Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confession and grace

More from A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous (my bolding):
It may also appear to some of you that in the Fourth and Fifth of its Twelve Steps, A.A. might very well be accused of talking out of both sides of its mouth at once. If you will recall, these Steps are:
“4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
Here, it would appear, is an organization that on the one hand claims there is no moral culpability involved in the disease of alcoholism, and on the other suggests to its members that recovery entails a searching and fearless accounting of this culpability to God and to another human being. I personally feel that this apparent paradox results from the empirical knowledge gained by the founders of A.A. I believe they found, as we all have since, that no matter what you tell the newcomer about the disease of alcoholism, he still feels guilty. He cannot blind himself to the moral consequences of his drinking: the blight he has visited upon those around him and the shame and degradation he has inflicted on himself. This load of conventional guilt – and I use the word “conventional” advisedly – as well as the alcoholic’s stubborn and perverse wish to cling to it, is the oldest of his “old ideas.” It is the oldest because it started first, and in most cases it will be the last to go. But go it must if the alcoholic’s attitude toward himself and hence the world around him is to undergo any basic change. That’s why I believe the founders of A.A. learned in their own experimentation that the alcoholic must be given a conventional means of unloading this burden of conventional guilt. Hence the Fourth and Fifth Steps.

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