STEP 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
In Step 4, we inventoried our fears, resentments, and character defects (and hopefully assets as well), now it’s time to use the power of the Word to bring in healing to ourselves. As a brief review of what we are talking about, I will cite the Green Book:
“Admitting our wrongs means admitting all the ways in which we were dishonest, unfair, abusive, inconsiderate, unjust, or unethical. Our wrongs include all of the ways we (cheated) to get ahead or to avoid consequences we didn’t want to face. They may also include actions we neglected to take, as well as ones we took.”
We wrote down these things in Step 4, now it is time that we reflect upon them and admit to ourselves without justification, “Yeah, I did that, and while I am not proud, I understand what motivated me and I am ready to move on from that way of thinking and being.”
We recognize and accept that these were/are ways of acting out sync with the Laws of Nature and Creation (see previous postings for detailed explanation of this concept) as we on some level did harm to others and ourselves. When we admit this to God/Self and to ourselves through contemplation, meditation and prayer, we can begin to heal ourselves and forgive ourselves- we can be “redeemed”. A wonderful short prayer or mantra we can say to ourselves to bring about self-forgiveness is “Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you. Forgive me.”
Now that we have undergone the difficult process of being honest with ourselves, now it is time that we are honest with another person. This is the point where I once again make the case that the Steps are not just for “addicts”, even though it was originally developed for them. All but the most exceptional among us have secrets (and I dare say they too might have a few things they don’t air in public). All of us have a few instances from our past that we are ashamed to admit in full- specifically those instances in which we know we have acted in a less than honorable manner. These are things that have the potential to erode our view of ourselves as well as our ability to be truly close with others out of fear that they might see “who we really are”.
This is for all intents and purposes a confession. The Sacrament of Confession itself is a very old thing that unfortunately has been given a lot of dusty associations rooted in shame and regret, and the idea of “sin”. However Father Paul Blighton clears this up very succinctly:
“Sin is merely a name for the incorrect use of the great creative law of God. This law is the nature of man’s own being and function. Right use of this law brings happiness, peace, fulfillment, and realization. Wrong use of the law breeds pain, suffering, and confusion.”
In truth, the confession is an act of humility that allows us to be free of our self-righteousness, self-importance and the bondage that goes along with it. However it is important to go into this with not only a desire to cleanse ourselves of the shame and resentment of the past, but the sincere desire to change the course of our future. If we are merely blurting something out of guilt, with no desire to change the ways of thinking and doing that led to us behaving in that way in the first place, then a confession is merely a superficial way of making ourselves “feel better” so we can continue about “business as usual”.
With this understanding, we find an appropriate individual to share the exact nature of our wrongs. I did my 5th Step with my sponsor, as is typical in 12 Step Programs. However in the case of those working outside of 12 Step, it could be with a close friend also walking the spiritual path of healing, a therapist, spiritual adviser, or another wise confidant (a mentor, etc.). Find someone you trust, who you know will understand, yet be unaffected by what you share. This step should NOT be taken with partners, parents or family members. We need a safe space where hurt feelings, accusations, and the possible desire to defend our actions and our person will not become a barrier to healing.
When the appropriate individual is found and gives their consent to listen to your 5th Step, we find a place where we can talk in a safe and private manner. We bring our 4th Step inventory and review it, as well as elaborate upon it. At that point, to again quote the Green Book, “We admit our wrongs in a detailed and thorough way. We describe what we did, when we did it, and what we were thinking when we did it. We describe what the consequences were for ourselves and for others. Many of us tell the story of each wrong rather than simply listing them. In the process we reexamine situations in which we may have seen ourselves as the victim or minimized our wrongful actions.”
Many of us expect to be judged harshly or rejected by someone we tell our darkest secrets and most shameful behaviors to. However, when we tell finally someone these things and we get loving acceptance in return, we begin to heal from these ghosts of the past. We in turn begin the process of loving acceptance towards ourselves in a more complete manner.
The person you share this information with may even have insights to share that you may not have realized in your own reflection. One that I particularly remember was that I was looking for others to fill a void that I had within myself. I was looking towards others to give me the love that I did not have towards myself. I was expecting them to be able to complete me and give me identity, when these things are only something that a true relationship with God and Self can bring us. And when these people inevitably failed to meet my expectations in some way or other, I resented them, often deeply.
We must do our best to be completely and fully honest, and not “edit” or skim over details to protect ourselves. Healing will only be as complete as our honesty. Now perhaps we may have forgotten or unconsciously omitted something. Perhaps we are not ready to share everything right then and there. That’s okay. This is not something that needs to be done all in one shot. The process of rigorous honesty, especially with ourselves and our intentions is an ongoing one. The important thing is to do our best to be as honest as we can, and be honest that we are doing our best. Over time we learn to hold ourselves accountable without persecuting ourselves.
After the 5th Step process is completed to the best of our abilities, we would do wise to meditate and reflect. Let the sense of healing and gratitude fill you, and give thanks. Now we can work bit by bit on being fully honest with others and ourselves. We can begin to live the examined life of fullness and meaning. Until next time, Namaste and God Bless.