New Light on the Twelve Steps
Step 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
No one would ever accept me if they knew what I was really like.
For many years, I have spoken the above quotation with conviction, but it is a lie rooted in shame. To cover my shame, I have on resorted to denial, a self delusion that minimizes and suppresses the painful evidence that seems to reinforce the conclusion that I am flawed, or hopelessly a bad person.
The aim of my fourth step was to break my denial, to give me a clear and unobstructed view of myself. THe aim of the fifth step is to allow me to face my guilt squarely and unsparingly, and at the same time, deal with my shame by seeing "I" am not a bad person. Through confession and repentance, I can "look the world in the eye," as the Big Book says.
God wants me to know my guilt. Guilt is taking responsibility for my sin choices. The aim of guilt is to motivate me to change, to correct the contradiction of sin in my life, by agreeing with GOd and repenting. The aim of shame is to give into sin again. Shame is hatred of who I am, but guilt is hatred for what I have done. In the end, shame is a consequence of sin that wears down hope. Guilt focuses on sin itself, and by so doing, motivates me to change my life, while seeing the necessity of my consequences.
After I finished doing my fourth step, I saw that much of the way I was living was a system of habits, attitudes, and behavior patterns that were wrong. These had been the product of trying to deal with the fear and pain of life, without faith. I lied to myself and to others about how much pain I was in, how angry I was, and how bad things were really getting. I believed I was a failure as a human being, incapable of rehabilitation or success, who had to live parasitically off the strength of others. I had to steal from and manipulate others to get what I needed, I couldn’t ask for it directly or earn it. Instead of using it to try to escape from them. I played the victim to justify may actions. I resisted responsibility, accountability, and emotional intimacy whenever they interfered with what I thought I needed. But all this was keeping me form having all that God wanted me to have.
It was important for me to see my wrongs for what they really were, and to be thorough about it. I could no longer continue to deny the reality of certain sins; it was very important that I do all three parts of this step. Like the step says, I had to admit these things to God, to remove my resistance to Him. I was pushing Him away from me by not letting Him into all these areas of my life.
I had to admit these wrongs to myself. All this dishonesty and contrivance was a rejection of my self, a Christ person. Many of the things I wanted out of life were good things I had believed myself unworthy and incapable of having. But will GOd withhold any good thing from His son? If it is good for him to have it, he shall have it if he asks for it, or will work for it. If it is not good for him to have it, he shall not have it. In understanding the nature of my wrongs, I began to see what was right, and have begun to find acceptance of who I am in freedom and safety.
Admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to another human being is crucial. It is hard for me, and embarrassing. It should be done with someone trustworthy and in the faith. But that is the part of my confession that makes the other parts of the real self. How can I say the truth to myself if I cannot if I cannot say it to someone else? In confession to someone else, I own what I have done, and have a witness who can remind me if I fall back into denial. The truth comes out of the dark and into the light of the world and begins to lose the power of secrecy and denial. My shame is exchanged for the relief of forgiveness. I am restored to the human race. I have an intimate connection with another, and can begin to build trust. I am totally known by at least one other person on earth. That person can trust me too, and be a witness to the truth, who can remind me of it if I forget it, and encourage me when I struggle. And he knows I am someone he can confide in if he chooses.
What a relief! After working so hard to falsely protect myself, and being afraid to stop, I find in letting go that God is the only one who can and does. As Jesus said: "…he that loses his life shall find it." And I have found those words to be the truth.
I see Step 5 as the beginning of a real transformation, from being a shame based person who, in vain futility tries to hide from my own sin and therefore from God, to a grace based person who is free to face evil because that evil is what I did, but not who i am. By facing the gravity of my sins, I will want to change my ways, and like the father of the prodigal son, God will speedily reveal His loving-kindness, and take me the rest of the way home, where I belong!
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 11 No 1
- God’s Obsession
- Editor’s Note
- British Update
- Moments with Meryl
- Excerpts from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- Get-together in New York
- Our Weakness Is Our Glory
- The Divine Intercessor
- Straight and Narrow and Uphill
- The Letter to the Romans
- To Think About
- Struggle of Romans Seven
- Questions & Answers
- The Only Two Natures
- God’s Promises
- The Mailbox
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- A Look at a Book
- From God Unlimited
- Words to Live By