Understanding Step Three | 12 Steps

Understanding Step Three

February 7th, 2015 12 Steps, Helpful Articles

In Step Three, we make a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of the Higher Power we defined in Step Two. It is a way of letting go of the steering wheel of life and trusting in God (or the universe or however we understand this power) to lead us on the right path and to help us make the right decisions and do the right things each day.

Many of us struggle with self-will. We want to be in charge of our own lives. If our belief in a Higher Power is shaky, we may not trust that things will simply fall into place if we let go.

What Does It Mean to Turn Your Will and Life Over?

The heart of Step Three is willingness, and by going to treatment and meetings we have already proven that we are willing to entrust our sobriety to AA or NA. We are listening and learning from those who have gone before us on this path. By making an effort to follow the 12 steps, we have already begun to turn our will over to the group, which is a power greater than we are.

Yet Step Three asks us to turn not only our desire to abuse alcohol and drugs over to a Higher Power, but also our lives. We learn to trust that something or someone bigger than we are is in charge of our lives. Our task is to stop resisting where we are being led.

Learning to Let Go

Self-will frequently leads us to try to force things to happen. We are driven by a desire to be in total control of our own lives. Yet if we look at the mess our lives ended up in while using and abusing alcohol or drugs, it shouldn’t be hard to see that we need help managing our lives.

This is a step that will never be taken perfectly, and most of us find that we take our will back several times a day by trying to force things to happen. We have to keep practicing and reminding ourselves that our Higher Power wants more for us than we do.

The most important part of Step Three is to make the decision that we need help managing our lives. As described in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, working Step Three is not very different from accepting that we need a source of electricity in order to have power. It’s not something we think about often, but we depend on this source of electricity being present. This dependence is a source of strength and independence.

The Many Powers Greater Than Ourselves

Some AA and NA members have no trouble thinking of a power greater than themselves as God, and for these members their faith is the source of their strength. For those who have a shakier sense of faith in an actual God, there are many other powers greater than ourselves.

The program itself is a power greater than we are. We will find that there is strength in numbers and if we stick with the winners, we will become winners too. Becoming close to one or two AA or NA members through sponsorship or friendship is another way to develop faith and reliance in something other than ourselves.

We can come to believe in the universe itself as a force for good that leads us to whomever or whatever we need in this one 24-hour period. We don’t know how it works, but we don’t have to know how it works. We only need to let go.

Taking Action

Step Three is an action step. We need to strive to develop a willingness to accept that there is a power greater than we are, and it isn’t us. This will take time and practice.

As we grow spiritually, we will come to recognize that when we feel unsettled, we are probably trying to force our own will onto situations rather than allowing things to unfold as they are meant to. We have to learn to stop trying to swim against the tide. When we can do this, we will get our first taste of true serenity and inner peace.

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