Looking in the mirror and remembering what you see


Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

James, one of the twelve disciples and later an apostle to the new church, would have loved Alcoholics Anonymous. He would have been in favor of the practicality of the program and the honesty it fosters. Looking at the verses above f you can see the self-examination, the realistic assessment of oneself and the act of making right what you have done wrong, including confessing your sins to one another. James would have been right at home in an AA meeting.

Take a look at those first couple of verses. We’ve all looked at ourselves in the mirror of self-examination, but what did we do with what we saw? If we remember what we saw, we will be humbled. We will find it impossible to judge others when we are fully acquainted with our own shortcomings. In AA you look at yourself and you remember. You remember because you keep coming back. You don’t go through these steps once and when you believe you are healed, go on your merry way. You live continually in the reality of self-assessment and confession.

If you walk away from a self-assessment and immediately forget what you saw, it’s because you didn’t like what you saw, but you don’t want to do anything about it. You forget on purpose. The psychological word for it is “denial.” In a gathering of people where relationships are shallow and superficial, you can get away with that. Everyone protects themselves and everyone else. It’s understood. When we see what we don’t like in ourselves or anyone else, we just don’t go there. It’s a way we avoid the pain of confrontation.

In my family growing up we had an unwritten rule that we avoided conflict. We might employ humor or sarcasm to get something across, but never anything direct. We do the same thing in many Christian contexts. It’s a sort of group denial. It’s the way we keep ourselves feeling safe — by hiding.

In AA, most of what we would be afraid to admit is already out on the table. We are alcoholics (that’s why we came in the door in the first place), we are powerless to change ourselves, our lives have become unmanageable, we have admitted we need help and have turned our lives over to God and are now trying to face into each day honestly in the context of others who are struggling with the same things.  It’s safe, too, but in another, much more healthy way. It’s safe because we are in an environment of total acceptance. There is no need to hide; it’s all out in the open. It’s where the truth sets us free.

In the context of saved sinners, basking in the grace and forgiveness of God, it should be the same. There is nothing to hide. We are all struggling with our daily lives. We all need to depend on the Lord for everything, and we all need each other. We are in an environment where we can confess our sins to each other and find healing because we are all being revealed as we walk in the light.

When I have come clean with a group of people, and they in turn have come clean with me, and we keep coming to meet together, we will want to know how we are doing. We will keep that door open to ourselves because we all know we are sinners in love with the One who set us free. That’s why we are here.

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8 Responses to Looking in the mirror and remembering what you see

  1. Jesus Aguilar says:

    Absolutely, John, we are here because we are not all there. Having confess, is such a relief, we call it “spiritual awakening” The light of the spirit shines in our life and at the beginning it is but one small and tiny ray, as we walk through the rest of the steps the light becomes wide enough for others to walk together with room to spare. Personally, God has given me the opportunity to work with many brothers and this is what I hear. “The Bible says: Drink, and be merry” so drinking is not a sin — my respond is: The Bible is right for those that do not have the gene of alcoholism, but if when you take a drink, cannot stop and do not want to stop, regardless if the party is over, you find yourself where is more alcohol so you can keep on drinking, while your wife and your children are at home. The Bible does not refer to this kind of drinking. Then they admit that something is wrong and if we can show them how powerless they are in reference to alcohol and today is even drugs, then we can start to restore the person to his or her right mind. This is a miracle that a person like me do not want to miss and God has given me the privilege to witness over and over again. Praise be to God.
    While I am participating in this workshop, I have had the opportunity to go thru another self-examination and discovered, a radical character defect that has been hiding very comfortable and growing. (LOL) yes it grew in the dark and yes John thank you. Hope this encourage others to examine and then confess. It is an experience that you do not want to miss. Yes John I know who you are. . . . . A precious child of God

  2. Sandie says:

    “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.” No matter how dark is the dark, the smallest pinpoint of light can be seen, even from long distances. And if it is the light of The Holy Spirit, NOTHING, not even ourselves, can extinguish it – Praise Jesus!
    You too, are a precious child of God, Jesus. As are we all – His shed blood says so. Amen.

    • Jesus Aguilar says:

      Sandie you are right on point, I am in agreement. We have a saying in the rooms of alcoholics anonymous: “If you are in a tunnel and see the light at the end, make sure you move of the track because it just maybe a train coming” Nothing can stop that train, like nothing can extinguish the light of the Holy Spirit. Amen — Amen — Amen

      • Sandie says:

        I have been run over by that train called The Holy Spirit too many times to count. As they say jokingly, I’ve got the Tshirt and the mug…even the hat…to prove I’ve been there! Just like visiting Disney World – without the fun! But, oh the lessons learned when He picks me up, dusts me off, puts on a few bandages and splints (spiritually) and sends me on my way again. I try not to make the same mistakes, but inevitably do, because they are all rooted in pride.

  3. TOM says:

    LOVE IT! I believe I read somewhere in A piece 0f AA literature That before AA became Alcoholics Anonymous ( The name taken from the title of their basic text) they thought maybe The James Society. I found it interesting that the last 4th Step I did the more I shared it with other people the more I felt a need to change. I was done minimizing my wrongs (sins) and making excuses. Read threw the other comments . Like you I would really like to get some response of people who have never been to meetings. I remember back in 1980- when I first read anything about AA- I thought”This is great stuff for people who really need it- I’m just not one of those people”. It took 6 more years of research and non development and a nudge from a judge before I went to my first meeting. As we say – It Takes What It Takes. Love ya’ll.

  4. Jay says:

    John, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with the message of your devotional, but I was surprised that you state that James was on of the twelve disciples. I realize that there are different opinions on what James wrote the book of James, but I have always understood that “most Biblical scholars” believe that the writer of the book of James is James, the half brother of Jesus.

  5. jwfisch says:

    Well Jay, I am not a biblical scholar or an expert so I am quite willing to admit I am wrong on this one. Thanks for the correction. Most think it was the brother of Jesus, but no one knows for sure.

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