STEP 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
People talk about the third step and say, “I took my third step and turned my will and my life over to God.” Or explain it to someone saying, “When you take your third step you turn your will and your life over to God.” This simple switch in words changes the entire meaning of this step. This is proven by the amount of people who linger on step 3 for weeks and months at a time.
The third step does not say that we “turn our will and our lives over” in it. What is does say is that we made a decision to turn it over. Making a “decision” to turn something over and actually “turning it over” are two completely different things. When we look at the steps, it is clear to see that if the early AA’s had intended for us to “turn it over” in step three, they would have written, “turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” But they didn’t say that, they simply said “made a decision”.
I can sit in my house and “make a decision” to go to the mall all day long, but I will never make it to the mall just because I make a “decision” in my house. I have to follow that decision with “action.” So when we look at step three, we don’t need to stress out over the “action” of actually “turning over our will,” we simply need to look at this: “I have admitted that I am powerless over the chemicals, my life is unmanageable and left in my hands it only seems to get worse. Based on these facts, am I or am I not ready to “decide” to do it differently and begin relying upon something greater than myself to make my life better?” Step three is simply about making that “decision” and following it up with the action of a simple prayer (3rd step prayer).
The actual “turning over of the will” occurs through the “action steps” that follow. It is not until Step 12 that the Spiritual Awakening is referred to in the past tense. It says:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all of our affairs.”
It is not for me (my own ability) to bring about the spiritual awakening, or even the turning over of the will. It is the process of practicing spiritual principles (12 steps), and then both of these things occur on their own.
When practicing these principles, pride and ego should not enter in and cause me to think that “I” made myself better. Then, I miss out on the incredible miracle that has occurred in my life. Instead, I come to realize that my role was in exercising willingness, honesty and open-mindedness. “God” was the one that brought about the change. This then leads me to begin developing one of the most crucial attributes needed to sustain sobriety…humility.
© Rebecca Balko