This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Step Five, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Bill Wilson called Step Five vital and on page 57 said: it was also the means by which we began to get the feeling that we could be forgiven, no matter what we had thought or done. Often it was while working on this step with our sponsors or spiritual advisers that we first felt truly able to forgive others, no matter how deeply we felt they had wronged us. Our moral inventory had persuaded us that all-round forgiveness was desirable, but it was only when we resolutely tackled Step Five that we inwardly knew we’d be able to receive forgiveness and give it too.
Another great dividend we may expect from confiding our defects to another human being is humility-a word often misunderstood. To those who have made progress in A. A., it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be. Therefore our first practical move toward humility must consist of recognizing our deficencies. No defect can be corrected unless we clearly see what it is. But we shall have to do more than see. The objective look at ourselves we achieved in Step Four was, after all, only a look. All of us saw, for example, that we lacked honesty and tolerance, that we were beset at times by attacks of self-pity or delusions of personal grandeur. But while this was a humiliating experience, it didn’t necessarily mean that we had yet acquired much actual humility. Though we recognized our defects, they were still there and something had to be done about them. And we soon found that we could not wish or will them away by ourselves.
More realism and therefore more honesty about ourselves are the great gains we make under the influence of Step Five. As we took inventory, we began to suspect how much trouble self-delusion had been causing us. This had brought a disturbing reflection. If all our lives we had more or less fooled ourselves, how could we now be so sure that we weren’t still self-deceived? How could we be certain that we had made a true catalogue of our defects and had really admitted them, even to ourselves? Because we were still bothered by fear, self pity, and hurt feelings, it was probable we couldn’t appraise ourselves fairly at all. Too much guilt and remorse might cause us to dramatize and exaggerate our shortcomings. Our anger and hurt pride might be the smoke screen under which we were hiding some of our character defects while we blamed others for them. Possibly, too, we were still handicapped by many liabilities, great and small that we never knew we had.