Saturday, 6 August 2016

Clear-cut directions

'Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.'

'In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.'

'Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.' ('Alcoholics Anonymous')

The directions for how to recover are set out clearly in the Book. What constitutes fulfilment of these? Sometimes, people add their own clear-cut directions on top of the clear-cut directions in the Book, then say that this is the only way. For instance, that the fourth step must be written long-hand on paper not typed, or that there are nine, not four or five, sex inventory questions, and that if one answers them as four or five questions, one is not following the instructions correctly. (Note that the Book says nothing about the inventories being written long-hand, referring only to setting them 'on paper'; it also presents the sex inventory in the form of five questions, two of which have three parts, and two of which are 'comma-spliced' into a single question).

To take these two particular examples, I have taken various tacks at various times (handwritten versus typed; nine questions versus four or five). There are many other examples of clear-cut directions that can actually be fulfilled in more than one way. I have not in my case noticed any difference in terms of honesty, depth of insight, or quality of outcome based on these minor variants, either in myself or in the hundreds of people I have attempted to show this programme to.

What matters, when it comes to inventory, is that I am honest and thorough. If I can be honest and thorough only when writing my inventory long-hand but tend to lie, obfuscate, gloss, or omit when typing, that problem is not going to get solved by writing an inventory long-hand but should instead be met head on. The same applies with all of the other instructions: what matters is the substance, not the form.

Later on, the Book specifically stops short of legislating for every situation, specifically in relation to Step Nine, saying, 'Although these reparations take innumerable forms, there are some general principles which we find guiding.'

In short, within the scope of the clear-cut directions, there is latitude and there is often more than one way to skin the cat in question. I certainly do pick particular ways of doing things, and recommend that to my sponsees. I also respect other ways of following the clear-cut directions.


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