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From "Barefoot" Bill L.
The portion of Step Three usually follows the "How It Works" reading in Chapter 5.
Step 3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives our to the care of God as we understood Him.
If the writer of a textbook has an understanding of a word, but the reader of the book has a DIFFERENT understanding of the SAME word, then the information that comes through will be garbled and incomplete. There are three words in the "lampshade on the wall" version of Step Three that are important to understand.
Most people think that the Third Step says that we turn our will and our life over to the care of God. But it doesn't say that. What it says is that we MAKE A DECISION to turn my will and life over to the care of God. So the first word that needs to be understood is the word DECISION, which is defined as "making up one's own mind." Let's say my car breaks down. Although the DECISION to get my car fixed is a vital and crucial step, that decision alone does not get the car fixed. I will ALSO need to take the actions necessary to get it fixed. For any decision to mean ANYTHING, it ALWAYS requires further action.
If we decide, or make up our own mind, to turn our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand God, that decision ALONE will not turn it over. We will have to take the actions necessary to turn it over. The first three Steps are designed to bring us to the point where we become WILLING to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Higher Power, Steps Four through Nine are HOW we turn our will and our life over, by removing the blocks that prevent us from actually doing so; and the last three Steps are how we KEEP our will and our lives turned over to God indefinitely. After a period of time though, our ego (or self-will) begins to reassert itself again; and because of our "human-ness", we fall short in maintaining perfect spiritual focus in all of our thoughts and activities. That is why , even if we have worked the first nine Steps to the best of our ability once and are living in Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve, we will still need to eventually go back to Step One and begin the Steps cycle again and again for deeper awakenings and further growth in other areas where we have God blocked off that we may not be currently aware of.
The other two words that are important to understand are the words WILL and LIVES. The words "will" and "lives" are concepts way over our head and are way too large to relate to or comprehend. But these words can be better understood by explaining that our will is our thinking and what motivates us, and that our life is all the actions that we've taken up to this moment. That explanation makes the words a little more down to earth and easier to comprehend. So the Third Step can then be reworded as saying that I decide to take the actions necessary to turn my motivations, my thinking, and my actions over to the care of God as I understand Him. Also, what motivates me drives my thinking and my thinking directs my actions, so I need to go deeper than just acting my way into right thinking. If my motivation and thinking is God-directed, I will make the right decisions (whether it seems that way at the time or not), then the actions taken will also be right. But if my motivation and thinking is self-directed, I will usually make the wrong decisions (even though I may not realize it at the time), then the actions taken will probably also be wrong.
The Third Step in the "Big Book" begins just below the middle of page 60. How do we know that? Well, in this case, the "Big Book" authors tell us:
"Being convinced, we were at Step Three,..."
Convinced of what? If we've taken Steps One and Two, we are convinced that we are alcoholics and that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. Sometimes the word "sanity" is misunderstood. Other words that capture the essence of what is being said here are restore us to reality, or restore us to honesty, or restore us to peace of mind or restore us to balance; whichever you prefer. Now we need to get out of the way and let God direct our lives.
On pages 60 through 63, the 'Big Book" authors discuss self-will and God's Will in great detail. At the bottom of page 60, paragraph 4, they explain we are like actors trying to control every detail of a play:
"The first requirement (please notice that it says "requirement" not "suggestion") is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion (not just alcoholics but MOST people). Each person is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits."
"What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be SOMEWHAT at fault, he is SURE that OTHER people are MORE to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest (which means "take away by force") wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages (or manipulates) well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his BEST moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?"
Does anyone here NOT relate to this page?
We seem to be always trying to prove to everyone else that they would be better off if they just did things OUR way. I'm sure you'll agree that that's a bit of self-centeredness and a form of playing God. I think the word that comes to mind is "manipulation", but you can call it whatever you want.
In the first paragraph on page 62, the authors declare that it is this selfish and self-centeredness that has gotten us into trouble. We need to take responsibility for our selfishness and ask God to remove this shortcoming from our lives. Page 62, paragraph 1:
"Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the ROOT of our troubles. (And I always thought that ALCOHOL or other people was my problem.) 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. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably (which means "constantly") find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt."
