A.A. Ideas: More Quotable Quotes for A.A. History Buffs

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Sometimes it seems that the unquoted quotes of our founding people tell us more A.A. history than the factual fragments that have so frequently been omitted. Perhaps you’ll agree as you consider the following–all ideas familiar to AAs.

“Thy will be done.” You’ll find it often in the Big Book, in one form or another. You’ll also hear it in the Lord’s Prayer that still concludes most of our meetings. And you’ll find it in Jesus’s sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:10) which both Bill W. and Dr. Bob said contained the underlying philosophy of A.A.

“Faith without works is dead.” You’ll find it often in the Big Book and A.A. literature. You’ll also find it buried in Bill W.’s “Works Publishing Company” and the “It works” expression of A.A. and Oxford Groupers. And you’ ll find it in one form or another in the Book of James which was a favorite in early A.A. (See James 4:14, 4:17, 4:20, 4:26).

“O, Lord, manage me because I can’t manage myself.” You’ll find it embedded in A.A.’s First Step and language about getting a new manager. You’ll find it in Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Church accounts. And you’ll find it in Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939, whose contents Dr. Bob’s wife shared with early AAs and their families.

“First things First.” You’ll find it on the walls of A.A. meetings and in A.A. literature. Dr. Bob made it clear that the expression came from the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:33–”But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness”).

“Surrender as much of yourself as you understand to as much of God as you understand.”

You’ll find this expression in many of Sam Shoemaker’s writings, including children of the Second Birth and How to Find God. You’ll also find it in the instructions Ebby gave to Bill and in Bill’s later comments about what he did in his surrendering to God “as he then understood Him.”

“Act as if.” You’ll find this as a specific article written by Sam Shoemaker. You’ll also find it in Shoemaker’s interpretation of the meaning of John 7:17. You’ll also find it embedded in teachings about “willingness” that found their way to A.A.’s Second, Sixth, and Eighth Step discussions. And in the famous “H.O.W.” of our “Spiritual Appendix.”

“God gave man two ears and one mouth, which should tell us something!” This one was used over and over in the Oxford Group and was also a favorite of Clarence Snyder’s. See Dick B., That Amazing Grace. It might have given rise to our familiar expression, “Take the cotton out of your ears, and put it in your mouth.”

“The palest ink is stronger than the best memory.” This too was an Oxford Group oldie. It was used to support the idea of journaling and of writing down thoughts as they came to you in morning quiet time reflections. Frank Buchman also thought he found justification for writing things down in several Bible verses including one from Jeremiah. See Dick B.’s The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Of course, you’ll find this in Jesus’s teachings and as the second Great Commandment. You’ll also find it in many of the church epistles in the New Testament (See Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). This is quoted in the Big Book.

“It’s not who’s right. It’s what’s right.” A favorite in the Oxford Group, having to do with reconciliation. The point was to do God’s will, to stand for the absolute standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. The point was not to argue over which person’s view ought to prevail, but to look to the standard of truth found in the Bible and stand by the truth, rather than by one’s heartfelt viewpoint. “News, not views,” they said. This in turn came from the Gospel as containing the “good news.”

“Confess your faults one to another.” James 5:16 contains the verse. Rightly or wrongly, many saw this verse as the root of Step 5. Oxford Group, Shoemaker, and A.A. writings so stated. They also used the language “admitted to God, to yourself, and to another the exact nature of your wrongs or sins.”

“Where God guides, He provides.” Probably came through the Oxford Group from Philippians 4:16 (“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”). This common Oxford Group expression was used to allay concerns about self-sufficiency and need. The thesis was that if a person seeks God’s guidance and help, he will be taken care of because God does provide for those He guides. The idea is also based on Matthew 6:33 in the sermon on the mount. Finally, it reminds of Bill’s own remarks about “God-sufficiency” versus “self-sufficiency.”

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