“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM.”
1. You are now going to formally go through the Third Step by following the "clear-cut directions" in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book.
2. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 27, starting in the second paragraph after the Twelve Steps, it says:
"Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after, have been designed to sell you three pertinent ideas:
(a) That you are alcoholic and cannot manage your own life.
(b) That probably no human power can relieve your alcoholism.
(c) That God can and will."
3. In other words, in Part 1 of R.A.'s Step Presentation you read and discussed the chapters "More About Alcoholism," "We Agnostics," and "Bill's Story." You have also read the short stories that are in these chapters.
4. You should now understand and be convinced of the three ideas in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) above.
5. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 27, in the third paragraph it says:
"If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away!"
6. If you are not convinced of these three ideas, the pioneers suggest that you re-read the Big Book up to this point, or just give up.
7. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 27, in the fourth paragraph it says:
"If you are convinced, you are now at step three, which is that you make a decision to turn your will and your life over to God as you understand Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?"
8. The pioneers say that if you are convinced of these three ideas, you are ready to actually take the Third Step.
9. You have already read the discussion of Step Three in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. You have even read the Third Step Prayer. So, now what else do you need to do?
10. You are now going to formally go through the Third Step. This means that you will formally make your decision to turn your will and your life over to God, as you now understand Him.
11. It may surprise you to learn that there is more to formally going through this step than simply saying a few words.
12. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 40, in the fourth paragraph it says:
"Faith without works is dead."
13. Just making a verbal decision is not enough. A decision needs to be followed by actions. It is these actions that will show that you are serious about your decision.
14. Therefore, the Third Step is taken in two stages. The first stage is simply to make a decision to turn our will and life over to the care of God, as we now understand Him.
15. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 28, the next to last paragraph says:
“It is very desirable that you make your decision with an understanding person. It may be your wife, your best friend, your spiritual adviser, but remember it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand. You must decide this for yourself. The wording of your decision is, of course, quite optional so long as you express the idea, voicing it without reservation. This decision is only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect sometimes a very great one, will be felt at once.”
16. Please notice that it says that your "decision is only a beginning."
17. There is a big difference between making a decision, and then taking the actions needed to carry out that decision. Without taking an action, a decision has very little value.
18. Therefore, the second stage of formally going through the Third Step will be to take the actions that show you are serious about turning your will and your life over to the care of God, as you now understand Him.
19. We demonstrate our decision by working the rest of the steps.
20. It is the process of working ALL Twelve Steps that produces an understanding of God. Once we have an understanding of God, and trust God, it is easier to take the action of unreservedly turning our will and our life over to His care.
21. Some people can say they understand God and can turn their lives and their wills over to God right now. However, many others don't understand God at this point. This is okay.
22. It is hard to understand why there's tragedy in the world, why there's pain, and suffering. We suggest that someone just try to be willing to recognize that THEY can't control the world. They haven't been able to up to this point, and they will not be able to after this point.
23. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"The simple recognition that I am not in charge, and yet there is day and night, there is sunshine, and rain, things fall down instead of up, allowed me to see that there does seem to be a cosmic order to things. I made a decision to turn my life over to the care and direction of a Higher Power, because other people told me that this had worked for them. I began to take the actions to demonstrate this decision for the same reason.
"If God isn't there, if I get to heaven, and they say, ‘Fooled ya! No God!' what difference does it make now? It doesn't make a difference if ACTING AS IF there is a God produces as tangible a result as if there actually is a God."
24. However, in order to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of an all-powerful Creator, we need to understand a God we can trust.
25. Another one of R.A.'s members shares how he came to understand a God he could trust:
"I believe that God gave me freewill so that I could make a rational, informed, intelligent decision to give my self-will back to Him. I believe that once I have done that, I cannot take my self-will back in a mere instant, by a snap of my fingers. To take my self-will back would require a complete lapse of faith, trust and program, over an extended period of time.