"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. (This brings a message of hope because it is neither necessary nor possible to change others. But if we, with God's help, can change ourselves, we will find that no other changes are needed. If other people or life were to blame for our troubles, there is absolutely nothing we can do about that. But if I am to blame for almost all of my troubles, there is something I can do about that because I am the only person that I can change. Like a wise man once said, "It is easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world." The book continues.) They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. (It's important to know that this includes before we started drinking, while we were drinking, and even prior to taking Step Three since we've STOPPED drinking.) ABOVE EVERYTHING, we alcoholics MUST be rid of this selfishness. (Please notice that it says, "above everything" and "must.") We MUST, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We HAD to have God's help."
So it's saying that the ONLY thing that we have going for us, which is self-will and self-knowledge, or MY life run on MY will, is the VERY THING that will lead us back to drinking (at best) or progressive misery as time passes (at worst). Let me repeat that. So it's saying that the ONLY thing that we have going for us, which is self-will, or MY life run on MY will, is the VERY THING that leads us back to drinking and/or progressive misery. If we are trying to make ourselves "un-self-centered", we are STILL being self-centered. A self-will problem cannot overcome self-will, a sick mind cannot heal a sick mind, we cannot USE the problem to SOLVE the problem. That gets rid of any hope we have of not pursuing this Higher Power stuff. Now what? Since Step One says that we are powerless over alcohol, what we need is the Power with a capital "P". And since our lives are unmanageable (especially our mental/emotional/spiritual life, whether we are drinking or not), what we need is a new Manager with a capital "M". Because anything at all that God has in mind for me is better than anything at all that I will EVER have in mind for me!
So the AA program ultimately asks us to make TWO surrenders, not just one. We need to surrender to our drinking alcohol (we do this in Step One), but we also need to surrender to our self-will (or "my life run on my will", and we do THIS in Step Three). Unfortunately, many members of AA only make the first surrender and inevitably do not experience all the freedom, joy and serenity that the AA way of life promises. Because of not surrendering their self-will, they are often miserable and/or go back to drinking.
Then at the bottom of page 62, the authors tell us what we have to do in order to rid ourselves of selfishness:
"This is the how and why of it. First of all, we HAD to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His Children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom."
For those who do not know, the keystone is the supporting stone for the ENTIRE structure, so the Third Step decision is the supporting Step for the rest of the Steps. Now this decision is starting to sound important. The Big Book just stated that we need to let God become our Director, so we need to be doing what we think our Higher Power would have us do. In other words, we need to be staying in the moment, being directed by unselfishness and love, and doing the next right thing. It also says that we need to move in the direction of being God's agent, and since an agent is given the power to represent the Principal, we are deciding to start acting in a way that would represent our Highest Power. It then mentions being God's children, and if we are all God's children, we need to start acting as if we are ALL equal brothers or sisters. So you can see that this paragraph says a lot, and actually contains the essence of what the Third Step decision is all about. The book continues and this next paragraph contains the Third Step Promises.
"When we SINCERELY took such a position (the position of God being our Director, our Principle and our Father), all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, IF we kept close to Him AND performed His work well."
So, now we know our place in God's Universe. Contrary to what we may have thought in the past, the whole world does not revolve around US. Once we step aside and put GOD in the center, we are amazed at how much better our lives become.
In the Second Step, we are told that we need to come up with some sort of "God of our understanding" or "Power greater than ourselves." A.A. gives us a lot of respect by allowing us to believe whatever we wanted to believe about this Power. But there is a little unseen footnote next to Step 2 that states, "So long as WE are not it!" The Big Book says again and again that my belief that the universe revolves around ME is a big part of my problem, so this "center of my universe" needs to be replaced with some belief in a Power greater than human power. Then in Step 3, it introduces us to an important attribute that this Power needs to have when it says, "...the CARE of God as we understood Him." So our concept of the Power now needs to include the fact that this "God" cares and is caring. This may be difficult for many of us because our original concept of our Creator may have been more along the line of a "judgmental, harsh, He's going to get me, something to be feared" kind of God. We may need to completely scrap these old ideas and start over because this isn't the kind of Higher Power that one turns to for help.
By now, we have moved toward becoming more aware of the presence of God. Starting with line five on page 63, the authors explain this awareness. These are also more Third Step Promises:
"Established on such a footing, we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn."
