In the chapter on Step Three, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions states: “There is only one key, and it is called willingness.” (p. 34) Although this quote originates from the discussion of turning things over to a greater power than our own, it applies to just about any difficult endeavor. Although I often tell myself that I have confronted all of my fears and faced every challenge I’ve been given, the truth is that some neglected doorways remain in my life. I have not turned the key in those locks. In some cases I have not even approached the door.

I want to tell myself that “yeah, maybe someday I’ll do that” is the same as “willingness” but it is not. In the Eight Step, willingness does not come until we have put someone’s name on a paper, wrote down what harm we caused this person, discussed it with our sponsor, then committed to making amends as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Until I get something out of my head, onto paper and out in the open with a trusted advisor, I have not become willing. If my willingness is authentic, if it is the kind that will turn the key, then it will translate into prompt action. If willingness stops short of opening the door at least a tiny bit, then it lives in theory only. A key that stays in my pocket will never get me to the other side.