The Four Absolutes – The Oxford Group
What are the four absolutes?
The “Four Absolutes” of Alcoholics Anonymous were considered “yardsticks” in earliest days of the recovery program —standards for determining appropriate behavior as measured through God’s eyes. The Four Absolutes are Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love. These are guides to keep you in tune with God’s will in your life.
The Absolutes are the essence of Jesus’ teachings about the will of God, ideals for our life, moral standards by which our thoughts and actions may be tested for harmony with Gods will, and the keys to the spiritual life God wishes us to lead.
Although some believed these absolutes are impossible to obtain, they were guidelines to help determine whether a course of action was directed by God. The Four absolutes are a great tool for anyone; for those in recovery they are an essential way to keep on the path and help us take a look at our motives.
The Four Absolutes
How were they formed?
The Four Absolutes were initially written in 1904 by Christian author Robert Speer, and later would become a part of the teachings of The Oxford Group
The principles behind The Four Absolutes come from the teaching of Jesus in the bible.
What is The Oxford Group?
The Oxford Group was a movement started in 1921 by Frank Buchman, a minister from Allentown, PA; was founded as a return to early century Christianity originally in 1908.
The Four Absolutes
Buchman believed that the personal problems of fear and selfishness were the root of all societal problems. Further, Buchman believed that the solution to living with fear and selfishness was to surrender one’s life over to God‘s Plan.
Some of the fundamental spiritual practices of The Oxford Group were, share our sins and temptations with another Christian, surrender our life past, present and future, into the God’s keeping and direction, Have restitution to all whole we have wronged directly and indirectly and to listen to God’s guidance and carry it out.
The Oxford Group used the Four Absolutes in three specific ways:
1 – As a way to take inventory of our past to see where and how we fell short, so that we could learn what areas of our life needed to be worked on.
2 – During meditation or while being inspired or guided by our Inner Voice, as a way to differentiate between “God” thoughts and human thoughts.
3 – As a standard of living God’s Will, moment by moment.
Most of the Alcoholics Anonymous Program we know today was based off teachings of The Oxford Group.
The Four Absolutes – Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love
The Four Absolutes are put into practice by asking 4 questions. We have to remind our self in the morning, and as we go through our day the following questions before acting or speaking:
· Is it true or is it false? – Honesty
· Is it right or is it wrong? – Purity
· How will this affect another fellow? – Unselfishness
· Is it ugly or beautiful? –Love
Honesty- Is it True or Is It False?
Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness (both verbally and through our actions), along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc.
When in active addiction this may seem like a foreign concept to us; now in recovery we are told that complete honesty is a must! It’s a big change for most of us to take in all at once. The real virtue of honesty lies in the persistent dedication of striving for it.
We need to leave our rationalizations by the wayside and stop the self-deceiving that is in our nature and ask our self “is it true or false?”
The unrelenting pursuit of truth will set us free.
Purity – Is it Right or Is It Wrong?
Purity is defined as the condition or quality of being pure; freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, or pollutes. Purity is a flawless quality. The question asked “is it right or wrong?” is not a hard concept for us to grasp. Often, even in the grips of our addiction, we were aware of the difference between right and wrong. We are often faced with decisions that are tough for us. We often times know what the right thing is to do but we struggle to do it. By practicing this absolute we are better able to make choices and decisions based on the right thinking that will help us line up our lives with Gods will.
Purity as in Honesty the virtue lies in striving for it, we will also be in constant pursuit. This is a great way to check your motives and find out if we have hidden agendas.
Unselfishness- How will this affect another fellow?
Unselfishness is defined as the quality of not putting yourself first, but being willing to give your time, money, or effort etc. Coming into recovery this is often a shift in paradigm for us. We have spent most of our lives thinking of ourselves first, even if we were unaware that we were doing it.
What we gain in sobriety is directly proportionate to what we give away. Once we have realized this and devote time to helping others, we realize that this is the cornerstone of the recovery program.
When analyzing what we are about to do, say, or decide we must first take a look at how this will affect others around us. We have to find out what controls our actions –self-interest or God-interest? This will help us find out if we are self-directed or God-directed.
Love- Is It Ugly or Is It Beautiful?
Love is beauty, it is also an action word. When we are in active addiction, we are in the depths of fear, physical agony, mental torture, and spiritual starvation. We need a complete change. We find that in love, in giving love we receive it. Unless we give love, our progress will be lost.
If something is truly beautiful then it is love. Love is not a feeling it is a decision.
Why is this important for recovery?
When working a program of recovery, we know that taking inventory is vital for our sobriety. Here are some of the questions that are asked in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that are in line with The Four Absolutes
Step 4 – BB pg. 67
Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened
Step 10 BB pg. 84
Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty and fear.
Step 11 BB pg. 86
Where we were resentful, selfish, dishonest and afraid.
The Four Absolutes and the questions associated with them are a helpful way to do the right thing when the answer is not obvious.
Answering these queries every day with absolute integrity, and following the dictates of those answers, one day at a time, will surely lead us well on our journey toward applying the Absolutes.