"To make this clear I use this story. Picture if you will a person so depressed that he's suicidal. One day, while feeling slightly better, he goes to visit a trusted friend. He takes along the gun he had been contemplating using on himself and asks this friend to please take his gun and hold on to it.
"He implores his friend not to give the gun back to him, no matter how much he might beg or plead, no matter what excuse he might come up with.
"What kind of friend, who, when asked for that gun would just hand it back?
"How could anyone trust a friend like that?
"When I ask God to relieve me of the bondage of self, to remove my self-will, I assume that God is not going to give it back to me on a mere whim. I trust that God will not let me hurt myself."
26. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 39 in the first paragraph it says:
"It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on your laurels. You are headed for trouble if you do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve. Every day is a day when you have to carry the vision of God’s will into all of your activities. 'How can I best serve Thee—Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thoughts which must go with you constantly. You can exercise your will power along this line all you wish. It is the proper use of the will."
27. The purpose of these steps is to bring our will into accordance with whatever God's will might happen to be. That does not mean we necessarily have to LIKE it. What it does mean is that we need to work at accepting and trusting whatever His will might be.
28. We needed to recognize that God does not necessarily do things our way. He does not have to follow our good orderly directions. God is NOT our servant. He is not responsible for doing things our way.
29. This is often where the question is asked: “How do I know what God's will is, or isn't?”
30. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 6, in the seventh paragraph, Bill Wilson, the co-founder of A.A., shares:
“I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. I was to sit quietly when in doubt asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be in great measure.”
31. In A.A. Comes of Age, on page 63, Bill Wilson also says:
“I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, 'So this is the God of the preachers!' A great peace stole over me and I thought, 'No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world.' ”
32. One of R.A.'s members shares an incident that illustrates these principles:
"A woman pulled up to a stop sign, and had a decision to make. If she made a left turn, she would go to a fantastic party; a right turn would take her home for some much needed rest. She sat there quite a while, praying for an answer to this problem. God didn't answer her, so she made a right turn and went home.
"She didn't get an answer in a way that she could accept: a voice, a burning bush, or a flaming arrow pointing the way. So she didn't accept the answer that she did get."
33. When we pray “Thy will be done,” we always know the answer by what happens. If it were meant to turn out differently, it WOULD have turned out differently. The answer was that she made a right turn and went home.
34. Whatever His goal for us is, we need to work at accepting it, and accepting how He is going to do it for us. Our attempts to do things our own way never worked. So we finally became willing to give up.
35. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 30, in the bottom paragraph, starting with the fourth sentence, it says:
“Self-reliance was good as 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 you are now to go on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. You are to trust infinite God rather than your finite self. You are in the world to play the role [He] assigns. Just to the extent that you do as you think He would have you, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable you to match calamity with serenity.”
36. One of R.A.'s members shares how he came to realize that dependence upon God isn't the dependence of a slave:
"I could not possibly do what I now do, if I didn't depend upon God to prevent me from hurting myself. I couldn't do what I now do with my life, if I didn't trust and depend upon God, if I wasn't sure that the outcome was going to be God's will, not my own.
"I now understand that God is good, kind, concerned, and trustworthy. That's why I am SURE the outcome of each situation will eventually be okay. My dependence on God is where I get my freedom and my strength. I know that I can't depend upon myself.
"The Serenity Prayer says: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.' One of the clichés of program is the statement: 'I can't change people, places or things.' ‘I can't change anybody, any place, or anything.' What else is left?
"The Serenity Prayer also says: ‘the courage to change the things I can.'
"I believe what is left is myself—my willingness, and my attitude of acceptance. I believe that it takes more courage to let God change those, than to try to change other people, places or things.
"The next line of the Serenity Prayer says: ‘And the wisdom to know the difference.' I now KNOW that I can't change people, places and things. Prayer and the Twelve Steps can change my willingness and my attitudes.
