As I have shared during our meeting, I am taking some one through the steps now 1:1. It has been an awesome experience and one that I encourage everyone to do.
We are up to Step 3, and one of the questions in the step is “how do I know what is God’s will or my will?”
This is a question that we addressed during our meeting and I have written about it elsewhere on the blog.
However, this is what I wrote for the person I am taking through 1:1 and I thought it might be helpful for others too.
As with everything, take what you want and leave the rest behind.
Step 3: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
In Step 1, we acknowledge our powerlessness over our basic addiction. In Step 2, we come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. In Step 3, we make a decision to hand our will and our lives over to the care of that Power.
The AA Big Book identifies the root of our problem as unrestrained self-will. “… selfishness and self-centered is the root of our problem.” (AA BB 62:1) Ironically, we cannot willfully use self-will to remove self-will. We have to have God’s help. The spiritual discipline of this step requires us to surrender our will and our life over God, as we understand Him, and choose to align our will with His will.
“As an alcoholic, you must get rid of selfishness or face death. There is no way of getting rid of selfishness without God. You must have God’s help.” (AA BB 62:2)
How then do we determine what is my will or God’s will?
Bill, Bob and other A.A. pioneers used something called “the Four Absolutes” when facing critical decisions or when trying to determine whether the decisions they were about to act upon were Self-Centered or God-Centered. Borrowed from the Oxford Group, the predecessor of AA, the description of the Four Absolutes is found in an early AA pamphlet called “The Four Absolutes.”
The 4 Absolutes are: honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. This concept is obliquely referenced in the AA Big Book in their opposite form: dishonesty, resentment, selfishness and fear.
To determine whether we are making decisions and basing our actions on our ‘self’ will or on God’s will, we examine the proposed action or inaction in light of the four following questions:
Absolute Honesty – Ask your “self”: Is this action/inaction true or false?
Absolute Purity – Ask your “self: Is this action/inaction good or bad?
Absolute Unselfishness – Removing “you” and “your” self-interest from the equation altogether, ask your “self”: How will this action/inaction affect others?
Absolute Love – Ask your “self”: Is this action/inaction beautiful (based in faith) or ugly (based in fear)? Where in this am I coming from Fear and where in this am I coming from Love?
Using the Four Absolutes, self-will is any word, thought or action that is negative and causes harm or damage to self or others. God’s will is any word, thought or action that is positive and causes love, wellness, growth or productivity to self or others. It is not that we cannot ever use our self-will; it just depends on how we use it and what our motives are.
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.
In practice, this means that each time we are emotionally disturbed or upset, or indecisive about what our next act should be. We “pause” become quiet and ask “is this action or decision honest, pure, unselfish and loving?
Remember — we claim spiritual progress not perfection. All we can do is align our actions according to our principles and values to the best of our abilities and strive every day for a closer relationship with our Creator.
“Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. ‘How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.’ These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is proper use of the will.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.85
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AA Big Book