AA Spirituality

The classic cliche found in AA meetings is, “religion is for those afraid of hell, and spirituality is for those who have been there.” Debating these cliches is not very productive. After all, the reason they became cliches is that they resonate some truth that compels people to repeat them in the first place. The truth in this cliche is that there are some clear distinctions between religion and spirituality. We all know that someone can be spiritual and not religious or religious and not spiritual.

AA’s high water mark is in its acceptance of a plurality of belief systems within its membership. No one has to believe anything specific – only in a “power greater than themselves.”  This foundation of the AA organization may be the thing that most keeps it together as people of different faiths can come together without judgement or ridicule for their beliefs. It is viewed as essentially a private matter. Hence one can remain skeptical in matters of faith or even have no specific belief at all and belong to AA. What is of paramount importance is what someone does.

Old timer Ron M. used to always quote the line from the Edgar Guest poem, “I’d rather see a sermon that hear one.” Great words to live by.

Here is the poem, from the “people’s poet”  in its entirety.

I’d rather see a sermon
than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me
than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil
and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing,
but example’s always clear;
And the best of all preachers
are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action
is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it
if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action,
but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver
may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons
by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you
and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live.




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