Step 5: Accountability is sustainability

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Accountability is sustainability.

Owning up to your darkness brings a profound freedom. When you can acknowledge your shadow self, it loses control. When you accept those parts of yourself that you often try to push under the rug, you will finally start the healing process.

Your dark side just wants to be named. It longs to be accepted as a part of who you are.

Although this may seem like a scary proposition, it is a freeing exercise. When you pull out the weeds, you are not punishing yourself and labeling yourself as a bad person, but rather you are giving language to your wounds for them to heal.

“What humanity needs is an honest exposure of the truth and true accountability and responsibility for what has happened. Only then can human beings move ahead with dignity.” — Richard Rohr

The Twelve Step program differs from most world religions in that sin and evil are not “punished” but used as the source of freedom and healing. Institutional religion loves to assign good guys and bad guys so it can sell you the solution to become one of the “chosen ones,” leaving out the idea that we all are innately accepted.

Richard Rohr puts it this way, “the revelation from the cross and the Twelve Steps, however, believes that sin and failure are, in fact, the setting and opportunity for the transformation and enlightenment of the offender.”

The ego cannot understand this economy of Grace, but your soul inherently does. The soul does not operate in a courtroom where your sins are punished without recovery or transformation.

As all wisdom traditions preach, it is in our darkness that the light shines the brightest. If that isn’t good news to all, I don’t know what could be better.

Your biggest failures, downfalls, “sins,” and evils are the ground from which a Higher Power can build.

“When human beings “admit” to one another “the exact nature of their wrongs”…it is no longer an exercise to achieve moral purity, or regain God’s love, but in fact a direct encounter with God’s love.” — Richard Rohr

Anyone who has done any healthy therapy knows that you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge. And what you do not bring to light will control you from within.

Let that sink in for a second.

The emotions, thoughts, and situations you are running from will never be healed until you turn and acknowledge them as being a part of who you are at this moment.

Jesus said this most succinctly in the Gospel of Thomas, “[i]f you bring forth that which is within you, it will save you. If you do not bring it forth, it will destroy you.”

In step five; the purpose of “admitting” the exact nature of your faults is to bring forth the dark aspects of your inner left, so they no longer have a hold on you. The purpose is not to shame, but to transform.

At its essence, sin is not a moral wrongdoing, but is a place where God meets you and transforms you.

“God does not love us if we change, God loves so that we can change. ” — Richard Rohr

It is only Divine Love that leads to transformation not guilt, shame, or peer pressure. And it is free.

“Love is not loving unless it is totally free. Grace is not grace unless it is totally free. You would think Christian people would know that by now, but it is still a secret of the soul.” — Richard Rohr

The pattern is this:

Sin -> Unconditional Love ->Transformation -> Repentance

If you don’t believe me take the account in Ezekiel where Yahweh speaks to the prophet Ezekiel saying, “I take no pleasure in the death of a wicked man but in the turning back of a wicked man who changes his ways to win life. Come back, come back! Why are you so anxious to die…” (Ezekiel 33:11)

That is Divine Grace. That is the importance of acknowledging where you have failed. And that is the profoundly powerful experience available to any person that walks the spiritual journey toward transformation with humility and honesty.

According to Rohr, the purpose of step five is to restore the addict with God, with another human, and to himself or herself. “Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different or better past. It is what it is, and such acceptance leads to great freedom, as long as there is also accountability and healing in the process.”

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