"For me, the key line of the Serenity Prayer is the last line. It says ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.' "
37. That's always going to be the case. God has the final word. It's always going to be His will, not ours. What we do, how we feel, everything that happens during a day, is going to be His will, not ours.
38. R.A.'s experience is that when we trust God and depend upon Him, that trust gives us freedom of action.
39. Please notice the "clear-cut directions" in this next quote. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 28, starting with the third full paragraph, it says:
“This is the how and why of it. First of all, quit playing God yourself. It doesn't work. Next, decide that hereafter in this drama of life, God is going to [be] your Director. He is the Principal; you are to be His agent. He is the Father, and you are His child. Get that simple relationship straight. Most good ideas are simple and this concept is to be the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which you will pass to freedom.
40. Now notice the "Third Step Promises" that are in the following paragraph. They say that:
"When you sincerely take such a position, all sorts of remarkable things follow. You have a new Employer. Being all powerful, He must necessarily provide what you need, if you keep close to Him and perform His work well. Established on such a footing you become less and less interested in yourself, your little plans and designs. More and more you become interested in seeing what you can contribute to life. As you feel new power flow in, as you enjoy peace of mind, as you discover you can face life successfully, as you become conscious of His presence, you begin to lose your fear of today, tomorrow, or the hereafter. You will have been reborn.”
41. One of R.A.'s members shares that she starts her day with a very simple prayer. She says:
"I ask God to please direct and guide me through the day, to relieve me of the bondage of self, to grant me knowledge of His will for the day, and the power to carry that out. Since I have come to trust Him, I now believe that everything I do, say, and feel is going to be directed, guided, and relieved of the bondage of self. My experiences over the years have proved that to be true. Since I have had that trust, I no longer sit there debating, “Is this my will or is this God's will?”
"I recognize that taking back my self-will, would require an act of self-will. I believe I have taken this Third Step, in which I asked to be relieved of the bondage of self, my self-will. I reaffirm this every day with prayer. Therefore, I believe that I don't have enough self-will left to take back my self-will. When I do things that I'm unhappy with, I now have to believe that God is still directing and guiding me. I have to believe that He is still in charge. I am no longer compelled to hurt others or myself. I trust that God is in charge. My entire life is under His direction and control, because I have humbly requested it to be. This dependence upon God frees me."
42. Another one of R.A.'s members shares that for her, the term “self-will” doesn't do enough to clarify what is meant by “will.”
"I couldn't understand exactly what I needed to do in the Third Step. Then one day, as I was reading, “How it Works” from the Big Book, I got to the part that says, “Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.” Then I realized that letting go of my old ideas is what is needed to turn over my will."
43. This step calls for the same mental process as the first two: an attitude change, demonstrated by a willingness to go from saying, “No, never!” to “yes” or “maybe.”
44. In other words, as we've previously read in the 12 & 12:
“This I cannot do today, perhaps, but I can stop crying out, ‘No, never!'”
45. Please open R.A.'s Step Presentation Workbook to page 16. Please look at the box labeled Step Three on R.A.'S STEP WORKSHEET “A.”
46. The first part of this step is to make a decision to turn your will, your freewill, over to the care of God, as you NOW understand Him.
a. Look at your worksheet on page 16 in R.A.'s Step Presentation Workbook, if you are now willing to make this decision, then circle “yes.”
b. If not now, can you picture, at some point, even if it's five or ten years from now, being exasperated enough, fed up enough, to make this decision? Then circle “maybe.”
c. If you will never be willing to even try to make a decision to turn over your will, including control of your problems and behaviors, to the care of a Power greater than yourself, then circle “no.”
47. The second part of this step calls for a decision to turn your entire life over to the care of a Power greater than yourself.
a. If you are now willing to make the decision to turn control of your entire life over to the care of a Power greater than yourself, circle “yes.”
b. If you can at some point, because of the example of the people in the program, recognize that you might become willing to do this, then circle “maybe.”
c. If you're convinced that you are totally self-sufficient, and can manage your own life, if you will never be willing to even try to make a decision to turn your life—your problems and behaviors, over to the care of a Power greater than yourself, then circle “no.”