We have been delivered from the gates of Hell, and we have come back to tell what it was like. It isn't a pretty picture. But, now we realize we never have to go back there again, as long as we don't forget to allow God to be our Director.
It is decision time once again. "The Big Book" authors tell us we are now ready to take Step Three. The middle paragraph on page 63 contains the Third Step Prayer. This prayer is an affirmation of the decision we are making at the bottom of page 62. Before we say this prayer together as a group, there are some considerations we need to look at first. About 2/3 of the way down page 63, beginning with the last line of paragraph 2, they provide us with the directions and a warning:
"We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly (or completely) to Him.
We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person, such as our wife, best friend, or spiritual adviser. But it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand. The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once."
We are so fortunate that, in the years since the Big Book was written, the fellowship has grown to where very few, if any, newcomers have to take the Third Step alone. We're here tonight to take this monumental Step with you.
Because it says, "We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready, that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly (or completely) to God"; we would like to take a moment for personal reflection for those of you taking the Steps with us. Could we please have a moment of silence, for about 10 seconds, to think about whether or not you are ready to decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of the God of your own understanding.
At the bottom of page 63, we can find the last point made about Step Three. The Big Book authors tell us what we need to do after we've made our Third Step decision. It is perhaps the MOST important point made about the Third Step, yet it is rarely discussed at meetings and usually overlooked. It states, "NEXT we launch out on a course of VIGOROUS action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had NEVER attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have LITTLE PERMANENT EFFECT unless AT ONCE followed by a STRENUOUS EFFORT to face, AND to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions."
Please note the authors say AT ONCE. It's telling us that this Third Step decision will have LITTLE permanent effect unless we IMMEDIATELY follow it up with a strenuous effort to face (and where we face these things is in Steps Four, Five and Six), and to be rid of (and where we get rid of these things is in Steps Seven, Eight and Nine), the things in ourselves which had been blocking us (and what we're being blocked off from is the ability to turn our will and lives over to BEGIN with). So after working the six middle Steps, then and ONLY then, will we be able to turn our will and our lives over to God with any kind of consistency, or else our initial contact with our Creator won't last.
Let's see who is ready to proceed.
Please keep in mind that, like we just said, the actions necessary to bring about the Step Three decision are Steps Four through Nine, because Steps Four through Nine are how we remove the blocks from turning our will and life over to God.
This is the Third Step question:
Please answer yes or no.
Although they say the wording is quite optional, the authors do provide us with a prayer that can be used as a daily affirmation of this Third Step decision. Let's say it out loud, together with at least one other alcoholic. Starting with the second line in the second paragraph on page 63, it reads:
Please begin to include saying this Third Step Prayer as part of your daily time with God, and when needed throughout the day.
This attachment has an exercise for coming up with your own Third Step Prayer. Since Step Three says that "the wording is quite optional," why not come up with your own prayer, from your heart & in your own words, as your commitment to God: Step 3 Prayer Exercise
We have now completed all the information that the "Big Book" authors provide for Step Three. What follows has been called "The Step Three Parable" because it captures what we think is the essence of the Third Step:
A drunk is staggering along the street and he meets God.
"God, I can't do this anymore," he says. "Please, please, will you give me sobriety?"
God says, "Sobriety isn't free, how much money do you have?"
The drunk reaches into his pocket. "Fifty bucks."
"I'll take it," says God, "you're sober."
The man stands up straight, drunk no more. It feels pretty good. "Yeah but, God?" "Yes?" "I know I gave you my money willingly. But, you see, I need to get gas for my car."
God says, "You have a car?"
"You didn't tell me that. I'll take the car."
God interrupts and says, "I'll take the car. It's part of the price for your sobriety."
"But how will I get to work?"
"You have a job? I'll take the job, too."
"But God, how will I pay my mortgage?"
"Mortgage? You have a house? I'll take that too."
"But God, my family. How will I take care of them if You have my house and my job?"
God says to him gently and lovingly: "In order to keep your sobriety; you must give Me these things. But I will let you drive My car, as long as you remember it's MY car. You can have the job, but remember you're working it for ME. It's My house but I will let you live in it. And as for the family, they are MY family but I will trust you to take care of them."
