Justice and Mercy and the 5th Step

First off, I need to say, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”


I did “part” of my 5th Step yesterday with my sponsor AF.  I have been putting off finishing the 4th for so long that she finally said, “Let’s just meet and do what you’ve done so far?”  So, that’s what we did. And it was good.

rembrant_prodigueAF is like that “perfect sponsor.”  She has maybe five or six sponsees and tailors her sponsorship of each according to their own needs and personalities.  For me, that means she pretty much leaves me alone, ha ha.  Not really true.  We communicate via email every single day. She sends out a “daily inspiration” each morning, as well as a separate email with her gratitude list of five things she’s grateful for today. She cc’s all her sponsees and we each “reply all” back with our own gratitude list of five things.

And I text her a lot.

But she doesn’t make me “call” her all the time.  That’s just not me.  One of her other sponsees calls her twice a day but refuses to participate in the emails.  So we’re each just different animals.

And yesterday, she just listened, as I read her my list of “resentments” and “why.”  (those of you in 12 Step programs understand what I’m talking about here.) And then she helped me see my part in things and pointed out some of my apparent assets and liabilities, since this is a moral inventory.

When I worked at $3 Cafe (a popular chicken wing establishment in Atlanta which boasted over 125 different types of beer, foreign and domestic) to put myself through college and pay for my long-distance phone calls to a stupid boyfriend, I remember my sister (the Manager) would take an inventory of all the beer each week.

The big trucks would arrive and deliver boxes of beer; and she would spend hours counting the beers and taking inventory of what she had enough of, what she needed to order more of and what was just right. Then she’d place the order with the beer companies for more of what was dificient.

Wouldn’t it be great if a “moral” inventory (the 4th Step) was that simple?  We make a list of things we have enough of (honesty, generosity, loyalty, discipline), a list of things we have too much of (dependency, laziness, self-pity, grandiosity), and then a list of things we’re deficient in (obedience, holiness, commitment, self-care)— and then we place an order of God for more of what we lack. Then we’re done!

We get the order via UPS or Fedex the next day from our “Higher Power” and we’re all set until we do another inventory of it all over again next week.

I titled this post “justice and mercy” because I meant to talk about justice and mercy, but I got off track.  My point is that during my time with AF yesterday doing part of my 5th Step of part of my 4th Step, I discussed with her how I do well with justice as long as it’s tempered with a lot of mercy.

There have been people in my life that I’ve received justice from…yeah, I deserved it.  But the people that didn’t temper their justice with mercy are no longer in my life–I don’t cultivate relationships with people that only deal in justice.  I don’t experience love that way.

And when I love others, I am pretty low on the justice thing and really high on the mercy. When I love others, I love with 100% mercy first.  Justice second.  How does God love us? How does God love you?  How does God love me?

How’s that for a hump day all over the place post?  Have a great day y’all!  Moving to the beach is getting closer…  about 90% chance.  Going back this weekend for another interview (not the editor job, though–a different one).

9 thoughts on “Justice and Mercy and the 5th Step

  1. Something you may find useful is Henri Nouwen’s book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. It’s about his reactions to the Rembrant painting you’ve included in your post, and while it’s not part of the 12 step programme, it is about journeying and changing, and it’s a darned good read.

    I’m glad you’re moving forward and that your sponsor understands the different needs of each of you too.

    • thank you faith hope chocolate! i have never read Nouwen but I have an Aunt that loves him and has read all of his books! Thank you for the recommendation! i hope you are good!

      • I’m muddling along. My Gran is in hospital at the moment (she broke her leg nearly 3 weeks ago but there are other complications turning up) so a bit worried about her, and I’m about to go away for the annual Novices’ Conference. Everything always seems to happen all at once!

        I haven’t read very much Nouwen, but we do have most of his books here, which is a good thing. There’s a whole host of authors who I’ve got to get around to reading, in fact. And if your Aunt has a copy of Prodigal Son it’ll save you buying it!

        • be well! so sorry to hear about your grandmother. prayers she heals quickly! my aunt lives in ohio so i won’t be able to borrow it. i’m like you. so many books to read and not enough time. enjoy the conference!

  2. I have a number of books penned by Nouwen. Great reading for prayer time before bed. The wounded healer is a great book to read along with his meditations. I’m glad you finally got round to 4 and 5. You left me a comment about it some time ago.

    • thank you jeremiahandrews! i know. seriously. i think i wrote a blog post about working on step four two months ago and that was after two months of already stalling! thanks, my friend.

  3. Wow! I love that idea about the daily emails with your sponsor. Might have to use that some day! Thanks for the post. I’ve been pretty scattered lately so it was perfect!

    • they really help! the daily emails. and she never misses! i’ve come to count on and rely on them. can’t wait to catch up on my blog reading tonight! i’ll be coming over to your blog for a visit!

  4. Yay! Glad you are tipping your toe in the lovely pool of Step five…ha ha. I stalled a bit on my first inventory (I have done one more since – much smaller..phew!), so I know how it feels. One of my sponsees is taking forever on it. But I don’t press (much). Like your sponsor, we try and learn to tailor our ways with the people we work with. Mercy and Justice? For sure. I just need to learn and figure out how much of each to give to certain people, especially guys i work with. But I am so excited about you and your fifth. I have heard one fifth so far (I hope to hear more), and it’s not about feeling bad about your inventory, but it’s about someone knowing you like no other, and to have that relief when it’s all done. I had a grin on my face for a week after doing it. I felt 10 lbs lighter. Like it says, we can look the world in the eye now.

    Great stuff – so excited for you!

    And I loved the rambly post 🙂


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