Have you ever heard of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Appearing in chapter six of The Book of Revelation, only one of them was named, Death. Tradition named the other three War, Famine and Pestilence. Just think of them.
War. Famine. Pestilence. Death. Whoa.
Our attention is seized by the imposing, commanding appearance of these Four Horsemen in the dramatic saga of the Apocalypse. Because most of us share the notion that not everything is right in this world and that there ought to be some sort of accountability, these Four Horsemen serve as necessary elements we’re fascinated to observe but personally hope to avoid.
If you’re looking for a great opportunity to be distracted and waste time, Google the Four Horsemen. Last time I checked there were over half-a-million entries. You might be gone for hours. Or days.
I thought of the Four Horsemen recently as I was working through the Twelve Steps. Again.
Those of us in genuine recovery—just like those of us pursuing genuine spirituality—must repeatedly return to the basics. That’s how we learn. That’s how we break old patterns and develop new ones. That’s how we re-wire our lives.
The Last Three Steps have to do with living the life of recovery, or as the authors put it, “entering the world of the Spirit.” They speak of ongoing self-examination and honesty, prayer and meditation, integrating every aspect of our lives by our core principles and taking the message of hope, healing and redemption to others.
The challenge and opportunity of living a life of genuine recovery—just like genuine spirituality—is to grow in understanding how life truly works and becoming more effective in living our lives.
Though now associated with judgment, destruction and the end of time, the root of apocalypse means to reveal, or to uncover. Genuine growth requires ongoing examination, a personal revealing, or uncovering.
The “Big Book” of AA talks of four behaviors/characteristics we must continually watch for: selfishness, dishonesty resentment and fear.
Selfishness is being chiefly concerned with ourselves.
Dishonesty is lying, cheating, defrauding or deceiving.
Resentment is rehearsing our anger over hurts, slights and loss.
Fear is the gnawing awareness that we are vulnerable to threat or harm.
Admittedly, these four characteristics are far less sensational than the Four Horsemen. Yet if we carefully examine our lives, it becomes clear they’re no less threatening to our well-being.
They may not overwhelm our senses nor signal the end of history. And yet, they are all—in their own way—harbingers of our own death.
They are the things that rob us of life.
If we want to live a life truly worth living, can we afford to ignore selfishness, dishonesty, resentment or fear when they take root in our souls?
It does cost us something to confront them, to weed them out. But what does it cost us to let them grow? I hear pounding hooves.