Taking Step Three

Version I 6/9/2000

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Here are the steps we took:  3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

That is what the authors of the Big Book and millions before you did.  To personalize the step for your study and action in the here and now, however, you may wish to rephrase it as:

STEP THREE. I decide to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him.


Big Book: Chapter 5, How it works. From: Page 60, line 21: "Being convinced... Thru: Page 63, line 31: ...was felt at once."

12&12: Step 3

Step 3 has four key components: STEP 3a. Make a decision... You may have heard this riddle in a meeting: "Five frogs were sitting on a log in their favorite pond. Two frogs decided to hop onto a warm rock. How many frogs were left on the log?" If you know anyone who answered, "three", suggest they read the riddle again. We alcoholics are experts at making decisions. Like, "I have decided to stop drinking!" "I have decided to bring my paycheck home to you and the kids, Honey!" You bet! If you have spent more than a week taking this step, you probably should just look upon it as a decision, but a decision that you reaffirm at least once each day. Then get on with step 4.

  STEP 3b Turn your will and your life over... If, in meetings, you listen carefully to the stuff that people turn over you will be amazed before you are half way through. They turn over the Highway Patrolman shining a red light in the mirror of their car, the landlord banging on the door for his rent, their fat-clogged arteries, smoke corrupted lungs, and all the other things they wish to be rid of. It almost seems some folks think God must be some kind of celestial junk man. (In addition to those who think he is the ethereal pimp that brings forth enticing partners.) Going back to the source, we discover that it is silent on turning over junk, lust, or anything else—just our very lives and wills. You offer up only your life force and your motivation. That doesn't really leave much of value, does it?

will [from our dictionary] [2] (wil) n., v. willed, will-ing n.

  1. the faculty of conscious and particularly of deliberate action: the freedom of the will.

  2. power of choosing one's own actions: to have a strong will.

  3. the act or process of using or asserting one's choice; volition: My hands are obedient to my will.

  4. wish or desire: to submit against one's will.

  5. purpose or determination: to have the will to succeed.

  6. the wish or purpose as carried out, or to be carried out: to work one's will.

And, just what does turning over mean? Although you may have heard that it is like turning over a board to inspect the salamanders on the bottom side, the word refers to the transfer of possession and control....

STEP 3c. To the care of God... The first image that comes to mind is that the entity to which we offer something for care is a caretaker. A caretaker is needed only when the owner is either absent or incompetent (or both, as in the instance of the real alcoholic). A truly desirable caretaker is: 1) competent, 2) trustworthy, 3) available, and 4) consenting to care for your life and will. In addition to the idea of taking care of is the acknowledgement (for we alcoholics) of management.

God's mission is not to take care of us—even though He does. God's role is to direct us. It follows, then that our role is not to be taken care of, it is to take action consistent with God's direction, doing by ourselves the things that we can do without assistance.
...we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children....this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. [Big Book, page 62, line 27]
Look up the word keystone in the dictionary, if you don't know precisely what it means. What role does the keystone play in the structure of an arch? So, again, what is the concept without which your spiritual growth will fall in upon itself? That's right. God is the Boss. We have a new employer. We do it His way, not ours.

STEP 3d. God as you understand Him. As we pointed out in our writing about step 2, this phrase does not mean that you believe in "God", and it does not mean that you understand what you believe in. The phrase does mean this and only this, that you decide to turn your life and will over to the care of a spiritual power of your naming and conception rather than that of someone else. (Why not read page 47 again, and ask yourself just what is the cornerstone referred to there?)

We repeat: A.A. literature makes it clear that Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religion or a sect. AA possesses no theology or dogma to be swallowed by anyone. The term, God, is used as a convenient way of referring to the Spiritual Power of our respective choices. Even though you may have a special term for your Power, when it comes to discussing your Spiritual Power with others, you also are likely to use the term, God, as a matter of convenience.
Writing: on a piece of paper, complete the statements below. It is understood that your conception of God is certain to change, so the statements refer only to your conception at the present time.

  1. The Power Greater than myself in which I came to believe in step 2 is called _____________________________.

  2. My Power is not : (set forth qualities your Power does not display, such as hateful, jealous, cruel, punishing....).

  3. My Power is: (what He is like):

  4. My goal is to pray _____ times each day, upon ___awakening ___retiring ___ eating ________________

  5. I have adopted the following meditation technique (this is really part of step 11, but there is nothing wrong with thinking about and beginning meditation right from the beginning.):

Sealing the commitment. Most of us found the guidance on page 63 of the Big Book is very effective. We recommend that you seal your commitment with another person, and that you memorize and repeat A.A's third step prayer. If the archaic terms Thee and Thou are not to your liking, you shouldn't be deterred from adjusting them as we have done in the rendition included at the end hereof.

If your spiritual advisor insists they you pray on your knees, by all means do so. Praying on the knees was big in primitive AA. The expression, "..on our knees..." was even included in step 7 of an early draft of the Big Book. Note, though, that its authors thought better of this, and the expression was deleted. It's not there now, is it? Be assured that praying on the knees is not a requirement of Alcoholics Anonymous. Nevertheless, if you are Catholic, Episcopalian, Muslim or of many oriental religions, you may wish to pray on your knees. It will certainly help you to concentrate on what you are doing. It might even help you find your shoes in the morning.

The negative side of the pray-on-your-knees custom is that it deprives its adherents of many opportunities to pray during the day. Spiritually achieved ones cherish every moment in which they might commune with their Power. These moments might be in the car at a stop light, before partaking of food in the company cafeteria, or after realizing the answer to a perplexing problem. So, do what you think right, but don't deprive yourself of being in the state of closeness to God whenever you can.

The principle of Step 3 is _____________________ We will compare notes when we discuss your writing.

[As adjusted from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, page 63, line 14]

God, I offer myself to You —
to build with me
and to do with me as You will.

Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Your will.

Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them
may bear witness to those I would help
of Your Power,
Your Love,
and Your Way of life.

May I do Your will always.


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