This week’s Did You Know is excerpted from a South Bend History professor’s latest book Changed by Grace: Human soul’s experiences a universal sensation of release and freedom for all who confess their sins under the eyes of God and another trusted person. This is especially true if the other person has suffered through the same sins and in V.C. Kitchen’s case it was him and his wife who had suffered. It was the first time he and his wife had ever tried being “absolutely honest” with anybody. An entirely new bond sprang up between them and although they didn’t realize it, they had begun to live in touch with God and without barriers or bluff between them and their fellow human beings. This was the living miracle which A.A. was later to systematize in the fifth step (Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs), and the ninth step (Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others). The first of the Oxford Group’s Four Absolutes—Absolute honesty—proved to be the most liberating thing which Kitchen and his wife experienced. To their surprise, Confession and Restitution were not humiliating experiences but the doorway to true freedom.
It takes an enormous amount of energy pretending we are someone that we are not. We have to watch every word we say, as long as we insist on pretending and arguing that we are not afraid of anything, never did anything wrong and that we know the answer to everything, never made a mistake and that we never hurt or treated anybody unfairly, never acted out of petty motives and that we were always in control. We enter a world of freedom however when we begin to be honest with other people, and also begin to take personal responsibility for who we really are and what we have done. Confession is worthless though unless we also begin making amends, and attempt to mend the damage we did to others by our shameful actions. Taking real personal responsibility for our actions actually puts us in control of our lives for the first time, insofar as a finite and fallible human being can ever be in control of anything.
“Surrender and the power to resist sin;” Kitchen had been intellectually searching for God for years. The Oxford Group told him that he could know God first hand and directly, but that it was not a matter of intellectually solving for the meaning of life. The O.G. made it clear to him that continuing to read spiritual and self-help books and devising a myriad of vague theories, as he had been doing for years, was getting him nowhere. If one attempted to connect a piece of copper wire to a radio to form an antenna for receiving signals, the wire would do no good if it was covered with dirt and corrosion. The end of the wire had to be scraped clean before it was fastened to the radio, before it could function at all.
In order to contact God, Kitchen had to admit, and begin trying to end and mend his sins, which formed a barrier of dirt and corrosion, blocking out God’s attempts to reach him. A sin in O.G. terminology was anything which clearly formed a barrier between him, another human being and God. “I would have to surrender my will (thoughts and actions),” Kitchen said, in language prefiguring A.A.’s third step, (Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him), and make it subject to the will of God.” There was no use in trying to set up any kind of communication between himself and God as long as he thought that he could simply have a long talk with God, think about it, and then decide for himself whether or not he wanted to do what God wanted him to do. It did not work that way!
To be continued…
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