The Twelve Steps of Courage

Father Harvey and the first members of Courage drew much inspiration from the famous “Twelve Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous, and found this approach very helpful in their pursuit of the Five Goals of Courage.  Many Courage groups (though not all of them) use the Twelve Steps to focus their efforts, as individuals and as a group, to grow in self-understanding and holiness.

There are many connections between the Twelve Steps and a Catholic spiritual approach to growth in virtue.  The first three steps, for example, find the answer to human frailty (“We admitted that we were powerless …) in a complete surrender to the loving power and providence of God (“We came to believe” and “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.”)  They echo the sentiment expressed by Saint Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: “[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. … Therefore I am content with weaknesses, … for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10).

The next four steps speak of the importance of recognizing and admitting one’s sinfulness.  The powerfully intimate nature of sins involving sexuality — fornication, pornography, masturbation, lust — often leads a person who is attached to these sins to experience great shame, which leads to an isolation that makes it very difficult to give them up. A tremendous freedom comes from taking responsibility for one’s own sin — sacramentally in Confession, as well as in honest conversations with close friends — and repenting of them.  This inner freedom is the starting point for a renewed integrity and an ability to face daily trials and temptations with peace and perseverance. 

Our sins do not just affect ourselves, and so Steps 8 and 9 call us to recognize the impact that sinful decisions have had on other people.  A willingness to seek the good of others and to repair the damage that our sins have caused is a powerful antidote to the inherent selfishness of lust and sexual sins.  Sometimes this charity is manifested in healing conversations and renewed relationships with family members and friends.  In other cases it takes more indirect forms like prayers for deceased loved ones or intercession for others who are trapped by the culture of lust and promiscuity rampant in today’s secular society.

Step 10 reminds us that the battle for holiness, and for the virtue of chastity, must be faced daily, and Step 11 proposes constant prayer and meditation on the will of God as the foundation of all of our efforts.  The Twelve Steps conclude in the same way as the Five Goals: with a call to reach out to others by giving good example and extending an invitation to experience first-hand the freedom and peace that the fellowship of Courage and its spiritual plan can provide.

Historically, the Twelve Steps were written to assist those struggling with a physical and emotional addiction to alcohol.  To say that Courage draws inspiration from the Twelve Steps does not mean that we view same-sex attractions as a disease or addiction, though some of our members deal with issues of sexual brokenness such as compulsive attachments to pornography or promiscuous behavior.  The Twelve Step model may be helpful to them in a particular way, and its underlying spiritual principles are certainly in harmony with the Five Goals that all of our members pursue together.

The Twelve Steps of Courage

(adapted from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous)

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over homosexuality and our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of our character.
  7. We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make direct amends to them all.
  9. We made the direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of God’s Will for us and the power to carry it out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.