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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Is it My Will or God's Will?

The "Co-Founders" Pamphlet
I've heard it said that if you are wondering whether what you are about to do or say is self-will or God's will, then it must be self-will. I don't think that is necessarily true, however, and it might lead the alcoholic addict in recovery into a one-way ego trap.

When it's a question of God's will or self-will, Dr. Bob recommended (in the "Co-Founders of A.A." pamphlet) running the question of what we should say or do past the little-known "Four Absolutes."

I've been sober a few years, but even when I first found recovery the Four Absolutes  (Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love) were obscure. When asked, Bill W. said that mentioning the "Four Absolutes" in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous would have too closely identified AA with the Oxford Group. Nonetheless, I was fortunate in being brought up with the "Four Absolutes, and I still rely on them when all the chips are down.

The "Four Absolutes" at Dr. Bob's
gravesite in Akron, OH.
Bill also said that the "Four Absolutes" are inherent in each of our 12 Steps. The "Four Absolutes" pamphlet outlining how to utilize the Absolutes to determine our will or God's will is still available from Cleveland's District Office. (More information on using the "Four Absolutes" is available here.)

When faced with a difficult decision to make, and pondering whether doing or saying what feels "right" would be an exression of my will or that of the God of my understanding - that is, wondering whether I am being driven by ego-consciousness or God consciousness - just saying it must be "self-will" may be too simplistic. It is all too easy, in my experience, for me to rationalize not saying or doing what is right because it is just "self-will." This is when a quick inventory with the "Four Absolutes" has proven to be invaluable.

"Back To Basics,"
by Wally P.
In Wally P.'s "Back To Basics" book, we read how the first old-timers would practice what they called "two-way prayer;" that is, asking for guidance, and then sitting in meditation or contemplation for the thought or thoughts that answered their questions.

The need for meditation seems to be under-emphasized these days, and certainly there are very few old-timers or newcomers who discuss "two-way prayer." Yet, it is 'vital,' in all senses of the word, and it is particularly important if one wishes to attain the "vital spiritual experience" that Carl Jung identified as a solution for alcoholic addiction.

Discussing "two-way prayer," Wally P. writes:

" . . . (N)ot all of our thooughts come from God. However, with time and practice we will begin to trust "our vital sixth sense." Starting with the first sentence on page 87, the "Big Book" authors explain:
"What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.
(A.A., p. 87, lines 1-9)
For Bill, it was "common sense" to use alcohol to escape his problems, and "uncommon sense" to stay sober and let God guide him through his difficulties. Bill's thinking changed as the direct result of taking the Steps.

Then on page 69, the "Big Book" authors disclose that, in addition to our thoughts, we must also test our actions. Starting with the second line in the second paragraph, they write:
". . . We subjected each relation to this test---was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them."
(A.A., p. 69, para. 2, lines 2-4)
 We also test our thoughts during morning meditation.  Here's how it works. When we finish our "quiet time," we check what we have put on paper. If what we have written is Honest, Pure, Unselfish AND Loving, we can be assured that these thoughts are God directed. Conversely, if what we have written is Dishonest, Resentful, Selfish OR Fearful, we can be equally assured these thoughts are self-directed.
 And just as we can - if we choose - do a daily inventory of our proposed plans for the day by running them past the "Four Absolutes," so we can run the "Four Absolutes" past what seems to be "the next right thing" for us to say or do. In that way we can distinguish whether it is our will or God's will that we are acting upon. In that way, we can check who is "running the show."

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