Children are truly amazing. They are so simple, inquisitive, and kind. Maybe this is why the Bible says that we must become like little children again? This thought transcends religion and begs the question, what does it mean to become child-like? Does this mean I should be clumsy, immature, and naive? Surely not. No, it seems to me that it is more about becoming simple, pure beings again. Children don’t carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, they don’t have to have everything figured out, and they are okay with knowing that they don’t know everything.

This reminds me of a story I heard from a speaker in which he discussed how simple the steps were. He asserted that as children, we didn’t have to be taught steps one, two, and three. Rather, we knew these things intuitively. For instance, no one had to tell me that if my brother was picking on me, and I went to get my dad to help me, that this would more than likely solve my problem. I’m powerless over my older brother, I believed that my dad, a stronger power than myself, could help out, so I went to him and turned the problem over to him to solve. This makes sense doesn’t it? Simple. However, over the years I have picked up so much knowledge, ego, and self-centeredness that I forget how to be willing to have a simple experience without trying to have it all figured out or analyzing it to death. As a child I didn’t have to do much analysis to see the difference it would make by bringing my dad into the picture. Yet, when I get into recovery, I tend to make a simple matter difficult. It’s almost as if I have forgotten the simple art of surrender.

We seem to get so worked up in the semantics of the steps and trying to intellectually understand the process that we begin to miss the forest for the trees and miss having an experience that can only come about through action. This is an acting program, not a thinking program. Part of this acting is becoming willing- willing to understand that I don’t know anything about the steps but my sponsor does and willing to trust my sponsor to guide me through the process. I have to understand that the process does not require my input or understanding, only my willingness to take the next step. Through this willingness I become less of what I thought I was and more of what I truly am.

Therefore, I propose that spirituality is a matter of subtraction, rather than addition. I am not adding anything onto myself by working the steps or being sober, rather I am removing the debris and clutter that has amassed on my light, my character, and my wholeness. Through the process of the steps I am removing this debris, clearing out my soul, and polishing up the goodness that has already been placed inside me long ago. I am subtracting ego, bitterness, self-centeredness, irrational fear, manipulation, lying, etc. to make room for the overwhelming love that I have been smothering for so long. A love that begs to be exposed, to bring light into the dark world, and to help my brothers and sisters around me. And through this process of exposing my raw, vulnerable love to others, I begin to experience some of it myself. Love for others induces self-love. As I subtract the things that are hindering my love for others, I learn how to begin to love myself and, more importantly, begin to experience what it is like to be in relationship with my creator. Thus is the art of spirituality through subtraction.

-Zach