"When Man Listens"

“When Man Listens” – A Book Review

When I first turned to the 12 Steps of recovery I was able to attend many different types of meetings. There was one that focused in on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W., Dr. Bob, all of the earliest members, and of the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group, as most of us know, was instrumental in developing many of the “suggestions” that led to the 12 Steps. The Oxford Group was not a religion but a Christian Group. Cecil Rose was a member of the Oxford Group and was a church minister. Except for that tidbit of information, I wasn’t able to find out much more about him. His name is not even mentioned in the “who’s who” of the Oxford Group but the message he gives in “When Man Listens” was not and should not be forgotten.

This book was first published in 1937; yes, before the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was not written for addicts. It was written for all Christians and in his words, “The chapters in this book are an attempt to set down briefly the simple elements of Christian living...” Now this whole “Christian” idea might not be what some folks want to read. There are parts of this book that talk about the New Testament along with numerous quotes. Mr. Rose gets a little “preachy” but keep in mind he was a minister so that was a part of his job. Also, I don’t know that in 1937, anyone really wrote or spoke about spirituality at least in the Western world.

Biblical references aside, when you read this book you aren’t sure exactly when it was written because the subjects of God and man have not changed at all. He doesn’t sound dated. If you didn’t know it was written in 1937, you would think it could have been written any time. His references to people and the state of the world could be today. Sadly, I guess, these things have not changed in 70 years.

There are only five chapters in this little book and 70 plus pages but they are not even on both sides so it is very quick and easy reading. The titles of the chapters will immediately catch your eye because they read “God in Control”, “Learning God’s Plan” and “Life Changing”. He centers much of his writing around the four Absolutes: Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness and Absolute Love. These were the hallmark of the Oxford Group but today, our lives because of the 12 Steps, are all about these four things.

I particularly like “Learning God’s Plan”. He says, “God has a plan. God speaks”. And he also tells us that we don’t listen well enough. He talks about “quiet times” which today would be meditation. His thinking is almost Buddhist in a way because he talks about not being able to quiet the mind because there might be a recurring thought that doesn’t want to leave us. It’s that “thought” that we must work through so that we can have those quiet times with our Higher Power. The more thoughts we can work on, the more peaceful our meditation.

One of my favorite parts of this particular chapter is in his description of prayer, meditation and time. “Most of us, when we say we have not time, are simply dishonest.” How true is that? He talks about our defects: “The most frequent reason for our isolation is fear. It is fear which makes us hide.” And he goes on to talk about fear exactly as we (or rather I) have learned about it in recovery. He writes about trust, sharing, and being willing to do both. One think I underlined in this book (and I am NOT an underliner) is “One of God’s most effective ways of introducing us to ourselves is to send us to another person, whom we can trust, to tell them the whole truth about our lives as far as we know it.” Well, doesn’t that just sound like sponsorship and especially Step Five?

I can promise you that you will find all 12 Steps in this little book. And they are presented to us, not as people in recovery, but everyday, ordinary people. Perhaps that’s what I found refreshing. We are not all that different. As a matter of fact, without being self-righteous, I almost think it puts many of us ahead of the game! We live a better life today because we follow the steps. The steps came from folks like Cecil Rose who knew there was a Higher Power and our lives belonged to Him. Mr. Rose begins and ends his book with these words: “When man listens, God speaks; When man obeys, God works”.

I enjoyed this book. It is something for everyone’s library because the message is timeless. As I mentioned before, some of the text is a bit preachy but that should not stop you from reading this. Like everything we read and hear in recovery, take what you want and leave the rest. Trust me. You will definitely take something from this beautiful book. And to my friend Tuchy who asked me to read this book, a huge thanks!

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

The book may be purchased through Amazon, Borders, and healing-habits.com

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