Retired Pastor Pat Duffin,
High Prairie Christian Centre
So, we “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him.”
In the process we learned that turning over our will and our lives then becomes God on His terms rather than our own terms. For those following the true AA path, as laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, is to simply follow the steps in order and to do them exactly as they are prescribed.
This brought us to Step 4, where we made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. We examined our lives and our character with an emphasis on our wrongs – how we injured others through our actions, words, and attitudes.
It takes courage to face our real selves and come to terms with the real ‘me’. That is why it must be fearless.
And if it is going to be honest and real, it must be “searching.” We must be meticulously thorough, leaving no stone unturned to the light of truth.
Step 5, however, is the greatest hurdle yet. We “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.” [Psalms 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9]
Did you notice the words “exact nature?” This is the step where most AA’s stumble in their journey to wellness. This is where most people fail to complete the step properly, if at all. They totally avoid this painful exercise of humbly divesting themselves of every fig-leaf [real or imagined] to stand naked, exposed, and vulnerable before another human being.
We are not talking about literal, physical nakedness. This is about sincerely and honestly revealing the deepest, most-protected inner self to another human being. It is terrifying, humiliating, and excruciatingly gut-wrenching.
Many, if not most, shrink back. They procrastinate. They go through the most contorted excuse-making to avoid completing an appointment. Here are just a few of the most common ones:
“I can’t find anyone qualified or whom I can trust.”
“I just don’t feel ready.”
“It’s not the right time.”
“I am not sure I was thorough enough on my Fourth Step. “I am too scared.”
“I want to make sure that I do it right, so I am taking my time.”
“I don’t know when I am going to do it…just not today or tomorrow.”
“What if they judge or attack me?”
“What if they breach my confidentiality and tell someone else?”
“If some of this gets out, I could go to jail.”
“I might lose my family.”
Another avoidance strategy is to fudge the truth while taking the Fifth Step. We try to make it seem we are not as bad as our disclosures might otherwise reveal. We justify ourselves, blame others, deflect, minimize, and try to present ourselves in the best possible light. This is only natural. It is simply human nature.
But we must push through and overcome every temptation to cut corners to make it as easy as possible for ourselves.
If we are brutally honest about this, we will recognize the real reason we try to dodge this step is because of our snaky, self-serving, dirty, rotten, stinking, false pride. This step utterly deflates our phony-baloney pride that craves for everyone to think well of us.
Is it not amazing how we can know it is undeserved yet retain a deep, corrupt desire to keep our mask intact and bolster that false image we project? We actively want to protect our fantasy image of how we would like others to perceive us. We have not yet learned how liberating it is to let people see the real self and discover through the process that people can still, accept, love, and respect us for the real self.
The Fifth Step does not specify just who qualifies to be the one to whom we reveal ourselves for the first time. It can be a mental health or other professional, a member of the clergy – even from outside your denominational community. It can even be a total stranger who you will never see again.
However, we must never choose someone close to us because what we need to reveal could be hurtful to them. There may come a time to reveal something they deserve to know, but this is not the right time nor the right way to do it. The guiding principal is we must never have peace of mind at someone else’s expense. Contrary to our selfish nature, we now seek to serve, help and protect others.
Naturally, it helps if you chose somebody who is acquainted with the Steps of Recovery and is known to be safe, confidential, compassionate and of the same gender.
However, you are not looking for understanding, advice or support. The principal goal is to not only break your soul-destroying, false pride [everybody has this issue to one degree or another]. The goal is to crush it so that it no longer directs us.
Each time we get honest with others is another step toward living in freedom – freedom to be yourself, freedom from the exhausting effort of pretending to be something we are not. Just think of all the creative, emotional, and spiritual energy that was wasted projecting a false image. Instead of living a lie, you can now be free to invest all that time and energy focusing on the real you and enjoying your new life.
The miraculous truth you will discover is that people will accept and love you just the way you are.