“God, I offer myself to Thee–to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
One of the things I never knew how to feel about, was the idea that we are not to pray for ourselves unless another person is benefiting from whatever we pray will come to fruition. I did not accept this initially, because at the end of the day weren’t the 12-steps a type of self-help program? I was there for my healing. Yet, slowly as I said the Serenity Prayer and moved on to the Third Step Prayer, I began to understand that these prayers were truly about helping me and those around me (my coworkers, my dog, my roommates, and my family).
When I am acting out against the things I cannot change (referring to the Serenity Prayer) through channels that are not effective; I may not be acting out at all. I am making a commotion that negatively affects those around me, and ultimately ends up with at least one authority figure coming to get me. It is not about being passive and letting things pass us by, but it is about understanding that not everything is about us or in our control. While I hate to admit it, no matter how I act or what I do, my mother will probably never be the acknowledging, loving mother I envisioned. It is this type of thing that I cannot change, and recognizing the things I can change, especially about me and my behaviors, and actually changing them improves my life and the lives of the people with whom I regularly come into contact with.
As for the Third Step Prayer, the concept of being relieved of the bondage of self in order to better fulfill one’s Higher Power’s will implies a multitude of ways in which the word “self” is being used. First, it can apply to self-will, as our attempts to control things that are out of control, as the Serenity Prayer refers to it. Alternatively, the concept of self may describe our self-conceptions. Alcoholics and addicts often point out an interesting dichotomy of how they can have low self-esteem and feelings of extreme importance in the world at the same time. This is often referred to as being ”The Piece of Shit at the Center of the Universe.” This may lead to self-comparison to other individuals, where that person thinks that they are either, so much better or so much worse than the person they are comparing themselves to.
When we ask our Higher Power to relieve us of the bondage of self, it seems that we are really asking our Higher Power to relieve us of the bondage of our thinking. It is our thinking that is distorted and needs to be aligned with a larger healthier stream of consciousness. For me it is the way I perceive myself as all good or all bad (an idiot or a genius) depending on the moment. This is how I naturally think, and so when I turn my thinking over to my Higher Power; I no longer feel like the pitiful addict, secretly or openly in a state of malaise. In order to turn my thinking over to my Higher Power, I have to stop myself from acting from my thoughts, and take the suggestions my sponsor, friends and therapist gives me.
Obviously, all my difficulties have not been taken away, but life is very different from the hopeless state it was in before I started having a working relationship with a Power Greater than myself. I now help other alcoholics and addicts in ways that I could not have even conceived of before. I find that through helping others, my life becomes richer. I think that is part of my Higher Power’s plot. It is not so much that my “self” disappears; merely that it is transformed and given over to God’s will.
By Emily F