What are the spiritual principles behind Step Three?
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
The spiritual principle necessary to some degree to practice Step Three is faith.
Other spiritual principles important for Step Three include willingness, open-mindedness, and humility.
The words as we understood Him are very important for all of us, especially those whose understanding of God or higher power may differ from the traditional Judeo-Christian concept of God. There are caveats and explanations of this open-mindedness regarding God or higher power throughout the Big Book.
It is vital that all of us, regardless of our belief or lack of belief in a deity, eventually come to settle on a higher power concept that makes sense to the individual. The Big Book asks that we take a series of actions necessary to work the steps and to help those around us; it does not ask us to adopt any particular belief.
In our personal stories you will find a wide variation in the way each teller approaches and conceives of the Power which is greater than himself. Whether we agree with a particular approach or conception seems to make little difference. Experience has taught us that these are matters about which, for our purpose, we need not be worried. They are questions for each individual to settle for himself. (We Agnostics, Big Book, p.50)
Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?
This novel idea is surely one of the reasons Alcoholics Anonymous has thrived all these decades (around 80 years now). As for me, I’m extremely grateful to both Ebby Thacher and Bill Wilson for this weighty, sage advice (choosing our own conception of God). Without this approach, I’d probably consider AA as just another religious group attempting to proselytize me, brainwash me, mold me into its conformist template. Without the open-minded notion of choosing a higher power that makes sense, Alcoholics Anonymous would probably not exist in its present form – far from it, most likely.
But the brilliant idea of having our own concept of God was communicated by Ebby and recorded by Bill, making it available to all of us — creating a fellowship beyond what anyone could have imagined at the time. This is truly amazing!
An encouraging truth upon which most of us can perhaps agree is this: Whatever the concept of God or higher power, it is certainly accessible to everyone who genuinely seeks. It seems this higher power can be found only by going deep within oneself; those who look for God externally may encounter barriers until the searchlight is turned inward.
Bill W. put it this way:
We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us. (Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous, We Agnostics, p.55)
The distinguished American psychologist, William James, in his book Varieties of Religious Experience, indicates a multitude of ways in which men have discovered God. We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired. If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed, or color are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try. Those having religious affiliations will find here nothing disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters.
We think it no concern of ours what religious bodies our members identify themselves with as individuals. This should be an entirely personal affair which each one decides for himself in the light of past associations, or his present choice. (Big Book, There is a Solution, p.28)
When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin somewhere. So we used our own conception, however limited it was.
We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?” As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built. (Big Book, We Agnostics, p.47)