This week we bring you a third article on the Serenity Prayer, this one by the wonderful Rev. Dr. Rainbow Johnson. She beautifully weaves together the work of Bill Wilson, Ernest Holmes, and Reinhold Niebuhr, plus a bit of Abraham Maslow. To access the original post on the Austin Drug & Alcohol Abuse Program site, click here.
In gratitude, harmony, and support,
The Serenity Prayer and the 12 Steps
By Rev. Dr. Rainbow Johnson
“WOW! I just came from a church service and it reminded me of going to a 12 Step meeting! I never thought I’d find a church that taught the same principles as the Twelve Steps!” A young man was talking to me at a rehabilitation center where I work as a clergy counselor.
That didn’t surprise me one bit. You see, the philosopher/metaphysician Ernest Holmes, and Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, were friends. In fact, one of Ernest Holmes’ close friends said that he heard Ernest say that Alcoholics Anonymous was definitely the greatest spiritual impulsion of the 21st century!
On page 10 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson states, “I had always believed in a power greater than myself. I had often pondered these things….. My intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astronomers, even the evolutionists, suggested vast laws and forces at work. Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law and, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation.
Compare this with the opening statements of Ernest Holmes’ radio programs, “There is a power for good in the Universe, greater than we are, and we can use it.”
Bill Wilson goes on to say on page 55, …for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God.
In I Corinthians 3:16 it says: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
And Ernest Holmes tells us on p. 227 of The Science of Mind, that “This power within you is the same that holds the planets in space.”
Bill Wilson continues… “But my friend sat before me and made the point-blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself.”
“It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.”
The basic tenets of the Twelve Step Program are to believe in a higher power, to surrender to this higher power, to make amends to those one has hurt, to seek through prayer and meditation to improve one’s conscious contact with God, to be there as a support for others in recovery, and to practice the principles in daily living.
The Twelve Steps of Recovery have proven so powerful, that they have assisted millions of people in their recovery. Today, there are well over 60 varieties of twelve step meetings all over the world. Although the primary addiction of these meetings may be different, the twelve steps to recovery remain the same in all meetings. In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous, some other twelve step meetings are: Co-Dependents Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous, Fundamentalists Anonymous, Parents Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Smokers’ Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous, Seducers Anonymous, Messies Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Marijuana Anonymous. There are also related groups some of which are: Al-Anon for families and friends of alcoholics, Alateen, Narcanon, Narcateen, and Adult Children of Alcoholics.
The Twelve Steps originated with Alcoholics Anonymous and have been adapted by all the other recovery groups with AA’s permission.
The Twelve Steps
1. We admitted we were powerless over our emotions — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to emotionally and mentally ill persons, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
In addition to the Twelve Steps to Recovery, the watchword of all twelve step meetings is The Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr which says:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
This is indeed a beautiful and inspiring prayer, and used by twelve step meetings all over the world. It implies that we need to be awake and aware of the events in our lives, and know which things we can change and which things we cannot change. But here is where Religious Science takes a different view. We say that no matter what the situation, there is always something we can change. What could that something be? That something is — our view of the situation. Even if we were in a concentration camp, or imprisoned in solitary confinement, it would be our view of the situation that would create our reality.
I am reminded of Abraham Maslow, who related in Man’s Search for Meaning how his attitude when he was a concentration camp prisoner literally saved him. While thousands of others gave up, he continued to assist others and exercise his mind and heart and emerged victorious!
Some of you may be thinking, “What do The Twelve Steps have to do with me and my life?” Well, in metaphysics we teach that the more we look at things which on the surface appear different from ourselves, when we look under the costumes and masks, and delve beneath the surface, we find, to our great satisfaction, that indeed, as Ernest Holmes so beautifully states: “There is One Life back of everything that lives…There is One Energy back of all that is energized. This Energy is in everything…That is the meaning of that mystical saying: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)