What Are The Four Absolutes of Alcoholics Anonymous?

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spiritual principles

Many people don’t know this, but the two men who founded and developed the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) drew significant inspiration from the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group, founded in 1921, was a Christian organization first developed by the American Lutheran minister Frank Buchman. Buchman preached that fear and selfishness were at the root of all earthly problems. He believed in the importance of surrendering to God’s will — an idea that is mentioned throughout the Big Book (AA’s main piece of literature).

While some might assume that mentions of Higher Power and the incorporation of numerous prayers make AA a religious program, AA is rooted in spirituality rather than religiousness. However, because it is largely derived from a religious program, this is an easy mistake to make. The two men who founded AA — Bill W. and Dr. Bob — focused on what are largely known as The Four Absolutes. The principles behind The Four Absolutes were taken from “The Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 5:1 — 7:29. The principles are moral standards by which we can dictate how closely we are living in the image of God.

Okay, this is all a little much. Before you run for the hills, remember the old AA adage, “Take what you want and leave the rest.” The origin of these principles is less important than the principles themselves. To learn more about the history of AA or to begin your own journey of addiction recovery, contact us today.

What Are The Four Absolutes?

The Four Absolutes are:

  • Absolute Honesty.
  • Absolute Unselfishness.
  • Absolute Love.
  • Absolute Purity.

In 1948, Dr. Bob called The Four Absolutes “the only yardsticks” AA had before the 12 Steps were officially created and written down. “Almost always, if I measure my decision carefully by the yardstick of the absolutes and it checks up pretty well with those four, then my answer can’t be very far out of the way,” Dr. Bob once said.

The Oxford Group used the Absolutes in three specific ways.

  1. As a way to take an honest and searching inventory of the past to see where we fell short and in what ways. Taking this inventory would allow us to identify the areas of our life that need to be worked on.
  2. As a way to differentiate between “God” thoughts and human thoughts, especially when sitting in silent meditation or listening to what was known as the “Inner Voice.”
  3. As a standard of living God’s will, moment by moment and day by day.

This is very similar to the ways in which AA calls upon the Absolutes. AA centers around complete and total honesty, engaging in service work on a daily or near daily basis, and being open to the concept of God’s will, or the will of a Higher Power of your understanding. But what about Love and Purity? In the remainder of this article we will break down each of The Four Absolutes a little bit further. If you have any additional questions about the program of AA or any other 12 Step programs, you are encouraged to reach out to 12 Step Illinois at any point in time.

Absolute Honesty

People who struggle with alcoholism often master the art of deceit without even realizing they are doing so. We lie to ourselves and to those around us, saying to ourselves, “I can quit whenever I want to, I just don’t want to yet.” Saying to our loved ones, “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill, why don’t you just mind your own business and keep your nose out of mine?” When we get sober, it is important that we start being honest with ourselves, first and foremost. We admit to ourselves that we are powerless over alcohol, and that our lives have become completely unmanageable as a direct result of our drinking. As we progress in our Stepwork we begin conducting a nightly inventory, asking ourselves if we were honest throughout the day and righting our wrongs if we were at all dishonest or deceitful.

Absolute Unselfishness

When we were active in alcoholism, we thought little of other people or how our actions would inevitably affect them. We acted completely selfishly, prioritizing ourselves and our perceived needs over nearly everything else. Many of us believe that we are kind, generous, and altruistic while we are drinking heavily, only to find that we were the exact opposite. It is important to understand that adopting unselfishness not only means considering our fellow man, but also considering ourselves. What kind of self-care do you need to engage in so that you can show up for others consistently and authentically?

Absolute Love

When we think of love, we tend to think of the way we feel towards someone else — maybe a romantic partner, maybe a family member, maybe even a beloved pet. However, it is beneficial to think of love as a behavior rather than an emotion. How do we show other people that we love them? What does love look like in relationships? Most importantly, how do we show real, genuine love to ourselves? We might find that it is extremely difficult to stay sober if we don’t thoroughly love ourselves. You might hear someone in the rooms of AA say, “Let us love you until you learn to love yourself.” There is undeniable love deeply ingrained in 12 Step programs, and if you stick around for long enough you will start to understand what this word truly means.

Absolute Purity

When you think of the word “purity,” you might think of someone who is innocent and naive; not yet familiar with hardship, strife, and the ugliness of some parts of life. In the context of The Four Absolutes, purity refers mostly to intention. Are we doing things with purity of intention, or are we attempting to manipulate people, places, and things for our own personal gain?

Contact Us Today to Learn More 

Making the decision to pursue a life of recovery is never easy. Fortunately, as soon as you make the initial decision to get sober, you will have an ample amount of help, guidance, and support for the remainder of the process. At 12 Step Illinois we are available to help you every step of the way. As soon as you reach out you will be connected with an experienced and compassionate member of our team who will guide you through a series of questions. These questions are geared towards helping you find the help you need in a timely manner. Some important factors to consider are whether or not you require medical detox or inpatient treatment, the type of substance you were using and for how long, and whether or not you are willing to travel for treatment. At 12 Step Illinois we are ready to connect you with a 12 Step program in Illinois that meets your needs, while answering any additional questions you may have. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you get started on your personal recovery journey.

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