Step Three

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives
over to the care of God as we understood Him

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Step Three Essay

From AA Big Book, page 60, adapted to compulsive overeating....

"Our description of the compulsive overeater, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

a) That we were compulsive overeaters and could not manage our own lives.
b) That probably no human power could have relieved our compulsion to overeat.
c) That God could and would if He were sought.

"Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him."

Hi, my name is Thumper and I'm a compulsive overeater. It is not possible to do Step Three without first having done Steps One and Two. Even having done so, many people still balk at Step Three and it's usually because this step is often misunderstood.

The step itself can be offensive to some, especially in the use of the capitalized "Him" to refer to God. I hope people here can keep in mind that this was written in the late 30's when the concept of deities were almost always described in masculine terms. It is sometimes now read as "God as we understood God." Being one of the most misunderstood steps, it is my wish that I can add some clarity to it, but please bear in mind that my interpretation is of my own only and that I do not speak for OA or TRG as a whole. Rather than just accepting my definition of Step Three, I would recommend that you read the literature and discuss it with your sponsor to help in forming your own interpretation.

There are several key words in this step that I would like to focus on. The first is the word "decision". Here's a pop quiz. Three frogs were sitting on a log. Two made a decision to jump. How many were left? If you answered "one" then you misunderstood. Although two made a decision to jump, all three are still sitting on the log. The step does not say that we have turned our will and our lives over, it merely says we have made the decision to do so. That may lead some people to wonder when we actually get around to turning our will and our lives over, rather than just making the decision. The answer is in the remaining steps and we'll have plenty of time to examine those, but to allay your fears, Step Three is not Step Seven. We aren't yet being asked to give up anything that we aren't ready to give up.

So this brings us back to the decision itself. It's asking us to decide to turn two things over to our Higher Power; our will and our lives. What is our will? The first definition in my dictionary is: "1. the power of making a reasoned choice or decision or of controlling one's own actions." We learned in Step One that when it comes to some things, food in particular, we have no ability whatsoever to make rational decisions. And our lives? Well, I think most of us have made a pretty good mess of our lives and we admitted this in the second half of Step One. Knowing we haven't done so well with our will and our lives, what do we have to lose by making a decison to turn it over?

What are we deciding to turn our will and our lives over to? To the "care" of God! This is another word that is often misunderstood. Many of us have feared that making this decision meant we were giving up our innermost self, the part of us that is uniquely us, but there is nothing in the word itself that would suggest this. Care in this usage means "to be responsible for" as in being put in your parent's or a hospital's care. It doesn't mean we are any less us, it simply means that we have passed on the responsibility for our care. It also doesn't imply effort on our part; in fact it's the opposite. We are passing that effort on to something else - our Higher Power, whatever that may be.

Yes, we know that deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a God of our own choosing and understanding will change our lives, probably radically, but that's only because this step is followed up by a course of rigorous action. The decision alone won't do that, although many of us do experience a sense of relief at having taken the step. If simply making a decision could have fixed those things in our lives that had gone awry, we would have done so long ago and then we could have a program of recovery that only had three steps! Making a decision doesn't give us power and for must of us, that is obvious. How many times have we decided we wouldn't overeat?

The Big Book says we must think long and hard about this step and to make sure we are ready to abandon ourselves to our Higher Power. It also suggests that we do it with a friend, spiritual advisor, or a loved one. Most do it with their sponsor. The book even gives us what we call the "Third Step Prayer" although the book also says that "the wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation."

from AA Big Book, page 63....

"We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: 'God, I offer myself to Thee - to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!' "

Are you ready to do this step and to make the decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understand Him? What are those reservations you are still hanging on to?



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