Dear Compassionate Witness: A Modern Love Letter to the Fifth Step

By March 20, 2023August 23rd, 2023Modern Love Letters to the 12 Steps
the fifth step

This post is part of a series of modern love letters to the 12 Steps. To start at the very beginning, read To Whom We Owe Our Recovery: Modern Love Letters to the Twelve Steps.

In Step One we acknowledge our powerlessness over addiction. In Step Two we find hope of a cure in a loving, personal relationship with a Higher Power. In Step Three, we surrender, casting off our burdens entirely into the arms of life’s healing powers. In Step Four, we reclaim our right to be set free by the truth of our tender humanity. 

But the Steps don’t leave us there, nearly halfway up the stairway to heaven! Onward, dear friends, to Step Five. During the fifth step, we recover the right to be compassionately witnessed. 

Sounding the Resonances of Truth

Dear Step Five, 

You read, “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

You can sound like confession, penance. Those of us who tend to beat ourselves up, to punish or correct ourselves, who draw nourishment from a framework of moralization, may take it that way. 

In truth, admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another person out loud, acknowledging the truth in our own hearts as audible resonances, spoken, resounded through our bodies, will be the liberating cure of truth. 

Spoken Truth Cures the Sickness

Truthtelling sets us free, even when what we have to say isn’t pretty. The body responds to truth’s vibrations, blooms to it. 

When we say truth out loud with the music of the voice, speaking to ourselves, a trusted other, and also to God inside us, we follow through on the freedom we claimed for ourselves in Step Four.

Why is it so important to share truth out loud with another? Because as they say in AA, we are only as sick as our secrets. And secrets do keep us sick. 

Just as it’s dysfunctional to ask children to keep the secrets of the family to themselves, so as not to bring shame on the family, the same holds true when we ask portions of ourselves to hide, to pretend we are healthier than we are. 

The Need to Be Seen

Underneath our shields, our weapons, our armor, there lies a hidden desire to be seen and known, not only for the best of who we are, but also for the worst of what we have become. Because what was done to us is visible in what we became.

It is a terrible burden to the soul to be forced to hide its darkness. It contorts, perverts, and destroys soul to be bound to always wear the costumes and masks of a false self. Nevertheless, that is the assignment given to ego. 

The poor ego. The ego is not much more than a parentified child, trying to, as they say in AA, whistle in the dark.

The Flower of our Soul Revives

What lies underneath the protective bluster of the ego is damage. Harm, hurt, and ways in which we have been mangled out of our original divine human form. Like crushed flowers, the more tender, vulnerable sides of us have become mashed underfoot. 

But these sides of us would spring back to life and full form given the right conditions, like sand being jostled into beautiful patterns by the right sound tones, as seen in cymatics. 

Step Five, you respond to something real. That within us which has been forced to live underground, in reversal, pressed out of shape through the forces of traumatization. That which longs to be seen in its damaged form. 

These parts of us all need our own recognition, our compassion, our understanding of the story of how they got to be this way.

The Longing to Be Good

Deep in the soul, we want to be good. Those sides of us who have wanted, on their worst days, to spread their damage to others, they do to. The parts that want to enact patterns that were enacted upon us – even those sides, if they felt it was an option, would choose to be good if they could. 

Lacking a pathway back to the light, parts frozen in darkness communicate in the language and tools of their world of darkness. If given a pathway back out of isolation, exile and marginalization, these parts will take on different forms, recognizable as aspects and colors of our divine nature. 

The journey back to our basic goodness starts with admitting fully what the current situation is. What we have become, where we have fallen short of our own integrity. 

Asking for What We Want

Step Five, it is healing to recognize this, and even more healing to recognize it in the light of compassionate witness from another. With one who knows all about how darkness corrodes the best of intentions when we are playing a game that it is impossible to win. 

The God nature inside us forgives all, when we ask for forgiveness. If we do not admit to ourselves that we know deep down, and feel deep down, the dissonance of our actions, we will never ask to be freed of those burdens. We want to be good. We must find the frequency of humility, to ask for what we want, receive our own permission to return to who and what we are. 

Step Five, you are the beginning of a genuine ask.

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