Self Will vs God’s Will

At my 12 Steps meeting last night, we each shared our thoughts about Step 3.

Step 3 of the 12 Steps states:

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

It was really interesting to hear other people’s interpretations of what this step means.

For a lot of people, the use of the word “God” is problematic. I agree – for me it’s a significant intellectual hurdle.

As I progress on my 12 Steps journey, I’m constantly trying to walk a fine line of incorporating 12 Steps ideas into my set of beliefs, but without selling out or fooling myself into accepting ideas which, in my heart, I know I can’t accept.

Here are a couple of interpretations of Step 3 which I liked (I’m paraphrasing):

  1. It’s about learning to do the right thing, as opposed to indulging our impulses.
  2. It’s about learning to think of others, being self-less, rather than always thinking about ourselves and our own interests.

Both of those interpretations remind me of Dr. Jordan Peterson’s Rule 7:

Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

In other words, do the right thing, rather than merely what’s fun, easy, interesting, or in your own self-interest.

That reminds me, I wrote a post about “doing the right thing” a few weeks ago.

12 Steps Without God

In previous blog posts, I’ve explored different ideas about what God might be (according to my own personal understanding).

Most recently I settled on a definition of God that’s something like this:

“God is something like the combination of 2 things:
1) The divine spark which resides in each of us – our potential for greatness;
2) The power of the community of people at 12 Steps meetings.

Bollinger, R. (2019)

… Buuuuut… I have to admit, in the last week I’ve really been losing faith.

I’m now finding it hard to believe in any kind of God at all, even one as loosely and generously defined as above.

It’s not God that got me where I am today, it’s me.

Does that make me arrogant? Does that make me full of self-will? These questions genuinely trouble me.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t think I’ve got everything figured out. Not by a long shot. Every single day I learn something new in my 12 Steps journey.

I’m trying hard to always be open-minded and humble. I want to always be ready to admit I may have been wrong about something. I want to learn from everyone I talk to.

But that doesn’t mean I have to believe in any form of God, does it? He just seems superfluous.

I believe in me… my ability to learn and change and grow.

I really hope that doesn’t make me arrogant. Personally, I find it empowering.

It reminds me that I’m not a useless, broken, unworthy soul. It reminds me that I am capable of greatness… if I put in the hard work.

Two Halves

We are two halves. These halves are often in conflict. One option is to pick a side versus the other one. But then we are denying a part of ourselves.

What we have to try to do is negotiate between the different parts of ourselves. This applies at the individual level, with interpersonal relationships, and at a societal level.

If you insist that the way you currently view things is correct and are refusing to listen or negotiate with other points of view… then conflict, death and destruction are inevitable. We must always try to find a middle way.

Bollinger, R. 2019

  • Brains: Logical side vs emotional.
  • Belief Systems: Religious/Spiritual vs Scientific/Rational.
  • Marriage/Partnerships: You vs your partner.
  • Politics: Left vs Right; Democrat vs Republican; Liberal vs Conservative.

We must always:

  • Listen respectfully to others.
  • Ask good questions in order to better understand differing perspectives.
  • Choose kindness over our need to be right.
  • Empathise and try to see other points of view.
  • Be still, calm and wise. Don’t rush.
  • Negotiate – try to find common ground
  • Giving us… A plurality of ideas
  • Which leads to… Peace and harmony

The opposite of this is:

  • Being certain you’re already right. In other words, refusing to consider the possibility you may choose to amend your current perspective in light of new evidence.
  • Refusing to listen to others, or just waiting for our turn to talk.
  • Act quickly and rashly.
  • Belittling, mocking and dismissing other perspectives or other people.
  • Giving us… Ideological purity
  • Which leads to… Conflict and anger

Looking for differences, reasons to disagree… this often results in us throwing the baby out with the bath water. In other words, we reject a small part of something, then use that small rejection as justification to reject the whole idea/belief system/person. We miss out on huge benefits just because we don’t like a small part of something.

Instead, we need to look at what we have in common, how we can accommodate other ideas and other people.

Let’s try to integrate all the advantages of all these different ways of thinking and being… and just learn to ignore or tolerate the parts which we don’t like. We need to find ways to live in peace and harmony, rather than continually rejecting parts of ourselves and others.

This is the middle way.

It’s not easy. It feels painful. It rarely feels fully satisfactory.

But it’s the best way, overall.