Monday, 19 November 2012

Acceptance. Part of the programme?

Is the famous 'acceptance passage' from the Big Book story 'Acceptance is the Answer' a valid part of the AA programme? Or do we dismiss the stories entirely on the basis that they're written to attract still-suffering alcoholics to the AA way of life?

(1) Both of the co-founders would be appalled at the suggestion that the only source of wisdom in the universe lies in the first 164 pages of the Big Book.

(You might want to check out page 310 of Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers for Dr Bob's reading list, and it is no secret that Bill, too, read widely.)

(2) The Big Book itself does not state that its first 164 pages have a monopoly either on recovery or on spiritual wisdom.

"We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us."

"If not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer."

"We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us."

(3) The suggestion that material that comes from elsewhere in the Big Book itself, written by a recovered alcoholic, to boot, is bogus, merely on the basis of not being in the first 164 pages, is both preposterous and inconsistent with the letter and spirit of those 164 pages.

(4) Acceptance, as a principle, is patently integral to the Steps—the surrenders to the truth in Step One, to the existence of a God beyond our intellect, in Step Two, and to the programme of action itself from Step Three onwards—involve a great deal of cessation of fighting and acceptance of reality.

(5) The forgiveness urged on pages 66 and 67 requires a great deal of acceptance. Resentment could otherwise be described as non-acceptance, and acceptance is clearly a facet of forgiveness. If I am non-accepting, I am resentful; if I am resentful, I am non-accepting. Forgiveness brings the peace of acceptance.

(6) Most people who have peace of mind will display an ability to accept circumstances with grace, courage, cheerfulness, and equanimity, without shirking the responsibility to change and mould those circumstances where that is God's will. Right acceptance—without descending into apathy—is one of the true fruits of the Steps and a guiding principle of the second half of Step Twelve.

(7) Those two aspects of acceptance—accepting what we cannot change and taking up the challenge of what we must accept is our duty to change—are the core of the Serenity Prayer, perhaps the best conceivable summing up of the programme in a few words.

(8) The man that penned the first 164 pages wrote extensively about acceptance, both in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and in Language of the Heart (via the Grapevine). Check out page 269 et sqq. of the latter—this is an excellent essay on acceptance!

To paraphrase Bill W. talking about prayer, "the only ones who scoff at acceptance are the ones who haven't tried it enough."

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