Step ten is the first of the maintenance steps, the steps we practice every day to continue living life on a spiritual basis, and managing emotions or thoughts that might impact our daily serenity. The emphasis is on self inventory for many reasons. Self inventory helps us untangle troubles that have cropped up, self inventory dissipates blame we are often quick to put on others, self inventory empowers us to learn what we can do to manage our lives. I often think of the famous quote by the Greek philosopher Socrates, who said “the unexamined life is not worth living”.
When I was counting days in AA 17 years ago, and didn’t understand this program quite yet, I was in a 10th step meeting, and the speaker started out her share by saying “Continued to take other people’s inventory and when they were wrong, got them to promptly admit it”. Everyone laughed, but at the time, I thought it made sense and didn’t know why they were laughing. Now I know why they were laughing. Our job is to understand our part, and make amends if need be.
Many people in program do a formal tenth step every day. Sometimes that is the basis of daily contact with a sponsor, or a program friend. Sometimes it is a written daily exercise that fellows do at the end of the day. The Big Book gives us some criteria to ponder when we do a tenth step. Page 84 of the Third Edition advises us to “continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear”. It goes on to say that when these crop up, we ask God to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends if that is called for. Many of us with some years in recovery have found that we can barely live with the haunting feeling of having done something selfish, having been dishonest, resenting someone, or being afraid. It has become an automatic instinct to deal right away with toxic or disturbing emotions, and to make right a wrong that incidentally occurred by our own volition.
Let us not forget that we can also be grateful for the things that went well that day, and use our prayer time to thank HP for those miracles as well.
The tenth step is about keeping our side of the street clean. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to end every day resolved on any troubling issue that may have come up during the day, as well as feel gratitude for events that went well. If I am in the habit of self reflection and restitution on these troublesome emotions, I go to sleep with a clear conscience. And that is a blessing.
Questions for reflection:
If you’ve had the experience of doing a “spot check” inventory, can you share an example, and what the benefits were after having done that?
Why does our program put so much emphasis on keeping our side of the street clean?
How does the tenth step help me stay abstinent?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps