Step 3: Making A Decision
Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
Step 3 is one of the “God” Steps that many newcomers have problems with. How can you turn your life and will over to God if you don’t believe in God?
As discussed in Step 2, 12-Step programs don’t require a belief in God, just a power greater than oneself. Individuals get to choose what that power is. A Higher Power can be the AA program itself or the collective wisdom of AA members. One counselor at rehab, a surfer, told me that in early sobriety his Higher Power was the ocean, which was much more powerful than he was. I’ve also heard AA members describe their Higher Powers as: nature; the one-ness of the universe; a power you have to be honest with; and the spark of goodness within every individual. I heard one AA member describe his Higher Power this way: “Something created the universe and I know it wasn’t me, so I choose whatever it was that did.” Similarly, I’ve heard it described at “the great mystery.” Many have said they have no idea how to describe their Higher Power but they choose to believe in one anyway. And many have said they have come to believe in a power “as I don’t understand him.”
Step 3 is about choosing to have faith in something. It’s about perspective — knowing what you can control and what you can’t.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions says, “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…. Like all the remaining Steps, Step Three calls for affirmative action…”
The “affirmative action” of Step Three is to make a decision, a decision to rely on the guidance of a Higher Power, whatever that is to you, rather than relying on a an inflated sense of ego or willpower. What Step Three calls for is trying to be in accord with one’s Higher Power, to do “the next right thing,” rather than act out of self-will, resentment, self-seeking or self-pity.
Step Three means taking the Serenity Prayer to heart. As the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions says, “…[I]t is really easy to begin the practice of Step Three. In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine be done.”