When it mentions “complete defeat” on page 21 of AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, it means complete.

I’m tempted to ask, what part of “complete” don’t we understand? Complete means 100%. Not 98 or even 99 percent defeated. Complete defeat. Total, absolute—those are synonyms given in the dictionary for “complete.”

Total, absolute defeat.

Let’s check the word “defeat.” Maybe there’s some part of that word we don’t understand. “Frustration by nullification.” Hmmm. “Nullification”? Let’s see . . . “null” means “equal to zero,” “amounting to nothing.” Okay, now we’re beginning to come full-circle to King Benjamin’s humiliating interpretation of our condition as “nothingness” (Mosiah 4:5).


A few sentences later on page 21, we find the words “absolute humiliation.” I am tempted, again, to ask what part of “absolute” don’t we understand?

Maybe it would be a good exercise for us to look up “humiliation.” Humiliation: embarrassment, mortification, disgrace, shame, public shame, degrade, brand, tarnish, forfeit one’s good reputation, fall from one’s high estate, . . .

What does it mean to be humble enough to endure “absolute humiliation”?

It means to be willing to not manipulate the truth in any way—not to dress it up or down, not to hedge on it, or hide it. It means giving up any attempt to manage our image before others—to imply or pretend anything, to hide anything.

I feel the witness to my mind and heart (at least for myself) that it means to let go of secrecy, to no longer regret the past in the sense of wanting to hide it. It is the willingness to tell our own story truthfully, willing to hold nothing back, if and when the Spirit of the Lord calls us to tell it. It is a willingness to say, “This is what I was like, this is what happened and this is what I [my life] is like now.” It is being willing to my life—past, present and future—in the hands of God by telling the truth at all times and in all things and in all places.

How paradoxical it is that “powerlessness” becomes the “firm bedrock” upon which true living can begin. In other words, the slippery slope back into our addiction is the aggrandizement (to make something or someone appear great) of the self in all its forms: self-pity, self-will, self-sufficiency, self . . . (I looked up “self” in the dictionary and found nearly three and a half pages of self- . . . words!!) Self-serving, self-appointed, self-absorption, self-centered, self-assurance, self-content, self-control, self-defense, self-determination, self-esteem, self-fulfillment . . . and on and on and on, . . .and on. You get the picture. Or at least I hope I am getting it, because I spend a heck of a lot of time on that slippery slope of self-something.

~Colleen H.

©2012 Hearthaven Publishing. All rights reserved.

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