48. If you're circling “no,” can you, at some point, accept that this program, in order for it to work, needs for us to let go of demanding and expecting what we want, when we want it and how we want it? We need to let go of telling God what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
49. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 26, in the third full paragraph, the last sentence says:
“Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.”
50. Maybe at some point you'll be willing to accept that you CAN say “maybe,” if not “yes,” to making a decision to try to let go.
51. Can you believe, because of R.A. experiences, because the pioneers of the program shared their experiences in the Big Book that at some point, you may be willing to come to an understanding of God and be willing to turn your life and your will over to Him? If you can circle “yes” or “maybe,” please do.
52. If you still have to circle “no,” please recognize that at some point, you may need to circle “yes,” or “maybe,” because it is going to help save your life. Please continue on with R.A.'s Step Presentation, and maybe at some point, the steps themselves will produce an understanding of a God or a Higher Power that works for you.
53. Turning our will and our life over to the care of something we don't see or trust is difficult for most people to do.
54. One of R.A.'s members uses the analogy of the babysitter. They share:
“Suppose that your mother comes to you and says, 'Let's go out and have a great time. I'm going to bring you the most fantastic babysitter in the world. Give her the kids and the keys. We're going to go out for the day.' When the babysitter arrives, you see that the babysitter is wearing a mask. In all probability, no matter how much your mother reassures you that this babysitter is the most fantastic babysitter in the world, you probably are not going to leave your children and your home entrusted to somebody wearing a mask!”
55. Having a concept of God that makes sense is the essential part of this step. As the result of going through and working all the steps, this R.A. member developed an understanding of God, which relieved his reservations, and removed the mask.
56. Another one of R.A.'s members shares how this worked for him. He says:
"I had to take the first three steps backwards. I took the Third Step first. I had to first understand that God is all-powerful, all loving and all caring. I needed to trust that God is willing to be concerned with all the mundane, everyday details of my life. I had to believe that God has the power to do, and would do for me, all the things I could never do for myself. Then I was able to take the Third Step and make a decision to turn my will, my life, my problems and my behaviors over to God.
"Then, once I had turned my will and my life over to God, only then did I recognize that my behavior had been insane. I could see that people did not do the things I had done with food, alcohol, drugs, attitudes, and emotions if they were sane.
"So once I recognized my insanity, I was able to come to believe that if God had the ability to control my problems and behaviors, God certainly could restore me to sanity. I took the Second Step.
"There's an expression in science that 'nature abhors a vacuum.' It was only after I had a Higher Power I understood, a Higher Power who was all-powerful enough to restore me to sanity, that I could become willing to let go, and admit that I was 100 percent powerless. I wasn't letting go into a vacuum anymore. There was something there that not only had the capability, but the desire, to take over control of my problems, my behaviors, and my life. That was when I really took the First Step.
"I developed such a total trust in God that I no longer doubt what I'm going to do, when, where, or how I'm going to do it. I know that God takes care of me; God is concerned and I can trust God."
57. So, for this R.A. member, the first three steps were taken backwards.
58. In A.A. Comes of Age, on page 160, in the next to last paragraph, the program, in the fall of 1938, was presented in six steps:
“1. We admitted that we were licked, that we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We made a moral inventory of our defects or sins.
3. We confessed or shared our shortcomings with another person in confidence.
4. We made restitution to all those we had harmed by our drinking.
5. We tried to help other alcoholics, with no thought of reward in money or prestige.
6. We prayed to whatever God we thought there was for power to practice these precepts.”
59. Most people, familiar with program, would never consider telling a newcomer not to work the Eleventh Step, and not to pray, and meditate, until after the first Ten Steps had been completed.
