Every Step puzzled me at first. I might think I understood a given Step, then my sponsor or the literature would offer an important insight and I realized I didn’t understand it very well at all. The same was true when I looked up words in the Webster’s Dictionary that was published back when Bill wrote the Twelve Steps. I was working to illustrate one word from each of the Steps and came across this Step: “Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” It is a sentence with multiple parts, but all of them turn upon the word “admit”. So I looked up that word in the 1934 dictionary and found a very short definition: “
Admit v. To suffer to enter.”
I believe in this case, the word “suffer” meant “go to the trouble”, rather than to endure some type of physical pain. If I am correct, then “admit” means “to go to the trouble to enter”. This was not good news for me, since I wanted to turn each definition into an illustration. When woven directly into Step 5, it didn’t make much sense: “Went to the trouble to enter to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” The fit appeared rather awkward. I wanted every detail to fit. I was tempted to go searching for alternate definitions. But I stood by my earlier decision to always use the first definition in the dictionary. Maybe I am eccentric that way.
I had it on good authority (Joe and Charlie’s “The Big Book Comes Alive”) that Bill Wilson was extremely careful in choosing his words. I doubted Bill would choose a word when the first definition of that word did not contain his intended meaning. Maybe I’m wrong, but for my little project, I stood by my decision. Now, I could see my decision had painted me into a corner. Prayer and meditation followed. In abundance.
Then, a story (by Franz Kafka) came floating into my mind. Since I ask God to guide my thinking, intuition, and decisions, I gave the story considerable attention. In that fable, a traveler had sat outside a great door waiting to be admitted by a guard. Each time he asked permission to enter, the guard firmly refused. Time passed, but the guard’s answer never changed. More time and requests passed, but the guard never varied in his absolute refusals. The man waited for permission until he became deathly weak. Eventually the physical ordeal drove him irreversibly toward death. Too weak to argue or stand anymore, he feebly asked the guard why he was never permitted to enter through the door.
The guard said something like, “Oh, I would have allowed you to enter freely at any time. But it is my job to reply to any spoken REQUEST for permission with the word ‘no’.” In this fable about futility, the man died in bitter sorrow. Somehow, that story melded with my story of recovery. After taking a long time to finish my Step 4 inventory, I made dozens of excuses for not beginning Step 5.
The primary reason was because I didn’t see the point. So what if I read my inventory to my sponsor? Reading these painful facts would not change them. And as for admitting to God and myself, well, I thought that both parties were already aware of the contents of my Step 4 inventory. Every time I wanted to bring it up with my sponsor, a voice inside me would refuse permission. “Don’t waste his time. He has other sponsees who have REAL problems” was my inner guard’s insistent reply. It startled me one day when my sponsor nearly barked out, “So are you going to do the Fifth Step or NOT?”.
That was the prodding I needed. We promptly set up a time and place. It took two sessions, but we went through every nook and cranny of my shortcomings. It was a very different experience than I expected. It was an inner journey of some kind; one that brought me to a new place I had never been before. When I took up my drawing pen, the image you see now leapt into mind. It had ingredients of the Kafka story. There was an important entrance. There was a seat just outside that door where applicants for admission could wait. But there was something else; I added a fairly small door that is historically called a “man door”. It was a person-sized door built into large city gates. It allowed individual pedestrians to slip in and out of the city without the necessity of opening the heavy defensive gates. All of the above ideas came together in my mind. The “suffering” (trouble) that prevented me from admitting the truth had came in the form of my dread, procrastination, inertia, bad habits, and general fear. My sponsor’s gruff demand that I take Step 5 allowed me to overcome all of these. Somehow he gave me the courage to push past the negative guardian and step quietly through the man-door. And what a gate it turned out to be. I had expected that act of admitting my shortcoming would be huge, terrible, melodramatic, and earth-shaking… as if pushing open those enormous and infinitely heavy fortress gates.
The actual act of doing a Fifth Step was simple and humble and gentle and sensible meeting with my sponsor. Everything my internal guard had threatened me with completely vanished. I am glad I went to the trouble to tell God, myself, and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. And now that I have done it, I look forward to Meetings where I can share my wrong with others. I never did have to battle my way past a fearsome guard or a fortified castle gate. Instead, it took the simple courage to admit in a small and true way, what I had done that separated me from God. And almost that quickly, I found myself once again admitted to the presence of my Higher Power. It is amazing. Simply amazing. I still cannot find the words to express my gratitude.
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