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Friday, August 31, 2012

Fearlessness Required

"Notice that the word "fear" is bracketed alongside the difficulties (in our 4th Step inventory). . . . This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn't deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classified with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble."

"We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them down on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn't it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good so far as it went, but it didn't go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence but it didn't fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse."

 "Perhaps there is a better way -- we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves.

". . . The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage." 

Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 67-68 (Emphasis added.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * 

There is actually nothing "demanded" or "required" in A.A. (or its sister organizations), even the 12 Steps themselves are only "suggested" as a program of action that will relieve the sufferer of his or her addiction to alcohol, etc. However, we are "begged" by those who came before us to be "fearless and thorough from the very start." We are "begged" (I believe) because the author of the 'Big Book' knew that all fears are a manifestation of self, of the ego, of the seemingly ceaseless chatter in our mind. Indeed, he observes that on our old basis of living fear permeated the very "fabric of our existence."

He begged us to be fearless, I believe, because he knew that an unexpectedly new and "different basis" other than that of relying on the random, fearful thoughts of the ego/self, a new "basis of relying upon God," is essential to recovery. We are, therefore, not "asked" but "begged" to be fearless, for "fearlessness" is (as Mahatma Gandhi once observed) "the first prerequisite of spirituality." For those of us (i.e., all of us) whose very lives are dependent on an awakening of the Spirit within, we cannot allow egoically-based, self-centered fears - all of them imaginary - to cloud out and obscure the perspective of our new found inner reality.

It is often said that fear (and fear's inverse clone, desire) is generated by our thinking that we will fail to get something we think we need, or we think that we might lose something which we already have and believe that we need to hold on to. Yet, when faced fearlessly, it is abundantly clear that such thinking is fanciful: nothing nor anyone is permanently ours, nor will they soothe our existential fears or desires; the spiritual teachings of religious and wisdom traditions around the world, as well as the spiritual experiences witnessed in A.A. and its sister organizations, make this clear. After all, as an old-timer pointed out to me years ago when I first cleaned up, "You never see an armored car in a funeral procession." Nor, I would add, do you ever see the hearse pulling a U-Haul. Fear is, thus, merely an egoic and self-centered "need announced,"as Neale Donald Walsch (author of "What God Wants") observes in the video attached below.

"(P)ride, leading to self-justification, and always spurred by conscious or unconscious fears," Bill W. writes, "is the basic breeder of most human difficulties. . . . Pride lures us into making demands upon ourselves or upon others which cannot be met without perverting or misusing our God-given instincts. When the satisfaction of our instincts for sex, security, and society becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses."

"All these failings," he notes, "generate fear, a soul sickness in its own right. Then fear, in turn, generates more character defects. Unreasonable fear that our instincts will not be satisfied drives us to covet the possessions of others, to lust for sex and power, to become angry when our instinctive demands are threatened, to be envious when the ambitions of others seem to be realized while ours are not. We eat, drink, and grab for more of everything that we need, fearing we shall never have enough. And with general alarm at the prospect of work, we stay lazy. We loaf and procrastinate, or at best work grudgingly and under half steam. These fears," he points out, "are the termites that devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build."

"So," Bill concludes, "when A.A. suggests a fearless moral inventory, it must seem to every newcomer that more is being asked of him than he can do. Both his pride and his fear beat him back every time he tries to look within himself. Pride says, "You need not pass this way," and Fear says, "You dare not look!" But the testimony of A.A.'s who have really tried a moral inventory is that pride and fear of this sort turn out to be bogeymen, nothing else."

(Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pages 48-49.)

As Gandhi points out: "Fearlessness is (thus, indeed) the first prerequisite of spirituality . . . (and) cowards can never be moral." Therefore, do not be cowed by the thoughts of the ego, a false self which is constructed and driven wholly by our misguided fears and our outsized, unfulfillable desires.

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