60. The way the program was originally presented; the last step was to pray to God for the power to practice the precepts in the other steps.
61. The Twelve Steps are an entity, Each step is interwoven with all of the others. They are interrelated and interdependent.
62. When we recognize this simple fact, we begin to get a clear overall view. The program was, and is, to be presented as an entire program of recovery.
63. As each step is worked, our understanding of the other steps deepens. As our understanding of each step deepens, it heightens our awareness of, and experience with, all the other steps.
64. Some of you may leave here, after R.A.'s Step Presentation and say, “That was all well and good, but I don't feel much different; I really haven't had a great spiritual awakening. Some of you may even still be obsessive and compulsive.
65. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"I needed to understand that the program was a package deal; that the program consists of all Twelve Steps. It had never occurred to me, whenever I was following a recipe, to expect the end result when I had only put in three of the twelve ingredients. And yet, when I came into program, I somehow thought that simply taking the first three steps would produce the end result."
66. It doesn't work that way. It takes all of the steps to produce all of the results.
67. When we are willing to experiment with the concept of an Intelligent Creator, a Spirit of the Universe who is interested in us when we want Him enough, we begin to get results. These results cause us to begin to trust God. Then we can begin to turn our will and our life over to Him. That is one of the end results of this process. It's not a prerequisite.
68. All we ask is that you keep an open mind. That you take the actions called for in these books, so you can then see what the result is.
69. If it works, you can call the experiment a success. If it doesn't work, you can then go on to something else. R.A.'s experience is that it will work if you work it.
70. The program still exists today because the "clear-cut directions" the pioneers wrote in the Big Book worked. The program has continued to grow because after all these years, working the Twelve Steps still continues to produce results.
71. Some people complain that the program and the Big Book are dated and sexist.
72. If someone happens to have a recipe that belonged to their grandmother, and if they go to the store, buy the same ingredients called for in the recipe, and they follow the instructions in that recipe, they will get the same result their grandmother got, even if it is a very old recipe.
73. By going on and working the other steps, while making a persistent effort at this one, someone can begin to have a concept of God that works for them.
74. When we begin to trust God, we can then begin to turn our will and our life over to Him.
75. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book personal stories, on the Personal Stories page 6, the last two paragraphs of THE DOCTOR'S NIGHTMARE say:
“If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you. If you still think you are strong enough to beat the game, that is your affair. But if you really and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good and all, and sincerely feel that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It never fails, if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the habit of showing when getting another drink.
“Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”
76. If you are reading or listening to this with other people, would those who desire to do so, please join hands. Then repeat after me, one line at a time, the Third Step prayer, from page 28 of R.A.'s Multilith Big Book:
“God, I offer myself to Thee—
to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them
may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power,
and Thy Way of Life.
may I do Thy will always!”
77. On page 28, the last sentence of the next paragraph says:
“This decision is only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, will be felt at once.”
78. The Third Step was designed to only be a beginning. Some people get hung up at this point because they can't literally turn their will and their life over to the care and direction of God as they DON'T understand Him.
79. It is the process of going through the remaining steps that produces the understanding. This is the action called for in the Third Step.
80. The decision to try to turn our will and our life over is demonstrated by going through the rest of the Twelve Steps.
81. This program was designed to remove any roadblocks.
82. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"It was years before I saw the word “decision” in the Third Step, and read it as a decision rather than as an action. I recognized that I didn't have to literally turn my will and my life over to God at this point. I simply had to make a decision to turn my will and my life over to God."
83. This R.A. member demonstrated his decision by going through the rest of the steps. And the process of going through the rest of the steps led to his having an understanding of a Higher Power to whom he COULD literally turn his will and his life over.
84. Next, we suggest that you keep following Dr. Bob's example, and, if possible, immediately continue on by formally going through Step Four.
Please use R.A.'s Questions and Answers Forum to ask any questions or make any comments about any of this.