It Is A Spiritual Axiom (Step Ten continued)

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.  If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also.  But are there no exceptions to this rule?  What about “justifiable” anger?  If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad?  Can’t we be properly angry with self-righteous folk?  For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions.  We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.

WordPress’ possibly related posts generator often links me to anti-AA blogs.  I’ve read some of the stuff at those sites out of curiosity.  It’s tempting to me to address the issues they bring up.  But this blog is for me to advance my sobriety and increase its depth and value.  I’ve been sober for a long time, and thankfully I’ve gone past many (if not all) of the objections that are raised against AA.  Passages like the quoted one have not turned me into an AA-bot.

I have it ingrained at this point, I think, that when I am disturbed there is something wrong with me.  There may very well be something wrong with the other person as well.  In fact, mostly likely there is.  That is not my concern (unless it’s someone I supervise or gave birth to).

In the worst instances, the feeling of being wronged, cheated, victimized and hurt can be devastating.  My recent ruminations on the topic of gay marriage are a good example.  The unfairness of it bites me in my heart.  Without going into details, I can honestly say that it has cost my family thousands of dollars over the past few years because we are not heterosexual.  I strongly believe it is unfair.

I’ve developed some coping mechanisms over the years.  I’ll remind myself that life is unfair, and in the whole of human existence, the unfairness I have to live with is minor.  Mostly I know that I have to move my mind along after acknowledging to myself that it is unfair, and thinking briefly about if I can or am doing anything real to rectify the situation.

A frequent hard spot for me is at work, when staff is short.  It happens often, and I’ve tried often to find a good way to deal with it.  When this happens some people act greedy, some act altruistically, and some seem very self-centered and clueless.  A few brave souls just accept what’s going on and do the best they can.  After years of struggle with this I still get bent out of shape.  My most constant tactic is to try to avoid it, if I can, and let someone else assign staff and try not to notice.  When the selfishness of others is apparent, I try to remember that they have other good qualities.  That yes, I am loving and giving and all around wonderful, but there are people in the world who are far more wonderful than I am.  What good is it sit and count how wrong other people are?  The best thing I can be is an example.

So the knowledge that when I am disturbed, there is something wrong with me, is a good concept that at least helps me move on in my mind when I feel I’ve been wronged.  That, and I also remember that I may not see the situation, or see it clearly, or see the whole thing.  And I have to move on.


23 thoughts on “It Is A Spiritual Axiom (Step Ten continued)

  1. I was involved in AA intensely for over 20 years, was and always will be an AA heretic. The “spiritual axiom” quote is a case and point in which I have conflicting beliefs. It is believed that anger is an issue with alcoholics a trap for relapse. Well I believe it is the immaturity or lack of skills to deal with anger that is the issue not anger itself. Anger is a feeling and God given and all behaviors are learned! As a person grows in developing new coping skills in life as they practice the 12 steps there is potential for anger to be expressed and even honored. My God anger is part of grief and one ingredient of passion. Now I do believe that anger needs to be avoided for those with long term sobriety that have not developed emotional sobriety and they are not hard to spot. They are men an women that use AA passages and the AA sayings in their every day language.

    I agree it does not do any good to sit and count wrongs done to you as much as it does not pay to believe that when your angry or disturbed you are also wrong-your simply angry or disturbed at the time and the habit of working the 12 steps will bring balance back to the spirit.

    • I don’t really have a reply to you but would like to reply to the blog above, about gay discrimination and the medical costs involved. I am not a gay hater in fact I have 2 close friends that are gay. If one looks entirely about the suggestons of things are the way they are suppose to be at this very moment. And also what was our part is in all this, that is expressed in Step 5. Isn’t there some knowledge ahead of time to know what the situations and risks are or may be ahead of time? Not that you are gay but what medical costs may be.

      When I got divorced it costs me 10’s of thousands of dollars which were really unfair only to how the system is/works and who it favors. I certainly didn’t expect those situations to happen before I got married and should have obviosly. As a result I did the resentment and could not stop drinking about her. God’s results were not to put us back together, believing I just wanted to die as to how I felt. What I didn’t know at the time and God did, You could not pay me back all the 10’s of thousands of dollars I paid for me to be with her now.

      • Reading more posts down the line here…step 3 was written by the founding members that included an atheist. His contributions led to “as we understand him”. In addition to Ebby’s 12 step work with Bill, before there were 12 steps. ” why don’t you choose your own concept of God”. Bills story contains several thoughts of religion. Moving on it says the ‘spiritual way of life is not a theory’ ‘ it’s easy to let up on our spiritual program’ ( think the latter is 12 x 12) it doesn’t say God’s way of life.
        My focus is always a Spiritual focus, feeling good about myself and others as a result of AA. To me everything in my AA way of life all returns to Step 1. Don’t drink, made a lot easier. In addition it also goes back to ‘the phenomena of craving’ what my thoughts and actions are prior to the first drink. These things have to be identified so we don’t have or develop the attitude we once had. For me to drink is to die, I want to live so I try to ‘practice these principles in all our affairs’.
        If we don’t believe in God, why do we get so mad at Him?

