In my early twenties, I dropped a rock that I fully intended to carry with me to the grave. On this particular evening, I was riding around in my beater car (the “Red Rocket”) with one of my friends. Suddenly I was awash with both a sense of deep shame and an overwhelming yearning to be free. I pulled over, told my friend: “I have to dump something that is driving me crazy.”
I stared at the steering wheel, and the confession rolled off my tongue easy as a weather report. After a moment, I found the courage to look up at my friend. She wasn’t horrified. Stunned, maybe, but not horrified. I waited a moment to see what she would say. She took a breath and said this: “So did I.”
Withholding nothing. These are powerful words that speak of a call to be fully present, wholly committed, and truly vulnerable. They call us not so much to believe in God as to trust God. To rely on God. To lean into the possibility that, as our 12 step friends remind us, God is everything.
Those words – withholding nothing – appear in the AA “Big Book” in a section on the 5th Step. This step requires full disclosure of one’s moral inventory (a detailed, thorough review of one’s life) to another human being. It is only in this vulnerable space that we demonstrate a sincere and tangible willingness to be transformed. When we become willing to let a trusted someone hear all of our story, see what really makes us tick, we can become free.
When we write our inventory, we invite our shadow self to come out of the darkness. Then we invite someone else to sit alongside us in that space. If we are able to practice this deep form of presence with ourselves and with another person, trusting that God is in the midst, then we will be well prepared to be present with a soul who is hurting. It is only then that we are able to truly journey with another. It is only then that we are prepared to utter those very simple, healing words: “Me, too.”