Who’s Guy Fawkes?

Sunset over Gettysburg, PA

I just read something from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions which spoke directly to my thoughts and feelings of late.

I’ve been pondering my Steps 6 and 7. I think I’m beginning to understand the idea that they’re not one-time steps but a new way of living.

I struggle immensely with pride and righteous indignation. I want to be right and I want others to know it, especially when I think they’re wrong. Not a healthy way of living.

As a part of letting go of this weakness I decided to stop engaging in political topics on social media. A few weeks after that I realized I was still reading such posts in order to stoke contention and feed pride in my heart, so I took a long break from social media entirely. It’s been helpful.

Lately I’ve noticed an increased awareness of my motivations. I can see myself wanting to do things for reasons that would boost my ego. For example, yesterday I was talking with some friends and one of them mentioned Guy Fawkes. I couldn’t recall anything about him, and I distinctly had the thought, “Don’t reveal you don’t know who that is; they will think less of you.” For a moment I obeyed. Then I realized my reason for staying silent—pride—and decided to act against it. I asked, “Who’s Guy Fawkes?” and they told me. We continued our fun conversation.

Observing this tendency I have for self-aggrandizement and making decisions based on what I think others will admire has opened my eyes a bit. I didn’t realize how frequently I allow these motivations to drive my decisions. I’ve been surprised to discover it in my choice of clothing, my reasons for exercising, the discussions I engage in, the comments I make, the opinions I form, and the way I treat other people.

I think it’s normal and even healthy to want to feel accepted and to want the approval of the people I love. I’m not arguing against that. How I go about seeking love is what’s important to me, and I believe my motivations shape my behavior for better or worse.

So anyway, back to the words I read just now, written by Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous:

As we approach the actual taking of Step Seven, it might be well if we [addicts] inquire once more just what our deeper objectives are. Each of us would like to live at peace with himself and with his fellows. We would like to be assured that the grace of God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We have seen that character defects based upon shortsighted or unworthy desires are the obstacles that block our path toward these objectives. We now clearly see that we have been making unreasonable demands upon ourselves, upon others, and upon God.

The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear—primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing these demands. The difference between a demand and a request is plain to anyone.

The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God. The whole emphasis of Step Seven is on humility. It is really saying to us that we now ought to be willing to try humility in seeking the removal of our other shortcomings just as we did when we admitted that we were powerless over [our addiction], and came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. If that degree of humility could enable us to find the grace by which such a deadly obsession could be banished, then there must be hope of the same result respecting any other problem we could possibly have.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 76

This reminds me, as so many writings from Alcoholics Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous do, of the words of Jesus Christ:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

The Book of Mormon, Ether 12:27

P.S. Did you know in England they celebrate Fawkes’ failed attempt to kill Parliament and the King, whereas in Australia they celebrate the attempt and honor Fawkes? Both nations have these celebrations on 5 November with bonfires and fireworks, but obviously for different reasons. Might have something to do with England using Australia as a penal colony. Interesting!

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