The book 12 Steps & 12 Traditions illustrates the importance of distrust of self, seeing it as the foundation for recovery from the disease of alcoholism. It reads,
… only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength (pg. 21).
Why is “utter defeat” so important for recovery from addiction? What is it about this experience that makes a man able to take first steps toward liberation and strength?
In the previous post we read,
Experience proves that acknowledged sinners are reformed with less difficulty than those who willfully hide themselves under the cloak of a false virtue (Spiritual Combat, pg. 5).
For those of us addicted to acting out the cardinal sin of lust this is good news: it’s not that we are weak that is the problem, it’s that we think we are stronger, wiser, and more powerful than we are.
The 12 and 12 goes on,
The principle that we shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered (pg. 22).
The fellowship of AA, which has no other purpose but the sobriety and recovery of people who want to stop drinking, but can’t, is founded not on victory of self, but the failure of self. This failure of self results in the admission of personal powerlessness in respect to alcohol.
The SA program, which adopted the AA literature, similarly is founded upon the experience of personal powerlessness in respect to lust. The admission of complete defeat is essential to willingness to place faith, hope, and love, not in self, but in God.
Chapter 2 of the Spiritual Combat, titled “Concerning Distrust of Self” starts off,
DISTRUST of self is so absolutely requisite in the spiritual combat that without this virtue we cannot expect to defeat our weakest passions, much less gain a complete victory.
Here we learn that distrust of self is actually considered a virtue… a virtue that is absolutely requisite! Some passions are weaker, like my passion to watch Mr. Robot, a series on USA. If I wanted to mortify of this, distrust of self would be necessary.
But even more, if I have a compulsion to acting out lust with porn and masturbation, or going to strip clubs, massage parlors, etc., how much more is distrust of self necessary?
Why wouldn’t we have it? What prevents it, especially for those of us who have fallen to these sins over and over and over again?
Dom Lorenzo Scupoli explains,
…we are too apt to overestimate our own abilities and to conclude falsely that we are of some importance. This vice springs from the corruption of our nature. http://a.co/8byrVPw
The vice of self-reliance, of using the self as the source of salvation and sanctification springs from the corruption of our nature. It comes from the ‘pride of life’ and the tendency to place self at the center of the universe and to be so self-centered that God, and others, are eclipsed.
Distrust of self is not the end of the spiritual life, but the foundation, the beginning, the first step, it is orient toward confidence in God, the second step or principle in the Spiritual Combat.
However, before moving onto that we will look closer at how to grow in distrust of self and how to tell if we have the right kind.
Until then, let’s end with a passage to meditate upon, internalize, and draw much needed strength from,
“…my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).