    • Resentment is the number one offender. It kills more alcaholics than anything else. Resentment is the dubious luxury of normal men

    • That’s not in the big book. It’s in the 12&12.

      I think Bill’s usage of the word “axiom” is perhaps problematic, but I do believe he’s onto something. For me as a Buddhist, I understand the concept to mean that when I choose to REACT to anger, to BE anger instead of experiencing it and letting it go, I’m not being skilful; I am, in fact “in the wrong” because I’m not choosing Right Thought or Right Action (or both).

      Just another perspective. Hope it’s helpful!

      • Regarding;
        /the concept to mean that when I choose to REACT to anger, to BE anger instead of experiencing it and letting it go, I’m not being skilful; I am, in fact “in the wrong” because I’m not choosing Right Thought or Right Action (or both)./
        Yes to be angry… Shorten the time when I am angry. It focuses my attention to be angry. It takes all my energy to be angry when I am angry MHO. I have no energy left over to think about anything else except something or someone that triggered my anger. Sometimes my anger turns into apathy. When I am in a situation I didn’t cause / can’t cure / can’t control I’m likely to react to it passive aggressively. My cognitive skills take a hike!! I forget I have agency. It’s a probability I’m living in the past where those skills had not developed yet. It is a symptom!
        I found this quote today from Anne Frank’s diary;
        /I’ve found that there is always some beauty left-in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you. Look at these things, then you find yourself again, and God, and then you regain your balance. And whoever is happy will make others happy too. He who has courage and faith will never perish in misery!” Tuesday, 7 March, 1944, pg. 152/

  2. My name is David and I am an AA heretic!!! I have had to learn to not argue with the legalistic non sense that I hear so often in meetings. Good case in point, I had a former sponsor who is a devout Christian(not slandering Christianity but I am a Nichiren Buddhist) and I told him when we got to step three that I don’t believe in god because I am a Buddhist, I believe in the law of cause and effect. He didn’t like this because he demanded that I believe that some deity got me to AA(which is not in the book if I am not mistaken), and I didn’t then and I still don’t and probably never will(I have almost 15 months sober). He told me that won’t keep me sober, and it is just me wanting to keep drinking. It pissed me off so bad because I was in the Navy for almost 8 years and he has never been in the military. I felt he was trying to rob me of my constitutional right to freedom of religion(I was on the Roosevelt after September 11 and on the Truman when we went into Iraq, any veteran that was in during a time of war served there country and therefore I feel deffinetely hse the right to believe whatever the hell they want to believe, as does ALL American citizens but I feel that no one who is not a veteran has any right to tell me I can’t be a Buddhist let alone some schmuck who thinks they know everything in some small town AA meeting who wouldn’t know the first thing about Buddhist theology due to ignorance of our beliefs who thinks there religion is the only valid one on the entire planet). I believe in my Gohonzon, I don’t believe in god. I still believe that due to reincarnation I did in fact get myself to AA because of Karma from past lives. Him pulling a stunt like that would be like me sponsoring a Christian and demanding that they believe in reincarnation. How rude…that’s why he is a FORMER sponsor.

    • You have been sober almost 15 months? Well you must be an expert then. Especially since you served in the military. I’ve never served in the military and many people have not served in the military. Military service is not a prerequisite to knowing everything. No one knows everything. What if there is a god? Have you ever pondered that? Listen to yourself and calm down. If you don’t you WILL drink again and that is not part of the program. Don’t drink, trust god and serve others. If you are a Buddhist then trust Buddha.

      Good luck on your sobriety.


    • Your sponsor was wrong. He missed the point. You say you believe in the law of cause and effect. Can you treat this as your higher power? The power that you answer to and that you trust. Can you answer to it by believing that doing the right thing will be beneficial to you and the wrong thing won’t? Can you trust the same? This is all we need from a higher power. I believe we all actually have a higher power right within us that knows what is right. The point is that we have to surrender our self-will our not so healthy ego to a higher power.

    • I’m sorry you had such an experience from your first sponsor. Sometimes people in aa practice too much authority. If you get into general service you might get a chance to see how God (of our understanding) has the ultimate authority. It is an amazing experience, and we can choose any higher power we choose. My son always laughs at me because every aa meeting he has attended someone talks about a door knob as a HP. As silly as it sounds I know if he ever needs aa, he will get a chance to see the full experience. Please keep an open mind find someone who supports your beliefs and you will see amazing things!

