We’re at the beginning of the final three steps of the twelve-step program and this step says
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Before I move on to a prayer that we can use for this, there is something I want to break down quickly.
How the Twelve Steps Group Together
The chart I made (see below) shows how the twelve steps are grouped together and the purpose of each group of steps. From this, we see that the last three steps are about the way forward.
When we start the tenth step then we are about to embark on a path of positive action in our daily lives.
The Twelve and Twelve book says,
As we work the first nine Steps, we prepare ourselves for the adventure of a new life. But when we approach Step Ten we commence to put our A.A. way of living to practical use, day by day, in fair weather or foul. Then comes the acid test: can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance, and live to good purpose under all conditions? (Pg. 88)
A good place to start a new step is with prayer and one exists for this step as well as the other steps:
My Higher Power, My daily prayer is to best serve you,
I pray I may continue to grow in understanding & effectiveness;
Help me to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear;
Help me to be willing to have You remove them at once;
I must be willing to discuss them with someone immediately;
I will make amends quickly if I have harmed anyone;
And then I will turn my thoughts toward helping someone else;
Please help me to remember to practice love and tolerance of others (http://friendsofbillw.net/twelve_step_prayers)
There is a lot to look at here.
Remember that if we were painstaking about step nine, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous promises ”a new freedom and a new happiness”. Now with that promise in hand, we move on to acknowledge that certain practices need to continue as we start to live in a new way.
Let’s break the prayer down.
My Higher Power, My daily prayer is to best serve you
Approaching our Higher Power needs to be done on a daily basis. This invokes step eleven which is the next step:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
That is how we move to a higher plane, through the spiritual progress we make by trying to live in God’s world and not the one we used to inhabit.
I pray I may continue to grow in understanding & effectiveness
We need to bring all our mental faculties to bear an understanding of our condition, seeking knowledge of his will, and avoiding the bondage of self. This dedication to the self is one of the things that we focused on our own selfish ends.
It kept us fixated on self-seeking motives. It messed up personal relationships. I don’t think that from the age of 15 to 39 that there wasn’t a family member that I didn’t hurt because of my drinking. This is what I want to avoid here.
In praying for understanding, we pray for understanding three things. These are:
Gods’ will for us
Understanding our condition
When we pray for effectiveness, we pray to be effective at:
Following our Higher Power’s plan
At “carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic”
This is continuous because growth never stops. It can’t.
Help me to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear
The fearless moral inventory becomes a part of our daily lives so we can take stock of our emotional disturbances. It is a daily inventory. It can form part of your morning meditation or as it is for me, a nightly reflection. It can also be appropriate to perform daily spot check inventories.
This inventory needs to deal with everything not just the four items in line. It needs to include things like anger, self-pity, and envy as well. This revisiting of the fourth step is the first thing we need to do to keep a clean house.
Help me to be willing to have You remove them at once
Immediately we see any problems, we should revert to step six and ask that God remove the defect of character that we have uncovered.
The previous line mentions selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. These, if they are not handed over to God, are dangerous to sobriety.
In the early days of my efforts at sobriety, harboring resentment led to me falling off the wagon. Years ago, I had a fight with my wife and my intuitive thought was to hurt her in the worst way I could and so I went off to a bar and had a few drinks. I should have dealt with the problem immediately and not let it fester. Things like anger, resentment, and envy fester and become toxic very quickly.
I must be willing to discuss them with someone immediately
Remember the exact nature of our wrongs. Here we visit step five again and constantly seek to remove every defect of character. Defects of character are a fact of my life, and my sponsor is not always available. It is always good to have a couple of people you are close to that you can call and tell what you need to express.
Like the next portion of this prayer, don’t put off this part of the activity. Delays breed concern which escalates to fear and that triggers further postponement. Deal with the issues as soon as you can.
Remember the saying, “Better a phone call than a drink.”
I will make amends quickly if I have harmed anyone
We immediately accept the personal consequences of our actions and do not avoid personal responsibility. This, of course, is step 9 returning where we made direct amends to those we had harmed. If we don’t then fear builds up and reluctance to approach those we have harmed increases as in our head we amplify the imagined confrontation. Often the response will be a casual dismissal and it blows over without incident.
For most of my life before sobriety, I studiously avoided the specific matters that I had been responsible for, and where possible I ignored such people as I had hurt. Going back to the story I started earlier when I went drinking to spite My wife, something happened which was remarkable. After I had drunk about six beers in forty minutes, I went home to explain what I had done and why and to apologize.
That was the 10th of February 2000 – the day of my last drink. It was the day I realized that somehow the spiritual principles embedded in the AA and that each AA meeting I had attended was having an effect.
And then I will turn my thoughts toward helping someone else
And here we reference Step 12. What is “the way of my usefulness” should be a constant question as we come into contact with those less fortunate than ourselves.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
We follow a new way now. Back at step one, we started a spiritual journey and now we start to show the effects of the spiritual experience as we try to retain a fit spiritual condition. As we grow in this path of sobriety, we should want to reach out in maximum helpfulness and help others away from their questionable situation and into a new position as a child of God who can keep them sober.
I spent so much time as a drink looking after myself that I still sometimes feel my addiction was not to alcohol, but myself. The point is I need to look past myself to ensure I stay sober.
Please help me to remember to practice love and tolerance of others
In all things, we need to practice this and seek a spirit of forgiveness. If you’re like me, then our own house constantly needs to be cleaned and I hope that others will be tolerant of me and my character defects. All I can do is extend my tolerance to others.
There is a lovely prayer called the Prayer of Saint Francis. Two lines feel so appropriate right here:
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
This is what we need to become. Do you remember how turbulent life was when we were still drinking and how much we needed peace? How amazing it is to be able to offer the blessing of peace that we sought to someone else.
One thing to remember is at times we will lose our tempers and be intolerant. This is why we recycle steps 4 through 6 but remember none of us are perfect.
When we make mistakes, we need to deal with them and move on.
As the Big Book says, do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.
Ignore the sense of hopelessness and do the right thing.
There is one final part to the little story I have told in this post. I said that I realized after I went home and admitted to my wife why I had gone drinking, that I realized that all the meetings I had gone to had affected me. Strictly, this isn’t true. It was the people I met in those meetings that affected me. Their love, tolerance, and kindness showed me what I could become, and I wanted that.
Summing it Up
This step and this prayer show how the steps constantly reference each other. This article is about the tenth step, but it includes steps four, five, six, nine, eleven, and twelve. That is half of the entire twelve-step program that this single prayer refers to.
I want to end with a bit more of the Prayer of Saint Francis. For me to focus on what these lines say is to follow the right thought.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive.
Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous