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Accountability Is Sustainability

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Part One

Accountability Is Sustainability
Friday, December 13, 2019

Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. [1]

So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you. —James 5:16

Both Christianity and the Twelve Steps believe that our sins and failures are the setting for transformation and enlightenment. Grace isn’t a gift for getting it right but for getting it wrong! But as any good therapist will tell you, you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge; and what you do not consciously acknowledge will remain in control of you from within, harming you and those around you, particularly those you love. Step Five sets forth a clear structure of accountability for knowing, speaking, and hearing the full truth so that it does not ultimately destroy the addict or others. But it is not an easy step to take. Both Bill Wilson and Thomas Keating understood the essential role that humility plays in the process of transformation. Keating wrote:

[Humility] is a great subject because it is the most fundamental religious disposition. It undergirds the stages of the spiritual journey. It gets deeper as we go along. Humiliation is the way to humility. So you have to go through the fifth step. . . . You lose the sense of shame and you gain more and more inner freedom. The point may come when you actually love your weaknesses and faults because they keep you humble. The feelings of shame and humiliation give way to a loving acceptance of the truth and a complete trust in God’s infinite mercy. . . . We’re not asking anybody to think that we are good, because now we see that whatever good we have comes from God. We don’t deny that we have this basic goodness, but we acknowledge that we have made a mess of our lives . . . and that God is healing us. Instead of grieving because of our sins, we realize that God has used them for our great benefit. . . .

Humility is the truth. That is to say, humility is the capacity to accept whatever happens, peacefully. Then you can decide whether God is calling you simply to accept the situation, or to do something to improve or correct it. Humility is a constant and permanent disposition that puts one in tune with the universe and with whatever is happening in the present moment. . . .

We know that whatever happens, the love of God is always with us and that [God] will turn even our failures into perfect love. [2]

When we accept what is, letting go of our hope for a different or better past, we are led into a much greater freedom. And as long as there is accountability and forgiveness as part of the process, healing will almost inevitably follow.

[1] “J,” A Simple Program: A Contemporary Translation of the Book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Hyperion: 1996), 55.

[2] Thomas Keating with Tom S., Divine Therapy and Addiction: Centering Prayer and the Twelve Steps (Lantern Books: 2009), 63-64, 65, 66.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011), 38, 48.

Image credit: Femme Assise (Melancholy Woman) (detail), Pablo Picasso, 1902-1903, Detroit Museum of Art, Detroit, Michigan.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the very things I want to do and find myself doing the very things I hate . . . for although the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not. —Romans 7:15, 18
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