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Friday, August 5, 2011

Ego, Humility and Grace

"By this time in all probability we have gained some measure of release from our more devastating handicaps. We enjoy moments in which there is something like real peace of mind. . . .Where humility had formerly stood for a forced feeding on humble pie, it now begins to mean the nourishing ingredient which can give us serenity."

"This improved perception of humility starts another revolutionary change in our outlook. Our eyes begin to open to the immense values which have come straight out of painful ego-puncturing."
-- The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 74 --

In a very real sense, Step Seven is the completion of the second half of Step One: Having admitted we could not manage our own lives - let alone life itself - and having determined to turn our will and our lives "over to the care of God as we understood him," we now confirm our decision to leave the management of life at that level, rather than vainly resuming the practice of managing life ourselves. This is ego-deflation at depth, and "painful ego-puncturing" at that, as we have been trained all of our lives that we must manage everything - or else!

At first the practice of humility is frightening. "What will become of me if such-and-such happens?" we ask ourselves, only to see in time that things never happen in precisely the way we imagine them and that, in most instances, our fears never materialize. We experience great pain, however, because we - or rather our egoic inner dialogue - assume that they will.

This, process of fear, desire and suffering continues just so long as we identify with the ego and believe whatever it thinks. The moment we realize that we are not the ego - that we are not whatever thought pops into our heads - the suffering stops. Yet it resumes immediately once we lose that awareness. Thus, the practice of Step Seven is repeatedly turning our will and lives over to the care of our Higher Power, and not just in making a decision to do so. In time we will become evermore humble in the truest sense of the word, in that we will be increasingly free of our egoic "self," and each time we experience suffering it will become a sign that we once more need to center ourselves in order to "Let Go, and Let God."

"For us," we read in Step Seven, "this process of gaining a new perspective was unbelievably painful. . . . It was only at the end of a long road, marked by successive defeats and humiliations, and the final crushing of our self-sufficiency, that we began to feel humility as something more than a condition of groveling despair." (Emphasis added.) Fortunately, however, we eventually learn that the requisite degree of humility needed to overcome the ego may "come quite as much from our voluntary reaching for it as it could from unremitting suffering."

"A great turning point in our lives," we read, "came when we sought for humility as something we really wanted, rather than as something we must have. It marked the time when we could commence to see the full implication of Step Seven: "Humbly asked Him to remove our our shortcomings."" For, in the end, we can only find grace within God, and it is in practicing Step Seven that we are freed from the egoic self and obtain to that level of grace with its ensuing peace of mind.
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pages 72 and 74]

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