|Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, NY: A.A.
World Services, 1981, pp. 65-67.
How many of us have this degree of readiness? In an absolute sense practically nobody
has it. The best we can do with all the honesty that we can summon, is to try
to have it. Even then the best of us will discover to our dismay that there is always a
sticking point, a point at which we say, "No, I can't give this up yet." And
we shall often tread on even more dangerous ground when we cry, "This I will never
give up!" Such is the power of our [old man]. No matter how
far we have progressed, desires will always be found which oppose the grace of God.
Some who feel they have done well may dispute this, so let's try to think it through
a little further. Practically everybody wishes to be rid of his most glaring and
destructive handicaps. No one wants to be so proud that he is scorned as a braggart, nor
so greedy that he is labeled a thief. No one wants to be angry enough to murder, lustful
enough to rape, gluttonous enough to ruin his health. No one wants to be agonized by the
chronic pain of envy or to be paralyzed by sloth. Of course, most human beings don't
suffer these defects at these rock-bottom levels.
We who have escaped these extremes are apt to congratulate ourselves. Yet can we?
After all, hasn't it been self-interest, pure and simple, that has enabled most of us to
escape? Not much spiritual effort is involved in avoiding excesses which will bring us
punishment anyway. But when we face up to the less violent aspects of these very same
defects, then where do we stand?
What we must recognize now is that we exult in some of our defects. We really love
- Who, for example, doesn't like to feel just a little superior to the next fellow,
or even quite a lot superior?
- Isn't it true that we like to let greed masquerade as ambition?
- To think of liking lust seems impossible. But how many men and women
speak love with their lips, and believe what they say, so that they can hid lust in
a dark corner of their minds? And even while staying within conventional bounds,
many people have to admit that their imaginary sex excursions are apt to be all
dressed as dreams of romance.
- Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually
take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a
comfortable feeling of superiority.
- When gluttony is less than ruinous, we have a milder word for that, too.
- We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less degree, everybody is
infected with it. From this defect we must surely get a warped yet definite
satisfaction. Else why would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what
we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall
never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it?
- And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful
later on -- only we call that "retirement."
- Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five
Nearly anyone could submit a good list of such defects as these, and few of us would
seriously think of giving them up, at least until they cause us excessive misery.
It seems plain that few of us can quickly or easily become ready to aim at spiritual
and moral perfection; we want to settle for only as much perfection as will get us by in
life, according, of course, to our various and sundry ideas of what will get us by.
So the difference between "the boys and the men" is the difference between
striving for a self-determined [autonomous] objective and for the perfect objective
which is of God [Theonomy].
If we would gain any real advantage in the use of this Step, we shall need to make a
brand new venture into open-mindedness. We shall need to raise our eyes toward
perfection, and be ready to walk in that direction. It will seldom matter how haltingly
we walk. The only question will be "Are we ready?"
Perhaps we shall be obliged in some cases still to say, "This I cannot give up
yet. . . ," but we should not say to ourselves, "This I will never
The moment we say, "No, never!" our minds close against the grace of God.
Delay is dangerous, and rebellion may be fatal. This is the exact point at which we
abandon limited objectives, and move toward God's will for us.
People who try to become spiritually and morally more perfect are among the most hated
people in our culture. "Self-righteous," "goody two-shoes,"
"holier than thou" are the epithets hurled at those who seek to follow God's
pattern for holiness. True, some people who say they are trying to be more Godly are truly
obnoxious. But on the other hand, the mediocre masses are indicted by anyone who shoots
for a higher standard.
Jesus says the mediocre make Him puke (Revelation 3:16).
What's so bad about perfection, anyway?