12 and 12 Problems: Rigorous Honesty + Step Eleven

by Joshua Hoe

Joshua Hoe
Indian Buffet — Curry!

Before I start, let me again state that I represent no particular program. I speak for no organization or entity. I speak only for myself.

12-Step Literature has made a major difference in my life and in my sobriety.

It is very important to me to read a piece of program literature every day.

But, every once in a while, something really hits me cockeyed.

In almost every instance, the thing that makes my eyes cross is from parts of the 12 and 12.

Don’t get me wrong, there is also a massive amount of great information and material in the 12 and 12, but sometimes it really hits me wrong.

It is important to add the following caveat, I would never suggest throwing the baby out with the bathwater (and I would certainly rather keep the book intact if the alternative was losing it) but maybe, just maybe, it might be time to update parts of the 12 and 12?

Step Eleven Issues

To my mind, one of the most important parts of the program is it’s commitment to rigorous honesty.

I believe that has to extend to every area of what we do and what we say to ourselves and to others.

I believe it has to extend to all program doctrines and what programs tell newcomers.

And, to my mind, the Step Eleven reading exposes some dishonesty.

When newcomers come to meetings but are uncomfortable with the spirituality of the program or the barely disguised Christianity at the core, we tell them Christian Faith does not have to be at the core.

We tell them that the point is only to surrender your power (your illusion of being in control) to something greater than you…To a “Higher Power.” We tell them that their higher power can be “the group” or any alternative that works for them.

But once they have locked in to believing in a different higher power, they should be able to have that decision respected and valued (and I say that as a Christian).

But, pretty much any newcomer who attends a meeting after accepting an alternative higher power has to be shocked when reading or hearing the eleventh step and it’s almost condescending pat on the head to anyone silly enough to continue to put their faith in the group or in say Buddhism.

It basically reads like, “oh poor silly person, we were like you once but we learned God’s truth. You will have to join us too if you want o recover.”

The step eleven reading is about as naked a statement that 12 step programs are about a specific form of prayer and meditation to a particular God.

I find this uncomfortable.

Not because I am not of faith, I am of faith.

I find it uncomfortable because it suggests what programs tell newcomers is nothing but an enabling fiction.

It is not rigorously honest to tell someone they can feel safe in the power of the program as an atheist or as a Muslim or a member of any non-Christian faith.

In other words, they will feel confronted by exactly what they were afraid of when they first walked in, that this 12 step process was a secret delivery system for Christianity.

Programs should not be confusing, cloaked, or shady.

Programs should be rigorously honest. Every time and in every way.

I will certainly agree with you that there is some beautiful stiff in there that makes me feel great about meditation and prayer for sure.

But that is not enough.

I believe programs should either be honest from the start, or change this reading to be consistent with what we tell people when they first walk in the door.

What do you think of the Eleventh Step reading in the 12 and 12? Feel free to disagree with me, I would love to hear your comments!


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