Step Three says that we make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.“
The phrase “as we understood him” is underlined because it is of extreme importance. The “God” that Step Three is referring to is the power that we came to believe in in Step Two. That power could be completely vague and undefined, or a specific conception of God that resonates with us personally. It could be the collective energy inherent in 12 Step groups; it could be the unseen power that underlies nature; it could be the universal mind; or a traditional religious conception of God. It does not matter what power we believe in, or that we know exactly what it is. It only matters that we believe that power can help us. We then make a decision to turn our will and life over to the care of that power.
What does that mean — turn our will and our life over? A clear way to define our “will” is our thoughts and actions. In Step Three we decide to turn our thoughts and actions over to the care of that power. It is interesting to note the language: “to the care of.” This means that whatever power you’ve chosen to believe in cares about your wellbeing and life.
In our lives before recovery, most of us relied entirely on ourselves. We were self-sufficient. Our thoughts and actions were based solely on what was best for us (or at least what we thought was best for us). We used our own mind to judge our choices, and our own mind to choose our path. But how did this work out for us?
Our thoughts and actions clearly brought us to a disaster zone. So why now would we want to trust our own thoughts or choose our actions? We shouldn’t. We should let someone or something else choose our path. In Step Three, we decide that we are not going to run our own lives anymore — rather we are going to listen to the wisdom and guidance of a caring Higher Power to make our decisions for us.
Practically speaking, what does this look like? It could be relying on the advice of our sponsor to make our decisions for us; it could be praying to our Higher Power and listening for an answer; it could be asking Mother Nature to show us signs along our path; and it could be following the direction given to us by our 12 Step groups. The point is that we are no longer going to steer our own ship — rather we are going to ask for guidance, and follow direction. This also means that we are going to use the map that already lies before us — the 12 Steps.
When we wholeheartedly take Step Three, we are making a commitment to move forward with the rest of the 12 Steps. The A.A. Big Book says that once we take Step Three, we “launch into a rigorous course of action.” The word launch implies that we energetically and quickly progress from our Third Step to our Fourth Step.