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.