New Light on the Twelve Steps
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it…
Step 10 is introduced in the Big Book of Alcoholics on page 84, immediately following the twelve promises. There is a definite reason for this. The paragraph above states, "Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us–sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them." (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 84). Step 10 is the first of the "maintenance" steps, which is how we do the "work" for the promises. Bill W. explains in the Big Book that "we have entered the world of the Spirit" (which he has capitalized) as a result of a vigorous commencement upon this way of living. This way of living is Steps 10 through 12. Bill continues with the statement, "Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness," which he presents as a result of a continuous working of Step 10. It is important to define the words "understanding" and "effectiveness" to be able to comprehend what Bill means.
The American Heritage College dictionary defines understanding as "a reconciliation of differences, a state of agreement; a disposition to appreciate or share the feelings and thoughts of others–sympathy or compassion." As an adjective it means "sympathetic or compassionate."
Effectiveness comes from the Latin root, "efficere" which means, "to accomplish." Since our primary purpose now is "…to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers" (Tradition five), Step 10 is a daily path of growth by which we increase our ability to "carry the message," or, in other words, to "accomplish" our primary purpose.
We have already seen in the first steps that our trouble has been caused by our own selfishness, which has brought us into a state of major differences with the important people in our life. "Any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody" (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 60). Obviously some-thing has changed to bring about a "disposition to appreciate the thoughts of others"
We have seen the results of self-effort. "Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate" (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 62). We have faced our selfishness and made our amends in the previous steps. Now, Bill gives us a serious warning that prepares us to accept how critical Step 10 is. On page 85 in the Big Book, he warns, "It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action (this denotes doing some-thing) and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do…" The first problem is believing we have laurels to rest upon. They are God’s laurels and God’s only. "There is but One good, that One is God," Jesus told His disciples." And again, God tells us "I will share My glory with no man." So we have gotten into independent seeing the minute we even think we have laurels.
Step 10 causes us to stop every day and check our list. "Where have we been selfish, dishonest, resentful, or afraid?" The Serenity Bible gives a good explanation of where these pit-falls come from, and Norman Grubb, in his book The Deep Things of God explains the necessary operation of these. In the Serenity Bible, the main idea is that we all have basic needs that must be met. These needs are for love, acceptance, and security. If they are not met in a healthy fashion, then the addict will resort to addictive behavior to get his needs met. Norman Grubb, in his book, explains the necessity of these needs. They are the negative need in the human that is met by the positive filling of God to make the whole self. "Every known thing has its reverse side, and is only known by contrast with its reverse… These pairs of opposites are not enemies, but friends; each pair is one unit, the one in each pair being the mate of the other. Each is necessary to the other, just as much as each is indissolubly part of the other" (p. 38 – see also The Intercessor, September/October 1995, p. 4).
When tempted each day to react to these negatives as a reality that we need to do something about, our answer is always the same: Jesus Christ is wholeness, totalness, completeness in me. All of my needs are met through the Person of Christ who lives my life. Sometimes we find at the end of the day that we have slipped back into selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, or fear. "When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help." (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 84). Joe McQ describes Step 10 in his book, The Steps We Took, as the step that brings us to a higher level of maturity. He points out that "We tend to work really hard on ourselves in a crisis, and when the crisis is over, we quit and rest. Step 10 is the step that tells us how to live "one day at a time."
Up to the point the steps entered our lives, we lived on a basis of childish self-centeredness. We blamed everyone else for all of the problems in our lives: all of our acting out, all of our misery was due to what others had done to us and the unfairness of what our lives required of us. Step 10 makes us look every day from the opposite angle, asking ourselves, where have we been dishonest, selfish, etc? And if I find that I have, then the question to ask is where has my believing gotten off and Satan moved in and taken over my seeing?
We actually find a relief in seeing our part in things. When it is our mistake, we can do something about it. Joe McQ points out that "where it’s some-one else’s fault, there is nothing we can do, but when it is ours, we are free – free to make it right" (p. 130).
This, then is the essence of Step 10: to keep our focus on our own program, as Peter warns us in his first letter, "Be sober, vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (I Pet. 5:8,9).
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 11 No 6
- Here We Stand
- Out of the Whirlwind
- Editor’s Note
- Minnesota Fellowship Weekend
- The Letter to the Romans
- Moving Out of the Wilderness
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- British Autumn Conference
- A Look at a Book
- The Mailbox
- God’s Promises
- To Think About
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- Tape Talk
- Moments with Meryl
- Questions & Answers
- Which Side?
- Words to Live By