“The Unmanageable Life”: Where Did That Expression Come From?

The Unmanageable Life

The Language You Find in Step One of the A.A. Big Book and in the “abc’s” on Page 60

By Dick B.
© 2013 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Where Did the Expression Come From?

There is a simple answer. It involves three well-known sources of A.A.’s basic ideas: (1) Anne Ripley Smith—AA cofounder Dr Bob’s wife—known as the “Mother of A.A.” (2) Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.—Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York—dubbed by Bill Wilson a “co-founder of A.A.” and the clergyman upon whom Bill W. relied for the ideas of almost all the Twelve Steps. (3) The Oxford Group—also known as “A First Century Christian Fellowship,” with which both Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob were associated before A.A. began, and with which Bill Wilson had close connections as he prepared to write the Big Book.

Anne Smith, Dr. Bob’s wife, kept a journal from 1933 to 1939. It contained many pages that spawned A.A. ideas. Anne shared its contents with early AAs and their families each morning at a Quiet Time at the Smith home in Akron. Anne wrote and shared the following as reported in Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939: A.A.’s Principles of success, 3rd ed., page 21 http://www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml:

What do you do when you pray? O Lord manage me, for I cannot manage myself.

Surrender is a simple act of will. What do we surrender? Our life. When? At a certain definite moment. How? Oh God, manage me because I cannot manage myself

Reverend Samuel Shoemaker’s Assistant Minister W. Irving Harris provided a version from Cavalry Church, known as Charlie’s prayer. He said it was a classic, a simple plea in eight words:

God, manage me, ‘cause I can’t manage myself. Irving Harris, The Breeze of the Spirit: Sam Shoemaker and the Story of Faith-at-Work (NY: The Seabury Press, 1978), page 10.

In the Oxford Group, this little prayer came from what was called “Victor’s Story.” Dr. Frank Buchman, founder of A First Century Christian Fellowship, also known as the Oxford Group, told how he had converted Victor at a school boys’ camp in the Himalayas. Buchman told Victor: There is only one place—on our knees. The lad prayed—one of those powerful, simple prayers which are so quickly heard by Him Who made the eye and the ear: “”O Lord, manage me, for I cannot manage myself. See A.J. Russell, For Sinners Only (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1932), page 79.

Where Can You Find This Language Discussed?

All three sources are discussed in my title Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939 at pages 20-22.

For further information, contact Dick B. at dickb@dickb.com, or 808 874 4876. Dick B.’s titles, Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939, New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A., and The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, can be found described, and can be ordered at http://www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml; http://www.dickb.com/newlight.shtml; http://www.dickb.com/Oxford.shtml.

Gloria Deo

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About mauihistorian

Uses pen name Dick B.: Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active and recovered A.A. member with over 25 years of continuous sobriety. Published 42 titles and over 650 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement. www.dickb.com
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