Tag Archives: perfection

12 Steps of Christmas | Second Sunday in Christmas

Step Ten – “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong
promptly admitted it.”

Morning Prayer for this Second Sunday after Christmas can be found here.

Clothe yourselves with humility

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Col. 3:12-14)

In yesterday’s post on Step Nine I ran a little bit ahead of myself (a common symptom of addictive behavior) when I anticipated the focus of today’s Step Ten.

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? (88)

The habit of daily self-examination is one that dovetails nicely with the Daily Office, and this Step in particular has helped me appreciate the connection between recovery practices and the religious traditions I have known my whole life.

Confession of Sin

You’ll notice that the service of Morning Prayer that I linked to above does not include a Confession of Sin.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen. (BCP 78)

My knowledge of liturgical history helps me understand that the Confession of Sin is optional in the Daily Office; it can be omitted, for example, during festive seasons like Christmas.

However, my practice of Step Ten has taught me that the Confession is not optional; it’s the daily self-examination that helps keep me on the road of recovery.

The quick inventory is aimed at our daily ups and downs, especially those where people or new events throw us off balance and tempt us to make mistakes.

… in thought, word, and deed …

… by what we have done …

… and by what we have left undone …

… we are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

 

We need not be discouraged

What I have enjoyed learning as I practice recovery is how much the basic spiritual wisdom is the same.

In all these situations we need self-restraint, honest analysis of what is involved, a willingness to admit when the fault is ours, and an equal willingness to forgive when the fault is elsewhere. We need not be discouraged when we fall into the error of our old ways, for these disciplines are not easy. We shall look for progress, not for perfection. (91)

Daily we confess our sins, daily we resolve to do better, daily we admit that we cannot do it alone.

Daily we praise God and give thanks that we don’t have to.

Collect of the Day

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, you Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 214)

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12 Steps of Christmas | Wednesday

Step Six – “Were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.”

The service of Morning Prayer for this Wednesday after the First Sunday in Christmas can be found here.

Once you start, you just can’t stop

Having been granted a perfect release from alcoholism, why then shouldn’t we be able to achieve by the same means a perfect release from every other difficulty or defect? This is a riddle of our existence, the full answer to which may be only in the mind of God. (64)

As I wrote recently on the blog of Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church, I carry with me two talismans of recovery.

The first is a medallion celebrating my sobriety; the second is a bracelet that was one of the last things I bought without telling my wife. It arrived in the mail the day I recognized my alcoholism.

2015-11-03 08.50.53

I am fortunate that the desire to drink was lifted from me right away. What Step Six helped me understand — and what the bracelet helps me to remember — is how important it is to practice the principles of recovery in all areas of my life.

In truth, I’m working two recovery programs right now. The harder of the two, really, is controlling my spending — and understanding the compulsions that drive it.

Making a beginning

Step Six notes that, “As [alcoholics] are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession …. But most of our other difficulties don’t fall under such a category at all” (64).

The trouble with applying recovery principles to our other character defects is that we still have to do many of them in the course of normal living. We still need to eat, to buy things, to strive for success at work, to be in relationship with others, and so on.

Unlike stopping drinking, we can’t really stop everything else.

Two other problems arise at this point, as Step Six explains. First, we actually love some of our defects; and second, eliminating all of our character defects would be perfection, and no one’s capable of that.

Help me, but not yet

According to Wikipedia,

As a youth [St.] Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits. The need to gain their acceptance forced inexperienced boys like Augustine to seek or make up stories about sexual experiences.

It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

Step Six puts it slightly differently in a long passage, but the wisdom is the same. How do these observations tally with your experience?

What we must recognize now is that we exult in some of our defects. We really love them. Who, for example, doesn’t like to feel just a little superior to the next fellow, or even quite a lot superior? Isn’t it true that we like to let greed masquerade as ambition? ….

Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness.

When gluttony is less than ruinous, we have a milder word for that, too; we call it “taking our comfort.” We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less degree, everybody is infected with it …. And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful later on — only we call that “retiring.” Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables. (66-67)

Entering recovery reveals how deep our obsessions and compulsions run, how tightly woven they are into everything we do.

Aiming at perfection

Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall down,
but we will arise and stand upright. (Ps. 20:7-8)

Day after day we are given the opportunity to arise and stand upright — over and over again.

In my case, I get to practice watching my spending all the time.

I travel on business, which allows me to live like the jet set (all within the company’s expense policy, but still). I get to enjoy travel, eat out regularly, and earn hotel points and airline miles. I enjoy the perks of traveling very much.

Truth is, though, that because I’m in a different city nearly every day, I’d get along just fine with one suit. No one will really know if I wear the same shirt two days in a row, or the same tie. I tend to wear the same two pairs of shoes with my suit, so perhaps I don’t really need another pair.

This thinking runs entirely counter to my “clothes-horse” sensibilities, to my desire to have whatever I want.

Learning to recognize the spiraling thinking that leads me to buy something I don’t really need, that doesn’t make me any happier, is hard work. Every day it crops up.

But that same spiraling thinking causes me distress in all other areas of life, too, so the work of paying attention pays back dividends beyond just my checking account balance.

Step Six invites us not just into recovery from alcoholism but into a whole new way of living, upright and awake.

Seen in this light, Step Six is still difficult, but not at all impossible. The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning, and keep trying.

If we would gain any real advantage in the use of this Step on problems other than alcohol, we shall need to make a brand new venture into open-mindedness. We shall need to raise our eyes toward perfection, and be ready to walk in that direction. It will seldom matter how haltingly we walk. The only question will be “Are we ready?” (68)

A Collect for Guidance

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.