Step 3: Self-Will vs. God’s Will and the 4 Absolutes

ES&F Step 3 Spiritual PrinciplesStep 3: Self-Will vs. God’s Will and the 4 Absolutes

Step Three describes how “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.”  God, as we understand God means conscious contact with a Power greater than myself who cares only for my welfare and who can return me to sanity.  Asking about God’s will for me is asking: “what is the thing that I most need to do now, to be sane, healthy and well?”  

Bill W. clearly states in his essay on Step 3 that, “Our whole problem had been the misuse of our willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into alignment with God’s intention for us.”

How then do we determine “what God’s intention for us” is?

How can we know the difference between God’s will and our self- will?

The first requirement in Step 3 is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. In the third step prayer, we ask God “to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt — Relieve me of the bondage of self, so that I may better do Thy will.”  Therefore, God’s intention for us is that we be relieved of that which separates us from Wholeness or from Him.

4 Absolutes God's Will vs Self-Will

The four absolutes provide a simple, straight forward way to evaluate whether our thoughts, words or actions are self-centered or God-centered.

When faced with any action, particularly indecision, we ask ourselves:

What do I really want?

Is this a self-seeking, selfish desire or is this God-centered? God’s will is defined as the actions taken or words spoken based on love, selflessness, honesty and purity.  Self-will is the action taken or words spoken with the ego and the determination to have one’s way, to get what is most desired and at times no matter what the cost.

Pause and pray.

Ask wise counsel.

Do I have all the facts?

Next, examine the proposed action or inaction in light of the 4 absolutes:

Absolute Honesty – Ask your “self”: Is this action/inaction true or false?

Am I hiding any bad motives under good ones in this?

Is there anything secretive about this?  Am I being dishonest about something in this decision/thought, either literally or spiritually?

Absolute Purity – Ask your “self: Is this action/inaction good or bad?

Is this action/inaction right or wrong?

Am I trying to control something or avoid something that I shouldn’t be trying to control or avoid? Am I, in any way, placing my sobriety at risk? 

Absolute Unselfishness – Removing “you” and “your” self-interest from the equation altogether, ask your “self”: How will this action/inaction affect others?

Who will be hurt if I choose A and not B or vice versa?

Do I have a sense of entitlement at work in any of this decision/thought process?
Absolute Love – Ask your “self”: Is this action/inaction ugly or is it beautiful?

Is this action/inaction based in faith or fear?

The differences between the two may be described by the feeling that accompanies the choice:

When one is living by self-will: one is getting upset, telling endless stories in one’s head, justifying one’s actions –to oneself or others, making a lot of plans, thinking one can  – or should – handle everything alone, arguing  with or rejecting the suggestions of others.

When one is turning one’s will over to God, one is: calm, not plagued by stories, feels no need to justify one’s actions, focuses on the next right thing, open to help and one can let go and take suggestions without fear.



AA Big Book

References 11  As of 9/13/2020 This link is no longer active

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