Even though we have taken a considerable amount of time on the first three Steps, all we have done is make decisions. Now we are going to begin to take some specific actions that will carry us the rest of the way to God.
(The following is from the Big Book's December 1938 pre-production multilith. This is the opening of the Big Book's Chapter Five "How It Works" in the Original Manuscript that was sent out to inform the Fellowship that there had been progress made in the writing of the book, and so that the last changes could be made a few months before the Big Book was published on April 10, 1939.
"How It Works" was written and re-written over thirty times and this is how it looked before the very last changes were added. I am NOT suggesting that these last changes should not have been made. Actually, in most cases I think that it was really important that the changes were made, but I think it's significant to see that the Original Manuscript version reveals more of where the authors were coming from. Differences with how it currently appears in the Big Book are underlined below. Since this is heard hundreds of times by AA members, it often is not REALLY listened to anymore so I have included commentary here, in regular type, on some of the parts that are important and that many AA's no longer even notice.)
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our directions(thoroughly does NOT mean "slowly", it means "completely"). Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program (please ask yourself occasionally, "Am I currently giving myself completely to AA?" In other words, "Am I CURRENTLY involved in ALL THREE PARTS of AA's solution for alcoholism: #1 Recovery [which can be found in the Program; also known as the working of all Twelve Steps], #2 Unity [which can be found in the Fellowship; also known as going to meetings, participating in a Home Group, and interacting with other AA's], and #3 Service [which can be found in unselfishly doing for others and expecting nothing in return - inside AND outside of AA; also known as altruism.]" I have seen many people go back to drinking who got away from one or more of the three parts to AA's solution [this includes old-timers], but I have NEVER seen ANYONE return to drinking who remained involved in ALL THREE.), usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally (which means "on their own") incapable of grasping and developing a way of life which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. (Please notice that the word "honest" or "honesty" is mentioned THREE TIMES in the first paragraph, and even says that our way of living DEMANDS RIGOROUS HONESTY. Honesty must be really important because this is AA's MOST READ piece of literature. Also, we need to ask ourselves if we are becoming more and more honest. This is an important form of dealing with reality. Also, I would like to suggest that "grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty" is the ESSENCE of the AA Program and way of life!)
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you [#1] have decided you want what we have (what we have is a spiritual awakening and freedom from the bondage of alcoholism, selfishness and fear as THE RESULT of working all Twelve Steps. Also, please keep in mind that the "we" here is not referring to all the people in AA today. They're talking about the first members of AA who contributed to the Big Book, and the experiences of the people described in and practicing the Big Book way of life. The promises in the Big Book are ONLY the result of working the Steps as outlined in the Big Book.) and [#2] are willing to go to any length to get it - then you are ready to follow directions. (So you don't have to wait months or years before getting into working all the Steps. Back when this was originally written, the Steps were worked immediately and quickly, and resulted in a 75% recovery rate throughout the fellowship for the first 20 years of AA's existence.)
At some of these you may balk. You may think you can find an easier, softer way. We doubt if you can. (No subtlety there!) With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. (They're BEGGING us!) Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. (That's a warning AND a promise. If we let go of our old ideas, especially the ones that don't work anymore [like how we have been dealing with our alcoholism on our own and how we live our life], we'll get some positive results. But if we DON'T let go of these old ideas the result will be nil, which means "nothing" or "worthless".)
Remember that you are dealing with alcohol - cunning, baffling, powerful! (and let me add that alcoholism is patient, too) Without help it is too much for you. But there is One who has all power - that One is God. You must find Him now! (I think the Big Book authors are trying to tell us something important here!)
Half measures will avail you nothing. (Half measures do NOT avail us half results. Only being honest half the time is not being honest; only being kind and considerate to others half the time does not bring about half results in spiritual matters. I don't know if we'll ever be able to be 100% honest and loving at all times, but the more we are, the more and more freedom, happiness and serenity we'll experience! And if half measures avail us NOTHING, then LESS than half measures avail us LESS than nothing!) You stand at the turning point. Throw yourself under His protection and care with complete abandon (I think the authors are again trying to tell us something important. Also, abandon means "to give up with the intent to never take back".)
