This week’s “Here’s To Your Health” is a continuation of our Step Ten discussion. “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
In his book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill Wilson said: “Although all inventories are alike in principle, the time factor does distinguish one from another. There’s the spot check inventory, taken at any time of the day, whenever we find ourselves getting tangled up. There’s the one we take at the day’s end, when we review the happenings of the hours just past. Here we do a balance sheet, crediting ourselves with things well done, and chalking up debits where due. Then there are those occasions when alone, or in the company of our sponsor or spiritual advisor, we make a careful review of our progress since the last time. Many AA’s attend annual or semi-annual house cleanings. Many of us also like the experience of an occasional retreat from the outside world where we can quiet down for an undisturbed day of self-overhaul and meditation.”
Aren’t these practices joy-killers as well as time consumers? Most AA’s spend many waking hours drearily rehashing their sins of omission or commission? Well, hardly. The emphasis on inventory is heavy only because many of us have never really acquired the habit of accurate self-appraisal. Once this healthy practice has become grooved, it will be so interesting and profitable that the time it takes won’t be missed. For these minutes and hours spent in self-examination are bound to make the other hours of our day better and happier. And at length our inventories become a regular part of everyday living, rather than something unusual or apart. Before we ask what a spot-check inventory is, let’s look at the kind of setting in which such an inventory can do its work.
It’s a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But, are there no exceptions to this rule? What about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad? Can’t we properly be angry with self-righteous folk? For us in AA, these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Few people have been more victimized by resentments than alcoholics. It mattered little whether our resentments were justified or not. For us alcoholics, a burst of temper can spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge can make us miserably ineffective. Nor were we ever skillful in separating justified from unjustified anger. As we saw it, our wrath was always justified. Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people can keep us alcoholics on a perpetual emotional jag. Emotional benders often lead us straight to the bottle. Other kinds of disturbances—jealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pride—did the same thing. A spot check inventory taken in the midst of such disturbances can be a great help in quieting the emotional storm. Today’s spot check finds its chief application to situations that arise in each day’s march. The consideration of long standing difficulties had better be postponed to times set aside for that purpose. The quick inventory is aimed at our daily ups and downs, especially those where people or events throw us off balance and tempt us to make mistakes.