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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: 12 Steps try living your life for others on a daily basis, in little and big ways, and watch what kinds of changes begin happening in your life. The proof is in the practice.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Before, I approached the question of God’s existence intellectually, rationally, philosophically. But I never gave a thought to how faith (...
Before, I approached the question of God’s existence intellectually, rationally, philosophically. But I never gave a thought to how faith (or a lack thereof) impacted my life. I never gave a thought to the emotional and spiritual consequences of my beliefs. Never gave a thought to how my beliefs affected my actions on a daily basis, and particularly in difficult times.

The idea in the First Step is that I’m powerless over some things in my life. This idea is repeated in the Serenity Prayer: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.” This realization can actually cause me to alter my behavior in times of turmoil.

Anyone can hit bottom, not just alcoholics. When I find myself in a crisis situation, for whatever reason, questions swirl around my head: Why is this happening to me? Is this something beyond my control? Did I get myself into this situation? What can I do to get out of this jam?

It’s easy to point fingers, blame others, blame it on sore luck. That way I don’t have to admit fault. That way I can go on living the way I have been. The Fourth Step says we should make a fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves, and I stress the word “fearless.” We’re not making a grocery list. We’re peeling back our protective armor and revealing the worst, the ugliest aspects of ourselves. In Step Five, we tell another person all these horrible things about ourselves. Ouch! This is painful stuff, and some people would much prefer to live out their entire lives in denial, keep this stuff locked away their entire lives rather than do this work. So why do it? Simple: I come to know myself, and by having intimate knowledge of my own weaknesses, I become infinitely stronger. Because when these character defects rear their ugly heads (as they often do in difficult situations), I will recognize them and work to channel them into behavior that is positive and constructive.

I must pause for a moment and ask the question: Are we still talking about God? Do I need to believe in a Higher Power in order to be honest with myself? Dr. Ernest Kurtz might say I only need to realize that I’m not God. At the heart of all my problems is pride, egotism, selfishness, self importance, self-centeredness. In short, the problem is that I’m obsessed with myself. So I need to draw on something other than myself to fix it. But does that something have to be God?
I’m still an agnostic of sorts. I still believe that God cannot be known, but I also believe there is Something which cannot be known. Before, I was comfortable just shrugging my shoulders. You might even have caught me gloating over the fact that I didn’t know and, furthermore, nobody else did either, so I was gonna be damned if anybody was gonna give me a lesson on the unknowable. Not knowing was my religion, and though I claimed to never stop asking questions, I was basically set in my ways. I had stopped searching.

Now I believe I can get closer to God, even if I can never touch Her. Even if I can’t define or describe God, I can contemplate the ways that others have imagined: The Source, Love, Truth, Life, The Infinite. Indeed, the ways in which the human mind has imagined God are infinite. Some say God is Everything. For me, experiencing God’s grace means seeing the beauty in everything and finding the Good in every situation. The word for God in the Lakota tribe is Wakan Tanka, which sometimes translates as “Great Mystery.” Perhaps the Lakotas are agnostics like me.

For the atheist who believes in Science, we might imagine God as Nature. A scientist believes in the Laws of Nature: physics, chemistry, biology, etc. We are bound by these Laws. I can’t fly because of gravity, but if I have an intimate knowledge of gravity, I can build a machine that flies. Once, I nearly drowned in the ocean, because I didn’t understand currents. The ocean doesn’t care if I drown. It is up to me to learn about currents before I go swimming in the ocean. Now let’s look at the Christian Bible. God handed the Ten Commandments down to Moses. These are laws by which we live. As children, we learned not to harm others. We were taught that it was bad and we would be punished. What if we weren’t caught? Would God eventually punish us for our crimes? Perhaps God is like the ocean – doesn’t care if we sink or swim. Maybe there are simply consequences to sinning which are undeniable. Of course, the consequences aren’t immediate. If they were, we would all have learned very quickly not to sin. But the consequences come very slowly, over time. These consequences aren’t always simply punishment for breaking Commandments. In the Seven Deadly Sins we find the root causes for breaking Commandments. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride eat away at us little by little, like a disease. So it’s not so much that God will punish us for our sins. We actually punish ourselves.

Alcoholics Anonymous goes in the opposite direction by teaching us virtues like humility, gratitude, honesty, unselfishness, forgiveness, acceptance, love of our fellows. We are asked to look beyond ourselves and see how our actions affect others.

The Third Step asks us to make an extremely important decision: to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. For the atheist, this can be interpreted simply as living for others, living for anything or anyone but oneself. This only has meaning today, right now. Each moment of the day, I can stop and ask myself what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Am I writing this reflection for the benefit of my family, my community, my planet? Or am I just indulging myself?

The simple man’s spirituality: out of self and into others. If I told you this was the Law of God, you’d probably roll your eyes at me. But if I tell you that you’ll only receive as much love as you give, it might be more palatable. It doesn’t matter if you believe this is God’s Law? It doesn’t even matter if you believe in any sort of God. Just try living your life for others on a daily basis, in little and big ways, and watch what kinds of changes begin happening in your life. The proof is in the practice.

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