    • You still sound angry. Maybe since he’s not your sponsor anymore you should Read pg. 551-552 in the Big Book and do what’s suggested. I’m a Christ follower and do believe “something” got me to AA… That is God. I don’t force my ideas on someone that I sponsor and I sponsor many. Best of luck to you…! Have you done the 12 steps? “Having had a Spiritual experience as the result of these steps….”(step 12) after having my spiritual experiences during the 12 steps I found a much more loving, tolerant, forgiving etc relationship with my Higher Power, Jesus. Blessings to you! By the way… I studied Budisim in the 60’s and 70’s as well as many other religions…

  3. “Never say never!” “You have to go to school.” “I hate all French people.” “The only good politician is a dead politician.” “If you don’t believe as I believe, you are going to spend eternity in hell.” “If you don’t live the 12 steps, you will drink again.”

    I actually believe at least one of those six statements is correct and completely valid! But I no longer have room in my life for extremes. Spend a few moments identifying your own extremes. My ex-wife used to speak of the “m-word” – moderation? What the heck is that?

    “If you don’t believe in God, just believe that I believe.” That was what I heard from the man who first sponsored me. Before I knew it, I was praying to Don’s God. I even prayed on my knees, just like my parents had suggested. As he taught me about the third step, he gave me a small card with the third step prayer on one side and the seventh step prayer on the other. He suggested that I read it every night and every morning; that was how he began and ended every day. He told me that one day I would no longer need the card, that I would memorize the prayers word-for-word and could pass the card on to someone new. Next I figured out that Don was getting credit for every prayer that I prayed to his God. Maybe I should try to believe too. His life had gotten better, maybe mine could too? I think they called that “hope.” I watched about a dozen men with more than ten years (in a row) of sobriety. I listened to what they said and watched what they did, both in and out of meetings. I read about a spiritual experience and then about contempt prior to investigation. Then I nearly lost my mind. They told me I could design a God of my own understanding – this must be some cult or multi-level marketing scheme! Come on! But I tried it. What I found out was that I had lived four decades fearing a God of my own MISUNDERSTANDING. There was nothing to be afraid of. I grew to know and love a God that forgave me as soon as I asked. He has yet to punish me or let me down.

    As I reflect on my non-sober past, I must have been a Confusionist – constant confusion was the only God that I knew.

  4. I find even though I may have a good reason to be disturbed with someone it’s normally because I see myself in that person. I pray for them then I pray for forgiveness

  5. Very much enjoyed the post and the comments.
    I believe that a corollary to this “axiom” can be found on p. 552 of the Big Book.
    (paraphrased) Whenever I have a resentment, whenever I am disturbed, no matter what the cause; or If I believe that somebody has hurt me, if I pray for that person I will be free; if I will pray with humble and heartfelt affirmation for everything that I would desire for myself to be given to them, I will be free. If I ask for their health, their prosperity and their happiness, I will be free.
    I have learned that by acting in this manner, where I once felt bitterness and resentment and hatred, I will quickly feel compassion, understanding and love.

    • Thank you Bill, my favourite part of the book still one year later. It works even if you don’t believe in an Hp, I did this prayer as I hated the woman that my ex had living with him, and my son in our old home. My sponsor told me to try this for 14 days, after 10 days she asked how it was going. I said great and that I no longer needed to prayer for S as all was Ok now. She told me to continue for the 14 days and then I started to look about and see who else there was that may need a prayer and everytime I do this I get better. Never know if it helps them but it really does help me so the consequence of prayer for me is that I get better.

      • Thank you both for your comments. I want to point out that the “pray for the person for two weeks” thing appears in a story, and while it does work for many, many people, it doesn’t work for everyone. It doesn’t work for me! That’s wonderful if it does, but if not, keep searching. There are other solutions.

  6. Hi Lydia
    I used to attend al-anon about 6 years ago (mother drank), but I also went to AA meetings, and read the twelve steps book which I found to be full of great truths. I’m not sure where Bill got it from (looks up to the heavens). Since, I’ve broadened my understanding to really see the truth of that axiom. I am writing a book, and I found the word ‘axiom’ pop into my head, and then found myself googling, “it is a spiritual axiom” which led me to the quote I remember and this page.

    What I now see about this wonderful truth is that we are all each individually in charge of our lives, we think and our thoughts become practiced thoughts (beliefs) and these practiced thoughts or beliefs are what the world responds to. If we acknowledge our power (and let’s be honest most are not ready to accept responsibility for their own lives, but until they do they can have no peace, this IS how it works) we can see that we have attracted, by law of attraction, these people to us. We may have used those we observed around us to get us thinking, and believing what we believed, but it was our choice to think those things. So yes, when you come across a complete ass of a person, they are reflecting back to you, something that is active in you also. If it wasn’t they wouldn’t be there in your face. The world is a giant mirror, with all the players acting to show you how you FEEL.

    I should go back to al-anon and show them I’m still alive and joyful at that, wonderful people at al-anon taught me what love is.



    • Well said, Andrew! And this is how we come to understand as we become more spiritual. I love the twelve steps and now have a bigger appreciation of the world and people we live in

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