I finally completed my Step 5 yesterday at my mentor’s house this weekend. My path through Steps 4 & 5 was not one I recommend to others. Just after starting Step 4 my first mentor left the program; this was unfortunate because he had worked with me from the beginning and was very familiar with my history. For several weeks I was in limbo while the mentors of my program decided what to do with me. They finally assigned an interim mentor for me, someone I could call and submit homework to. After a few more weeks of this interim status I was assigned a new, ‘permanent’ mentor. It was with this man who I completed my Step 5 work yesterday.
For those who are not familiar with the 12 Steps, Step 4 required that I create a list of all of my resentments, fears, and harms done to others. This process is only supposed to take three days of feverish soul-searching because the nature of the work is so toxic. Imagine dredging up every resentment, fear, and harm committed for as far back as you can remember; it is an exhausting and grueling process. In my case, rather than three ‘quick and dirty’ days of list-making, I was stuck in Step 4 for weeks. For weeks I rehashed all the resentments I held onto over the years; I endlessly analyzed all my fears; I relived all the ways I can remember hurting other people. And while the length of time I spent in Step 4 was unpleasant (and not recommended!) I think God knew just how deeply I was holding on to certain things, especially my denial, and He knew that I needed extra time to come to grips with my sin and ‘own it’.
Step 5 should quickly follow Step 4: You go over your list of resentments, fears, and harms with another person. In my case I went over my list with my mentor. Though I was nervous driving to his house, completing the Step was much easier that I anticipated. We went through each list, line by line, and my mentor allowed me to add details and comment at any point along the way. On the very first item we covered from my resentments list I realized how absolutely petty I am. That feeling repeated many times over the course of my lists. I was struck time and again by how absurdly stupid and completely selfish I am.
And you know what’s funny? Just like the program promises, by the end of my Step 5 I realized that literally everyone else I know is exactly the same way. Yes, unfortunately this includes you, but that’s actually great news! What I’ve missed all of my life is that while I am precious in God’s eyes, I’m no more or less precious than anyone else and I am no better or worse than anyone else. I have hurt others, and others have hurt me. I can stop trying to assign blame, I can stop wearing my mask, and I can see that everyone else is wearing a mask around me. We are all walking around trying to pretend like we’re not fearful, selfish, greedy, angry, resentful people…The harder we try to pretend the deeper our denial gets buried and the harder it is to see ourselves for who we truly are. If we cannot see ourselves for what we are, how can we hope for God to heal us?
To complete Step 5 my mentor and I stepped into his backyard and burned my list in a fire pit; it’s a fitting metaphor. I submitted my resentments, fears, and harms to God, and He forgave me. The list burned; the ashes blew away; there was no trace left. And now my eyes are open.
Do you want God to heal you? Are you willing to let him show you who you really are?