Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Koan: “From the mud grows the lotus.”
Our society has a thing about dirt and mud, equating it to germs and something that may harm us. Mud is bad. There is the striving for the cleanest laundry, carpets, floors, countertops, glassware, and cars, etc.
Then again, I’ve read that kids who grow up on farms and ranches, because of being exposed to myriad forms of bacteria, microbes, and yes, “germs”, have a stronger and more robust immune system than city kids. It’s because these kids are exposed to more dirt, mud and manure. So bad mud can be good mud.
We come into AA caked with varying amounts of our “muddiness” and dirt, accumulated over our drinking years. In Step 4 we uncover the muddy and dirty parts of our being. In Step 5 we air our dirty laundry not in public, but with our sponsor, perhaps wondering what any of this has to do with staying sober.
“No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experiences can benefit others.” (p. 84)
- No matter how much mud and dirt we’ve accumulated
- We will see how our muddiness can help others
- If our 4th Step is mud
- Then our 5th Step is a way to boost the spiritual immune system
Step 5 is the beginning of acknowledging and letting go of our muddy past actions (character defects and wrongdoings). From this we are on our way in becoming a different person, principally by putting others before self.
“In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of the true nature of beings, which remains unstained by the mud of the world.” And there are other ways to look at this. Take light and darkness – we cannot have one without the other. The lotus needs mud for its very survival. No mud, no lotus. This saying would be quite fitting, hanging on the wall at any 12 Step meeting.
In Step 4 we become aware and take ownership of our truth. Muddy parts and all, this is life. What Roger said he finds helpful comes from Eckhart Tolle, something to the effect: "Life – it’s all part of a higher good.” In Step 5, it’s the higher good of truth that sets us free.
Think about 1934. Alcoholics Anonymous did not exist yet. The first 100 members of AA were still deep into their full-blown self-centered alcoholic disease, muddying their lives and those around them. In a short four or five years, growing from the dedicated work of these very same people, a lotus flower bloomed -- the AA Big Book became reality. This flower of sobriety continues to bloom each time a 5th Step is completed – from our muddy past grows a flower.