In his book, Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr shows how the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous run parallel to the stages of authentic spiritual growth. The first of these steps—acknowledging our powerlessness—is foundational to all the rest, yet we who are safe and reasonably well off may find it very difficult. To be powerless is to be vulnerable to suffering, and instinctively we avoid suffering. Yet, sooner or later in life, we will come face to face with our powerlessness. A sudden illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of meaningful work—these are just a few of the things that happen to us without our consent. How can we be at peace acknowledging this powerlessness? The second and third steps of AA—coming to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, and then turning our lives over to the care of that Power—will free us from the cultural message that we should be in control. When we have done what is reasonably possible for our own well-being and that of others, wisdom invites us to trust the outcome in God’s capable hands.
By Delores Dufner, OSB