Now we think you can take it! (They say this because they have just given us over 65 pages worth of information describing the desperateness of the alcoholic dilemma. Now they're going to lay out the practical program of recovery which clears away what blocks us from a Power greater than human power, which WILL solve all our problems.) Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as your Program of Recovery (so it's a suggested program not a program of suggestions. Also, it's not enough to just READ about or HEAR about or TALK about the Steps. We need to PARTICIPATE and have an EXPERIENCE by taking ALL the actions that the Twelve Steps require):
(For a long time I translated or internalized this sentence as saying, "Admitted I was powerless over alcohol, and WHEN I'M DRINKING my life is unmanageable." But that's NOT what it says. When a dash is used in a sentence like this, what it's saying is: "Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and admitted that our lives had become unmanageable." What does our literature say about this admission of powerlessness and unmanageability? In other words, what differentiates an alcoholic physically, mentally, and spiritually, from a non-alcoholic? Physically, the alcoholic has an allergy, or an abnormal reaction, to alcohol. The alcoholic's abnormal reaction to alcohol is a craving for more alcohol once we take a few drinks. This craving NEVER happens to a non-alcoholic. Because of this, a non-alcoholic can ALWAYS predict how much they are going to drink, but an alcoholic CANNOT. Besides the craving, alcohol DOES something for an alcoholic that it does NOT do for a non-alcoholic. When an alcoholic drinks, they get a feeling of ease and comfort; an "IN control, get up and go into town, I like this" kind of a feeling. When a NON-alcoholic drinks, they get an "OUT of control, beginning of a nauseating, slightly tipsy, I don't like this so I don't want any more" kind of a feeling. That's why they stop after one or two, and make statements like, "I don't want another drink because I am FEELING that first one." Spiritually, because of the selfish and self-centered way the alcoholic views and deals with other people, their emotions, and life; they are filled with inner turmoil, discomfort, and anxiety. Since alcohol is the ONLY thing that the alcoholic has experienced that brings relief from this inner unmanageability, we turn to alcohol again and again, even though it has caused problems for us in the past. We don't see what alcohol is doing TO us, we ONLY think about what it is going to do FOR us, which describes the alcoholic's mental obsession. A NON-alcoholic's relationship with alcohol is a "take it or leave it" kind of relationship, but an ALCOHOLIC'S relationship with alcohol is an "I need it to deal with life" kind of relationship. Please ask yourself if you can relate to the experience of an alcoholic. Also, in the middle of the first paragraph on page 44, the Big Book makes a few statements that can be used to review the information about Step One and the direction we need to move in. In the middle of the first paragraph on page 44, it says: "If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely" [which describes the mental and spiritual part of alcoholism], "or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take" [which describes the physical part of alcoholism], "you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which ONLY a spiritual experience will conquer." If I'm powerless over whether I drink or not, than what I need is the Power with a capital "P"; and if my life is unmanageable, especially my INNER life [WHETHER I'M DRINKING OR NOT] than what I need is a new Manager with a capital "M". In the Fourth Edition Big Book, this Step is described on Roman numeral pages 25 - 32 (xxv - xxxii), on pages 1 - 44:1, and 52:2.)
You may exclaim, "What an order! I can't go through with it." Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. (Which is why it's a good idea to go back and work the Steps, starting with the first one, every year or two. Because we are human, we WILL fall short in keeping spiritual focus in all of our affairs.) We are not saints. (An understatement!) The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. (Do you think that this is important? If you do, are you more loving, honest, unselfish and accepting than you were a year ago?) The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.
Our description of the alcoholic (Step 1), the chapter to the agnostic (Step 2), and our personal adventures before and after (there are two ways that this can be taken: before and after this part of the book, or your personal adventures before AND after you stopped drinking), have been designed to sell you three pertinent ideas:
(a.) That you are alcoholic and cannot manage your life. (Drinking or not. Step One)
(b.)That probably no human power can relieve your alcoholism. (Step Two. Please keep in mind that this includes everyone in the fellowship, yourself, your sponsor, your support group, etc. Although they are all important, they are still only human power.)
(c.)That God can and will. (Also Step Two, and what a wonderful promise IF God were sought!)
If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away! (Rather humorous! In other words, take it or leave it!)
