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Center for Action and Contemplation

Step Three

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 1

Step Three
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. [1]

Alcoholics Anonymous is not afraid to tell it like it is and call out our selfishness, a word that most of us are afraid to use directly:

Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. . . . The alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though she or he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! . . . Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have the help of God, as we understood God. [2]

Jesus said, “If you wish to come after me, you must deny your very self, take up your cross, and follow in my footsteps” (Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). This sounds very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous’ Step Three: a radical surrendering of our will to Another whom we trust more than ourselves.

Jesus trusted God even in the face of crucifixion. He deeply knew, as Pope Francis says, “mercy is the first attribute of God. The name of God is mercy.” [3] We wasted years of history arguing over whose God was best or true, instead of actually meeting the always best and true God of love, forgiveness, and mercy. A. A. was smart enough to avoid this unnecessary obstacle by simply saying “God as we understood [God],” trusting that anyone in need of mercy, as much as addicts are, would surely need and meet a merciful God. If they fail to encounter this Higher healing Power, the whole process grinds to a bitter halt, since we can only show mercy if mercy has been shown to us (see Luke 6:36). We can only offer forgiveness if we have stood under the constant waterfall of forgiveness ourselves. And only hour-by-hour gratitude is strong enough to overcome all temptations to resentment.

You will never turn your will and your life over to any other kind of God except a loving and merciful One. Why would you? But now that you know, why would you not?

A. A. says, “It is really easy to begin the practice of Step Three. In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done.’” [4]

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] Ibid., 58.

[3] Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy: A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli (Random House: 2016), 85.

[4] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.: 1952), 40-41.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011), 26-27.

Image Credit: Image by jclk8888
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