Spiritual principles behind Step Ten: Acceptance

What are the spiritual principles behind Step Ten?

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Other spiritual principles that apply to Step Ten include discipline, humility, patience, mindfulness, persistence, self-restraint, honesty, willingness, forgiveness, fair-mindedness, tolerance, love, and kindness.

Acceptance defined

Acceptance is a person’s assent to the reality of the circumstances of a given situation. Acceptance is recognizing a process or condition as present and real without attempting to change it or protest it. The context of acceptance in a given set of circumstances, situation, process, or condition is often a negative or uncomfortable one. It must be confronted and embraced, not avoided or pushed aside for later.

Related: The seven times acceptance is mentioned in the AA literature (164andmore.com)

This maintenance step is vital to our sobriety because it helps keep us grounded in reality. When we continue to take personal inventory on a day-to-day or even hour-by-hour basis it is much easier to remain free of anger, frustration, self-righteousness, and other fear-based negativity. The practice of daily self-examination goes a long way in preventing new resentments to form and take root.

The Tenth Step can be a pressure relief valve. We work this step while the day’s ups and downs are still fresh in our minds. We list what we have done and try not to rationalize our actions. This may be done in writing at the end of the day. The first thing we do is stop! Then we take the time to allow ourselves the privilege of thinking. We examine our actions, our reactions, and our motives. We often find that we’ve been “doing” better than we’ve been “feeling.” This allows us to find out where we have gone wrong and admit fault before things get any worse. We avoid rationalizing. We promptly admit our faults, not explain them or defend them.

We work this step continuously. This is prevention — and the more we do it, the less we will need the corrective part of this step. This is really a great tool. It gives us a way of avoiding grief before we bring it on ourselves. We monitor our feelings, our emotions, our fantasies, and our actions. By constantly looking at these things we may be able to avoid repeating the actions that make us feel bad.
Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 10

Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now, A New Earth, and other excellent spiritual books) defines acceptance as a this is it response to anything occurring in any moment of life. There, strength, peace, and serenity are available when one stops struggling to resist, when one ceases hanging on tightly to what is so in any given moment. What do I have right now? What am I experiencing at this moment?

This holds true for feelings and emotions as well as situations and conditions. Can one accept being sad when one is sad, afraid when afraid, depressed when depressed, happy when happy, judgmental when judgmental, overthinking when overthinking, serene when serene, and so on?

There are some formal ways to work this Step, such as writing it down throughout the day or at night. My own sponsor suggested that I take a few moments each night, take out my notebook, and document my assets and liabilities throughout the day in two columns simply marked with a plus sign (+) for assets and a minus sign (-) for liabilities. It’s an excellent way to prevent a new set of mistakes from building up, risking falling back to a pre-Step-Four condition wherein we’re once again loaded down with unresolved issues. Such a practice requires persistence, willingness, honesty, and humility at the very least.

Maintaining an ongoing awareness of one’s impact on others is one way to keep the slate clean. It is suggested that AA members review their day each evening for any signs of unfinished business, both with others and within themselves. This calls for a classic combination of honesty and humility. While some pieces may be obvious, others may be hidden under rationalizations and other defensive maneuvers. For some people, a printed list of reminders is useful in reviewing the day. Similarly, beginning each day with a review of the day to come can help prevent problems before they begin.
Mark Schenker PhD, A Clinician’s Guide to 12 Step Recovery, p.54

An ideal Step Ten might be remaining mindful of the present moment throughout the day such that we’re addressing items when they come up, a practice that implies a consistent moment-to-moment awareness of our thoughts and behavior. When we are mindful and honest, we are less able to sit with our suffering for very long and are usually prompted by our conscience, our innermost selves, the Holy Spirit, or our Higher Self – whatever one may choose to call it – to take the appropriate action: admit we are wrong and make the amends before we proceed with anything else.

We need the consistency of repeating an action on a daily basis for it to become a habit and to solidly internalize the related spiritual principles. As our days of continuous abstinence turn into weeks and months and years, the personal inventory comes to be second nature. Consistently tracking our spiritual fitness then comes naturally, and we tend to notice right away when we’re headed for trouble.

The spiritual axiom

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.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p.90

An axiom is an unprovable rule or statement accepted as true because it is self-evident or particularly useful. An axiom typically serves as a premise or starting point for further discussion, reasoning, or contemplation. In AA we treat the spiritual axiom described above as a principle — a simple, universal truth to understand, practice, and take in to the depths of our being.

When I am angry, resentful, afraid, anxious, depressed, judgmental, frustrated, or bothered about anything within our outside myself, that means there is something wrong with my thinking. There’s something to which I need to pay close attention and meditate upon. There is something I need to do, one or more actions I need to take, to settle the restlessness — the emotional waves within myself — and this is where Step Ten comes into play.

The spiritual axiom is advanced spirituality

The spiritual axiom is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, spiritual meat to digest. The spiritual axiom is without a doubt a rather advanced spiritual teaching which perhaps cannot be consistently practiced until one has had a spiritual awakening. Although the premise is simple to understand intellectually, it can be quite difficult – especially in early recovery – to fully assent to the idea that ANY disturbance in our mood or well-being we EVER experience represents a problem in our own thinking, perspective, or attitude. It is even more difficult to put that idea into practice on a consistent, moment-to-moment basis in our everyday lives. But this is what we must do if we are to remain sober and fully undergo a significant psychic change.

Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Even so, as imperfectly as we will practice and apply the spiritual axiom in early stages of spiritual development and even in our sustained, active recovery, it is nevertheless critical to keep it in mind as much as possible and to keep trying to apply it anytime we are less than content.

Specifically, what should we be monitoring in and about ourselves as we continue to take personal inventory?

  • Boundaries
  • Emotions
  • Finances
  • Moods
  • Physical condition
  • Relationships
  • Thoughts
  • Work

Exactly how do we monitor all those things?

Here are a few good ways recovering people have actively performed Step 10 over the decades.

  1. Do a quick spot check anytime, anywhere.
  2. Perform a daily written review in the form of an assets and liabilities list. The assets would be spiritually principled actions of the day, and the liabilities would be the actions you would not have taken in retrospect, or things you failed to do.
  3. Create a daily to-do list either at night (for the following day) or first thing in the morning.
  4. Keep a journal or diary.
  5. Check in with a trusted friend in recovery, either in person or by phone.
  6. Do a group wrap-up at night. While in treatment or LTR, this can be done in the van on the way home if you’ll be getting back late.

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