IN attending meetings in various groups in our region, I am continually surprised at the number of members who are resentful because they have not acquired “serenity”. They can’t get peace of mind “no matter how they try.”
It is my opinion and it has certainly been my experience that we don’t “get” serenity by fighting for it or even by looking for it. In fact, we may even lose it by wanting it!
Why? Again, in my opinion, serenity or peace of mind is not a goal in itself. It is the result of a revolution in our thinking; a revolution, in our case, brought about by our efforts to apply the Twelve Steps of the AA program to our daily life.
I heard a real old timer the other night say that the Twelve Steps are really one step, divided into twelve pieces. Of course the First Step is essential to sobriety and without it the whole program collapses. But the core of the program is the Third Step. And the heart of the difficulty we have in applying it is our increasing desire to run the show in our own way.
We lose our serenity in the hardship and anguish we suffer every day from the burden of our own selfishness and clumsiness and incompetence and pride. Discouraged by our own failures, we are hungry to be led and advised and directed by someone else. Who? The Third Step answers the question. “Made a decision to turn our lives and will to the care of God, as we understand him.”
Our own will has become the source of so much misery and darkness, that we renounce our own will, our own ego and pride and desire and seek God’s will for us. When we do this we find peace and serenity even in the midst of labor and conflict and trial.
Serenity is impossible for the man who is dominated by all the confused and changing desires of his own will. And even if those desires reach out for the good things of life, for peace and recollection, or the pleasures of prayer, if they are no more than natural desires, they will make serenity difficult or even impossible.
It is unlikely then that we will have perfect serenity or peace of mind unless we are detached from even the desire for serenity. We may never be able to pray perfectly unless we detach ourselves from the desire for the pleasures of prayer.
The secret of serenity then is detachment from our own will. That is worth repeating: The secret of serenity is detachment from our own will. If we attach importance to our own desires, we run the risk of losing what is essential to serenity–the acceptance of God’s will, no matter what our feelings happen to be.
Detachment. If we think that the most important thing in life is serenity, we become all the more disturbed when we notice we do not have it. And because we cannot directly produce serenity in ourselves when we want it, our disturbance increases with the failure of our efforts. Finally, losing patience by refusing to accept this situation which we cannot control, we climb into the driver’s seat and lose the one important reality–union with God’s will, without which serenity is nearly impossible.
It is important then to revolutionize our thinking about the importance of the human will–our own human will in particular. I heard it expressed once as the laying down of our will alongside God’s will so that the two become as one.
Just how we accomplish this is what makes the individual aspect of the AA program. For each of us comes into AA with a different temperament, a different background and various reactions to our past experiences.
One thing I think is important in setting goals for yourself. Do not become too disturbed at failure. We all have a lot of the old Nick in us and we are all far from perfect. If we expect to achieve perfection we shall certainly be disappointed. But peace of mind and serenity do come to us in proportion as we turn our lives and wills over to the care of God, as we understand him. But don’t look for it and crave it. If you think serenity is a great and wonderful thing and that it makes you superior to other men, then you cannot desire it as it ought to be desired. It is necessary to be abased, not to be exalted. It is not helpful to be great in your own eyes but to be little.
For it is in humility that you find the answer to all the great problems of life and the soul.