Step Three

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions

In the AA Big Book:

The AA 12 & 12 -- Step 3
OA 12 & 12 -- All, with special attention to pages 24 through 27.

Center yourself as you are able.

When I first read Step 3 (AA pp 60 -63), I thought the book got lost. I had thought the book was about my compulsive eating. Yet on page 60, we’re asked to realize that ‘any life run on self will can hardly be successful”. BAM! …. Any LIFE? This didn’t say to me any compulsive eating disorder, any binge, any food... This was a big “whoa’ to me ...this book says LIFE? Life -- like everything I do?

And the wording of the Step itself is even more demanding -- It is talking about my WILL and my LIFE! The interpretations I have read about Will and Life come down to what I think and what I do. Really, Everything? I just wanted to get rid of the compulsive eating. The rest of my life was fine? Wasn’t it?

Turns out Step Three told me it wasn’t… It says a couple of important things --

Read from the bottom of page 60 through the top of page 62: Each person is like an actor who tries to run the whole show… are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self pity? (seriously -- stop now and read that again!)

Then this next paragraph and a half or so:
Selfishness -- Self Centeredness. That , we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on the self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. (They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible.

Remember to re read and change the names and the pronouns. So my troubles, I think, are basically of my own making If the word “God” bothers you, then change that, too. Use Higher Power. Use God as I understand it. Use ‘Universe”. Use ”the deep well of my best self”. Use “Love” Love makes that happen. It doesn’t matter; what matters is that you don’t use “I” as a substitute for God, We are powerless and we have committed to a willingness and open mindedness as we surrender to a bigger, better power than ‘I”. "I" hasn’t worked for us. That ship has sailed.

Our “I” -- self will -- has gotten us where we are. Doing more of the same thing that hasn’t worked is the definition of insanity. We don’t know what else to do, but we know that our current way of life doesn’t work.

AA 12 and 12 page 35
"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.

My brother and I were raised by two low-bottom alcoholics. We were loved, for sure, but we we were not cared for or guided and we lived in a constant state of high drama and poverty. We had to be selfish; we would have died otherwise. My brother left home on his 18th birthday, but I wasn’t about to stay in that chaos until mine and I left sooner by going away to school. But I never really grew up or gave up that selfishness, and I ended up a compulsive overeater. The things that had saved me from all that, that I depended on -- my smarts, my independence, my determination, my pull by self up by my bootstraps attitudes --my “I” -- were not helping me now. This step told me that my selfishness is what got me into desperation and defeat and feeling like a failure every minute of my life. These are the products of my will and my life. Whether I could define it or not, I had to find some other power. My ‘powers’ didn’t work.

I was overwhelmed at this point in the reading -- what the heck was I going to do? I was wallowing in self pity, crying in my food, and these writers of the BB are telling me that I couldn’t blame anyone else for my problems any more. They are rooted in my self will run riot, in my selfishness. There aren’t very many ‘musts’ in this book -- but one of the is here:

Above everything, we ….. must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!

And since we have no resources to do that -- that’s what step one told us --how might we do what we must do? We turn to our higher powers, however we define them.-- that’s what step two told us.

On the bottom of page 62

First of all, we HAD to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His Children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.

Be sure to reread with your own name and pronouns. (There are a lot of ‘God’ words in here. If you find them problematic, that’s OK. Just substitute whatever you do call your higher power.)

Here’s my re-read -- what’s yours? First of all, I HAD to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, I decided that hereafter in this drama of life, Love and Service was going to be my Director. This is my Principles; I am its agents. Love and Service are my Father , and I am in service to them. . Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which I will pass to freedom.

In Steps One and Two, we are asked mostly to engage in reflection. Step Three, like all the rest of them, asks us to DO something. We are more or less done talking about this -- its time for action. Lucky for us, however, is that Step three ONLY asks us to decide that we will trust our higher power, whatever that means to each one of us right now, to light the process that we’ll follow on the rest of the steps -- that we will be willing and open minded enough to follow that light. We don’t know how to do that yet (The rest of the book will tell us) -- we are just deciding (making a commitment, I think) to work the rest of the steps. It asks us only to use willingness to work the rest of the steps -- that’s it!

From AA 12 & 12, p 34
Practicing Step Three is like the opening of a door which to all appearances is still closed and locked. All we need is a key, and the decision to swing the door open. There is only one key and it is called willingness. Once unlocked by willingness, the door opens almost of itself, and looking through it, we shall see a pathway beside which there is an inscription. It reads, ‘This is the way to a faith that works.’ In the first two Steps we were engaged in reflection. We saw that we were powerless over alcohol, but we perceived that faith of some kind, even if only faith in AA itself, is possible to anyone….

What Step 3 does for me.
It keeps me open minded and willing -- sometimes I do have to remind myself that I decided, committed, to my nascent spirituality. I tell myself to Trust the process; Trust the Power.

By telling me that it is my will and my life I am deciding to turn over to my higher power, this step reminds me that my compulsive eating is my solution to the problems somehow inherent in my will and my life. I have to be willing to find and define those and turn them over to a power that I will find, that can stand shoulder to shoulder with me, change my reactions to the circumstances of my life.

OA 12& 12 p. 19
….this step is simple; we have not said it is easy. It is not easy, because for every one of us this decision means we must now adopt a new and unfamiliar way of thinking and acting on life. From now on, we let go of our preconceived notions about what is right for us.

And paraphrasing OA 12 712, p 20
We are deciding that from here on out, when faced with choices, we are willing to seek guidance from our higher power and then act on it.

I made this step with little consideration the first time I did it. I was desperate; I felt pretty awful, and I had tried everything else. I had a sponsor who told me it would work, so I said -- yep, I can commit to this. What I know now is that this step requires constant practice and an acceptance that this is an all-in decision. P. 59 Half measures avail us nothing.

AA 12 & 12, p. 40:
The program can be practiced with success only when this step is given a determined and persistent trial.

Work the Step
BB, p. 63
We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person, such as our wife, best friend, or spiritual adviser. But it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand. The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once."

"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!"

So the praying of the prayer, or the saying of our decision, is how we work the step. If we can, we do it with someone, usually our sponsor. We be certain that we are really ready to make this commitment -- this decision-- to turn our will and our lives over to our higher power, and we pray the third step prayer. We say the words; we make the statement.

The BB tells us The wording is optional -- you pray to the power of your understanding.

Reflection for Sharing:
Reflect on this, as it applies to you, that begins on page 60--
Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show…. Continue reading to the last full paragraph on page 61 -- Our actor is self-centered -- ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays….Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self pity?

Are you an actor who wants to run the whole show?

Reflect on the decision you are asked to make in Step three.
Are you all-in or, do If you have reservations, what are they? Please reflect on each of them in the light of your own circumstances. (I have had many reservations; Could I trust a higher power? Could I let go of the results of letting go --could I trust the process, no matter how it ended? Could I do this for EVERYTHING? And why aren’t we talking about my compulsive eating anymore?

If you have completed the step, reflect on the promises of step 3: AA, p. 63. How have you found these promises have come true for you?

    Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs.

    More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.

    As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter.


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