Steps Six & Seven – A Meditation

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The difference in the content of the presentations of these two Steps – as shown in the Big Book and within the 12&12 – is so stark, so significant, and so seriously dissimilar as to suggest a different author for each viewpoint. And indeed, there were.

Of the general period during which the Big Book was written, Bill W. clearly stated “I soon found I was no author, I was only an umpire. I shipped the chapters to Akron where they were passed around for comments and shipped back to New York where we discussed them in the New York meeting. “AND THE BRAWLS OVER WHAT WAS TO GO INTO THE BOOK WERE SOMETHING TERRIFIC.” (Note: The Three Legacies of A.A. by Bill W. – St. Louis MO. AA Convention – 1955.)

As for the book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”, Bill W. is indeed referred to as the author. The Editor of content and context however, was The Rev. John C. Ford S. J. – a Jesuit Priest, Moral Theologian, Yale Professor, graduate/patient of Dr. Silkworth at Towns Lake Hospital (as was Bill W.) and 40 year member of A.A. His religious life was based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Jesuits – whose view of spiritual development was very like the progression that became the 12 Steps of A.A. Excepting however, being based on the concept of the use of one’s personal will power – reinforced with God’s grace – to fight against SIN.

And therein lies the difference. It is in the book 12&12 that Bill W. and John F. reintroduce the concept of sin to the program of A.A. See pages 31 (Sins of Others), page 50 (7 Deadly Sins) and page 66 (Character Defects = Sins). Now it is true that the original Oxford Movement was based on the concept of Sin as the causative factor in all aberrant and deviant behavior. A.A. and the Big Book however, simply ignored any such reasons for our addictive actions, refused to label us “sinners” and makes NO mention of sin. NONE.

In the Big Book, Step Six requires only a “willingness”. Seven is dealt with as simply as the prayer suggests. “I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.” This seems adequately clear – there is no need to thrash about for the rest of our lives worrying about our reaction to the sinfulness of our natures. To be Good – do Good.

Is it possible therefore that we as a group were closer to the source of the Power who’s direction we seek when we were just starting out in the 1930s? When we were “scarcely 100 in number”? Could the simplicity of Steps Six and Seven, as written in the Big Book, be a more accurate reflection of God’s will for us than the convoluted soul searching and guilt producing assessment and reassessment of “working” on our defects as recommended by Bill’s presentation in 1952.

Was Bill influenced to change: By his editor’s religious agenda?, By the loss of Dr. Bob in 1950 and his influence and advice to “keep it simple”?, by his own depressive state which caused him to seek psych counseling?, by the sheer pressure of a program grown from 100 at the time of the Big Book’s publishing to over 100,000 by the time the 12&12 was released in 1952?

By Terry W. – A member of AA

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.