THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

It is critical that I finally, once and for all, learn and accept the proper order of things and stop putting the cart before the horse—the spiritual must come before the temporal. I must stop putting the fulfillment of my instinctual, temporal desires above my obedience to spiritual law and the pursuit of character development.

The purpose of this post is to help me accept to my core and fully accept and admit to myself, God and others, that I have been putting the fulfillment of my instinctual drives—especially for material, financial, and societal security—above obedience to the foundational, spiritual principles upon which the proper fulfillment and satisfaction of all instinctual drives are based.

To get myself squarely centered on the problem, it is important for me to first review as many of the pertinent passages from the 12 Step literature as I can. I’ve referenced some of them at the end of this post.

Here is a quick summary:

God gave me instincts. There purpose is to keep me alive. But their satisfaction is not the purpose of life. The true and only purpose of life is to mature spiritually and to develop godly, christlike character.

The purpose of life is fulfilled only by obeying the spiritual laws that govern every aspect of this world, including the proper fulfillment of our natural instincts for temporal security, companionship, society, etc.

I put the cart before the horse by putting the fulfillment of my natural instincts before my obedience to spiritual law, obedience to God, and character development.

As the 12&12 describes, I “thought good character was desirable, but obviously good character was something one needed to get on with the business of being self-satisfied. With a proper display of honesty and morality, [I’d] stand a better chance of getting what [I] really wanted. But whenever [I] had to choose between character and comfort, the character-building was lost in the dust of [my] chase after what [I] thought was happiness. Seldom did [I] look at character-building as something desirable in itself, something [I] would like to strive for whether [my] instinctual needs were met or not. [I] never thought of making honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God the daily basis of living.”

Here is just the tip of the iceberg of how I did it:

• I tried to take shortcuts to achieve material success—shortcuts that were morally ambiguous at the very least if not blatantly unfair, unkind, dishonest, discourteous, unethical, etc.

• I made exceptions to my moral code of behavior when I felt that the “ends justified the means.”

• I often did not treat others how I would like to be treated. I often failed to treat my wife as my equal partner—to give equal weight and consideration to her opinions, feelings, and desires.

Because of my blatant, almost total disregard for the universal laws upon which material success, true happiness, the proper fulfillment of our natural instincts, and true success in life are based:

• My law firm failed

• I am unemployed

• My family is experiencing poverty

• My family relationships are strained

• I have harmed and hurt others—usually not on purpose, but as a direct consequence of my unbalanced striving for material success

I am now at a point of complete and total financial failure with no obvious employment or career options and with tons of debt, both tax and creditor, hanging over me.

To persist in my misguided approach to life is absolutely foolish, and, yet, I have struggled to adopt a new way of life—one based on “making honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God [my] basis of daily living.”

Like many of my brothers and sisters in the fellowship of recovery, “process of gaining a new perspective [has been] unbelievably painful. It was only by repeated humiliations that [I have been] forced to learn something about humility. It was only at the end of a long road, marked by successive defeats and humiliations, and the final crushing of [my] self-sufficiency, that [I have begun] to feel humility as something more than a condition of groveling despair.”

I believe that I am at the point where “[s]till goaded by sheer necessity, [I have] reluctantly come to grips with those serious character flaws that [have resulted in my addiction and in my total failure in almost every measure of successful living I hold dear], flaws which [I] must [deal] with to prevent [myself from returning to addiction, and my family from continued poverty and financial strain.]”

So, I admit that I have placed seeking after the treasures of the earth above seeking treasures in heaven. I have disregarded God’s commandments—which are purely instructions on how to comply with the universal laws of life and govern the attainment of all good things, including material security, loving companionship, and the healthy and balanced fulfillment of all instinctual drives—and, consequently, I have seen those things I have sought after slip away as sand through my fingers.

I admit that despite the desperation of my family’s current situation I have continued to “yo’yo” between trusting God and putting spiritual principles first and trying to do it my own way.

I have spent a lot of the last 3 weeks in “do it my way mode.” I want it to be the last time I ever stay here. I don’t want to be in this mode ever again. If I notice I am beginning to slip into it, I want to surrender immediately and recommit to trusting God and living the way He has asked me to live; and to do so every day, one day at a time, for the rest of my life.

12 STEP RECOVERY RESOURCES:

From Step 4 of the 12&12:

“Creation gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn’t be complete human beings. If men and women didn’t exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn’t reproduce, the earth wouldn’t be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires—for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship—are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given.

“Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man’s natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles. Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities.

“Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are. We want to find exactly how, when, and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach.

From Step 6 of the 12&12:

“Every normal person wants, for example, to eat, to reproduce, to be somebody in the society of his fellows. And he wishes to be reasonably safe and secure as he tries to attain these things. Indeed, God made him that way. He did not design man to destroy himself by alcohol, but He did give man instincts to help him to stay alive.

“It is nowhere evident, at least in this life, that our Creator expects us fully to eliminate our instinctual drives. So far as we know, it is nowhere on the record that God has completely removed from any human being all his natural drives.

“Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn’t strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins.

“If we ask, God will certainly forgive our derelictions. But in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation. That is something we are supposed to be willing to work toward ourselves. He asks only that we try as best we know how to make progress in the building of character.

This is followed by a brief summary of examples of how our instincts run wild manifest can manifest as the defects of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. A pertinent example for me of sloth is:

“And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful later on—only we call that “retiring.” Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables.

“Nearly anyone could submit a good list of such defects as these, and few of us would seriously think of giving them up, at least until they cause us excessive misery.

From Step 7 of the 12&12:

The theory seems to be that once everybody’s primary instincts are satisfied, there won’t be much left to quarrel about. The world will then turn happy and be free to concentrate on culture and character. Solely by their own intelligence and labor, men will have shaped their own destiny. . . . [W]e are sure that no class of people in the world ever made a worse mess of trying to live by this formula than alcoholics. For thousands of years we have been demanding more than our share of security, prestige, and romance. . . . Never was there enough of what we thought we wanted.

“In all these strivings, so many of them well-intentioned, our crippling handicap had been our lack of humility. We had lacked the perspective to see that character-building and spiritual values had to come first, and that material satisfactions were not the purpose of living. Quite characteristically, we had gone all out in confusing the ends with the means. Instead of regarding the satisfaction of our material desires as the means by which we could live and function as human beings, we had taken these satisfactions to be the final end and aim of life.

“True, most of us thought good character was desirable, but obviously good character was something one needed to get on with the business of being self-satisfied. With a proper display of honesty and morality, we’d stand a better chance of getting what we really wanted. But whenever we had to choose between character and comfort, the character-building was lost in the dust of our chase after what we thought was happiness. Seldom did we look at character-building as something desirable in itself, something we would like to strive for whether our instinctual needs were met or not. We never thought of making honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God the daily basis of living.

Dave J wearing a black jacket and red tonal fnxwr t-shirt


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