In the Fellowship of the Spirit,
I have heard so many people in A.A. say that Bill Wilson wanted to change the word "Rarely..." to the word "Never..." in the opening of "How It Works", that I just wanted to bring this rumor to the light of truth. In the book "Pass It On" (the green AA history book which came out 13 years after Bill died) it says on page 200: "According to an apocryphal story (which means "a story of doubtful authenticity"), Bill was asked in later years whether there was any change he wished he could make in the Big Book, and he replied that he would change 'rarely' to 'never'. Bill himself said he never considered that change.
How co-founder Bill Wilson answered a frequently asked question.
The AA Grapevine, December 1978
From time to time over the years, some AA members will question the wording of the first sentence of Chapter 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous: "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." Why, the enthusiastic member asks, doesn't the Big Book say, "Never have we seen a person fail..."?
This question was answered - several times - by an AA well qualified to speak on the subject, since he wrote the book, with the assistance of other early members.
Bill Wilson, AA's co-founder, answered a 1961 letter from Minnesota with these words (preserved, like those of the following letter, in the archives at the AA General Service Office): "Concerning your comment about the use of the word 'rarely" in Chapter 5 of the Big Book: My recollection is that we did give this considerable thought at the time of writing. I think the main reason for the use of the word 'rarely' was to avoid anything that would look like a claim of a 100% result. Assuming, of course, that an alcoholic is willing enough and sane enough, there can be a perfect score on [a person of this sort]. But since willingness and sanity are such elusive and fluctuating values, we simply didn't want to be too positive. The medical profession could jump right down our throats.
"Then, too, we have seen people who have apparently tried their very best, and then failed, not because of unwillingness, but perhaps by reason of physical tension or some undisclosed quirk, not known to them or anyone else. Neither did we want to over encourage relatives and friends in the supposition that their dear ones could surely get well in AA if only they were willing. I think that's why we chose that word. I remember thinking about it a lot.
"Maybe some of these same reasons would apply to present conditions. Anyhow, I do know this: The text of the AA book is so frozen in the minds of tens of thousands of AA's that even the slightest change creates an uproar."
And at the 1970 General Service Conference, this Ask-It-Basket question was addressed directly to Bill: "If there was any change you would make in the Big Book, would it be to change the word 'rarely' to 'never' at the start of Chapter 5.
* This statement follows the Third Step Prayer on page 63 of the Big Book:
Some of our founders and early members of the fellowship used a prayer other than the one on page 63 of the Big Book to take newcomers through their "decision" -- namely because the Big Book wasn't printed until 1939 and they got our Program from Oxford Group principles. Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill D. started making 12 Step calls and taking others through the "steps" in the summer of 1935.
Here are a couple examples of "3rd Step Prayers" used by our early members:
Used by Dr. Bob
Used by Clarence Snyder
(Both sponsor and protégé on their knees...)
(Protégé repeats after the sponsor):
Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what you will.
Here is the Third Step Prayer as stated in the Big Book on page 63:
"God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Try this exercise to be done after you've "decided to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understood God". Write your own Third Step Prayer. As the Big Book says on page 63, "The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation." (Examples can be found on previous page.)
YOUR prayer can be read to your sponsor, spiritual advisor, or a friend (expressing the idea, voicing it without reservation) before we say the Big Book's Third Step Prayer, together, as a group.
From Mike L.
The Prayer that my sponsors gave me to begin each day as I confirm my Third Step Decision. I have used it daily since then, virtually the only prayer that I use, and now many of my sponsees do too.
God, help me today to not put anything into my mind or body that you would not have there. Take all of my relationships in life and make of them what you will. Thy will only be done in their life as well as in mine. And let me know the Truth. Amen.
You see, there is no set prayer that "MUST" be used, just a simple prayer of your own wording to confirm your willingness to take action as a result of your decision, to do whatever is necessary to place your Higher Power in control of all aspects of your life, to abide by His will, that you might stay sober this day, Today.
Continue to Working Step 4
Return to Working The Steps Index
As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of AA with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In AA and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!
KEEP COMING BACK!
On the Web Feb 25, 2003 in the Spirit of Cooperation
Three mighty important things, Pardn'r, LOVE And PEACE and SOBRIETY