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Center for Action and Contemplation

Step Four

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 1

Step Four
Thursday, June 2, 2016

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. [1]

Bill Wilson realized that “Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.” [2]

It’s not surprising to me that “Father of Light” became Bill’s early name for God. Ephesians says that everything which is exposed to the light becomes light (see Ephesians 5:13-14). You can’t change anything until you first see and admit it’s there.

Addictive thinking is always distorted thinking, because it’s hidden from the light of consciousness. When the unconscious is largely in control, we unconsciously use the three defense mechanisms as classically defined: denial, rationalization, and projection. We project over there what we don’t want to deal with in ourselves. That’s why you’ve got to love your enemy—because invariably the people who really annoy you are actually just like you! We tend to see our own faults in other people instead of in ourselves. For instance, we see how someone else is controlling the whole situation. The only reason that upsets us is because we’d like to control the whole situation! Brothers and sisters, it takes such detachment from the ego (the seat of “self-centeredness”) to recognize the truth of that, to bring it into the light and weep over it.

Step Four is about self-knowledge. When you don’t want self-knowledge, it’s because you don’t want to face your shadow self. You don’t want to see the dark side that we all have. For too long the spirituality of perfection has caused us to split and pretend that we are always and only good. But you pay a big price when you put all your energy into keeping such a heavy lid on the unconscious. What you sacrifice is all eros, all excitement, and all joy too. Repressive religion gets us nowhere.

If there is one characteristic of holy people, I would say it’s honesty. They just don’t pretend anymore. They are not into pretense and performance and trying to present that they are something other than what they really are. They’ve met the enemy, and the enemy is themselves. They know that they are not that good; that “only God is good” (Mark 10:18).

Gateway to Silence:
Let go and let God.

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

[2] Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, Fourth Edition (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.: 1991), 13-14.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, How Do We Breathe Under Water? The Gospel and 12-Step Spirituality (CAC: 2005), discs 1 and 2 (CD, DVD, MP3 download).

Image Credit: Image by jclk8888
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