relapse for many seems to come out of nowhere.

Unchecked issues can be a hindrance to healthy living both in recovery and out of recovery.

I once heard a message preached about a theory, that theory was called the "broken windows theory."

Simply put this “broken windows theory” was this:

“If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from building to the street on which is faces, sending a signal that anything goes.”

In the most populous city in the US, this broken windows theory played a pivotal role in turning the crime rates around. For example on November 26, 2012 there were 0 violent crimes reported that day, none.. this was a huge change from just over 2 decades earlier where in 1994 4,967 people were shot, that is almost 14 people a day.

In NYC it wasn’t literal broken windows, more of a metaphor, lesser crimes.. such as graffiti, not paying subway fares, etc.. You see in a city like New York, these lesser crimes or “broken windows” became invitations for further law breaking like burglary, rape, and murder.

In the 1990’s it was decided by chief lawmakers that if they were going to clean up the city, they had to start from the bottom.

So they started with graffiti. The graffiti was symbolic of the collapse of the system. When you looked at the process of rebuilding the organization that is the NYC transit system and rebuilding morale, you had to win the battle against graffiti.

Each subway car was pulled in if it was tagged with any graffiti, and painted over, no car was to be in service with graffiti on it.

After graffiti they began to tackle fare beating (bypassing paying to ride the subway).

Fare-beaters often went unpunished because police often had more important crimes to fight. When $1.25 was lost, it wasn’t a big deal, but when everyone did it, then it became a problem.

When a couple lawbreakers jumped the toll, it became an invitation for others to follow—including citizens who normally abide by the law.

The consensus was: “If they don’t pay, why should I?”

So the police administration instructed police officers to dress in civilian clothing and arrest fare-beaters to make an example of them. This was to demonstrate to others: “If you’re thinking about toll jumping, here’s what’s going to happen to you”.

Turns out: One in seven perps arrested had an outstanding warrant for a previous crime—and one in twenty was carrying an illegal firearm.

Within months, arrests tripled. New York City’s crime rate plummeted.

No one is perfect; we all have Broken Windows we either choose to ignore or argue are beyond repair. These are behaviors we believe are insignificant, but in reality, are invitations for other, similar negative behaviors. Our Broken Windows when left un-repaired, can become invitations to misbehave again in the future and perhaps more severely.

When Broken Windows are left unrepaired, we invite ourselves to let other negative behaviors become permissible. But when we identify and repair them by replacing them with better routines that actually stick, our behaviors shift and for the better.

When discussing accountability as one example of implementing this Broken Windows Theory, I find it valuable to dig into the small things.. the where, when, why, how’s.. and suggest implementing practical things:

  • Making your bed in the morning, not getting back in, to avoid the broken window of lingering in your bed.

  • Checking in first thing, or consistent times with your accountability partner, to avoid the broken window of lack of accountability.

  • Making a written plan, to avoid the broken window of idleness

  • Prayer routine, to avoid the broken window of not having regular communication with God

  • Etc..

These things may seem small, and unimportant but they often represent broken windows in lives.. learning to fix the broken windows, and deal with those tricky little foxes, is often a simple thing, or small thing, but implementing them, has huge and life changing impacts.

My name is Dean I’m a Grateful believer in Jesus Christ.

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Mar 31, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great article!


Mar 30, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This rings so true! We have to get control of our small habits to strengthen our discipline and willpower so we have what it takes to overcome in the tough moments.


Mar 29, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Excellent point and message. Well-thought out and lots of truth. Especially the aspect of rationalization, where you dismiss little things because of how far you have come in other ways. I enjoyed it.


Mar 29, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great Read!

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