An Audio Recording of the Full Service
We have come to the end of our journey exploring the 12 Steps as today we reflect on the final Step.
Hopefully this has been a really helpful journey exploring a program that you may have heard about, but never really knew what it was about.
The original 12 Step Program was written for Recovering Alcoholics, but over the decades, it usefulness in bringing change in people’s lives has been shown to be valuable in all sorts of other spheres.
Today there are 12 step programs for people who experience drug addiction (Narcotics Anonymous), for those who struggle with cluttering and hoarding - (Clutterers Anonymous),
for those who repeatedly get themselves into debt - (Debtors Anonymous), for those who struggle with finding themselves repeatedly in dysfunctional in relationships – (Co-dependents anonymous). For those who struggle with food, (Over-eaters Anonymous and Food-Addicts Anonymous) and also a 12 Step program for those who over-work - (Workaholics Anonymous).
What really strikes one is how rigorous the 12 Step program is. One has to hold in high admiration anyone who has embarked on this program and those who have been able to see it through to the end. It is a program that takes an enormous amount of courage. If you know someone who has been through the 12 step program, hopefully you have a new appreciation and admiration for the rigorous journey that they have been through.
Perhaps what has been missing is the recognition that the 12 Steps are best not done simply privately as individuals. It was designed to be done with the support of a mentor and also the support of a group. It is therefore not a self-help program. It is built on the premise that journey towards wholeness and recovery in all spheres of life is best done with the help of others… and with the help of God or some conception of a Higher Power.
And so we come to Step 12 “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practise these principles in all our affairs”
What does it mean to have a spiritual awakening? It sounds awfully religious says Trevor. One gets the sense of an other-worldly vision, of strange lights and ethereal music.
But Trevor says a spiritual awakening can be defined quite simply – It is about coming alive in some area of our life where previously there was a deadness. And the shape of this can be different for different people depending on the nature of their own circumstances.
- For some it may be about coming to a deeper acceptance and humble awareness of who we really are with all of our gifts as well as our weaknesses.
-For some it might be the joy of experiencing more positive emotions.
-Or the discovery of a new found freedom in our capacity for choice, no longer feeling like hopeless victims trapped in our past mistakes, but joy of discovering the ability to move forward towards a more positive future.
-Or the experience of new life in our relationships and a new found ability to relate to people more openly and freely.
-Or simply a new found ability to appreciate the gift of life – As Trevor writes... to appreciate the sound of the wind in the trees, to smell the scent of a beautiful flower, to enjoy the taste of a good meal, to delight in the playfulness of a puppy. Our senses are alive and awake again because we have begun to see through the fog of negativity, guilt and shame that we may have lived with for so long.
-For some perhaps a deeper sense of Divine Love, that Life is good and that each of us is deeply loved by something much greater than ourselves.
Trevor asks: Can you identify with any of these? If you can, then you have had a spiritual awakening.
And so what the 12 Step Program suggests is that a spiritual awakening is not just about some kind of supernatural experience (although for some it might include that), but is rooted in the ordinary reality of ordinary life and relationships.
The second half of Step 12 is about sharing the positivity of what has been experienced with others:
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others…
I find it interesting that this encouragement to carry this message to others only comes at the very end of a rigorous and testing process. It is one of the last parts of the 12 Step program not one of the first for good reason, because by the 12th step, all participants would have come to a far humbler and more mature view of themselves, with a far greater awareness of our common human frailties.
And so with this in mind, some of the best advice I have heard about sharing any religious or spiritual message with others still comes from St Francis Assisi who is reported to have said: “Preach the Good News to all creatures – and if necessary use words”
This is echoed by Richard Templar in his book the Rules of Life. Rule 1 of his Rules for life is “Keep it under your hat”.
In introducing his rules for life he writes: You are about to discover ways to become positive, happier, more successful in everything you do. So there’s no need to say anything to anybody about it. Keep quiet. No-one likes a smart arse. First Rule: Keep it under your hat.
There may well be times when you want to talk to other people about what you’re doing because, quite naturally you want to share it with somebody.
Let them find out for themselves…. He says… if you tell them, they will shy away. And quite rightly so – we all hate being preached at. He says its a bit like when you give up smoking and suddenly find this new healthier way of living and you simply have to convert all your old smoking friends. Trouble is, they aren’t ready to quit yet.
So the first rule says Richard Templar is quite simply, don’t preach, propagate, try to convert, shout from the roof-tops or even mention this. Richard Templar suggests that no-one really wants to know, so keep quiet.
Perhaps Richard Templar’s approach is quite radical… but it should make all of us a little more cautious in trying to convert anyone too quickly. Let them first see something different within us and perhaps when they begin to ask why maybe that is the time to speak. Which is really what St Francis is saying when he said: Preach the Good News at all times, and only when necessary use words.
Finally, just in case we think Step 12 is the end of the program, it reminds us to continue practising everything we have learned.
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to
others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
The last phrase of the 12 steps: keep practising these principles in all your affairs.
In closing, Trevor Hudson writes: The Twelve Step Program contains wise principles that show us how to live well. If we put them into practice in all our affairs, we will experience tremendous benefits and blessings. We will experience a growing sense of sanity and serenity… We will begin to have small victories over those weaknesses that were once sabotaging our lives and relationships. We will move beyond being superficial in our relationships with others and with God. In the words of the last line of one of the short stories in the Big Book of AA: At last we will be at peace with ourselves. And with others. And with God. Amen.
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