This week's "Here's To Your Health" is a continuation of a Step Ten discussion. Bill Wilson's book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions continued with: In all situations we need self-restraint, honest analysis of what's involved in a willingness to admit when the fault is ours, and an equal willingness to forgive when the fault is elsewhere. We need not be discouraged when we fall into error of our old ways, for these disciplines are not easy. We shall look for progress, not perfection.
Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint. This carries a top priority rating. When we speak rashly, or act hastily, the ability to be fair minded and tolerant evaporates on the spot. One unkind tirade or one willful snap judgment can ruin our relationship with another person for a day, year, or lifetime. Nothing pays off like restraint of the tongue and pen. We must avoid quick-tempered criticism and furious, power-driven argument and the same goes for sulking or silent scorn. These are emotional booby traps baited with pride, ego and vengefulness. Our first job is to side-step the traps. When we are tempted, by the bait, we should train ourselves to step back, and think. For we can neither think, or act, to good purpose until the habit of self-restraint has become automatic.
Disagreeable or unexplained problems are not the only ones that call for self-control. We must be careful when we begin to achieve some measure of importance and material success. For no person has ever loved personal triumphs more than we love them; we drank of success as of a wine which never failed to make us elated. When temporary good fortune came our way, we indulged ourselves in fantasies of still greater victories over people and circumstances. Thus blinded by prideful self-confidence, we were apt to play the big shot. Of course, people turned away from us, bored or hurt.
Now that we're in AA and sober and winning back the esteem of our friends and business associates, we find that we still need to exercise special vigilance. As an insurance against "big-shot-ism" we can often check ourselves by remembering that we are sober today only by the grace of God and that any success we may be having is far more His success than ours.
Finally, we begin to see that all people, including ourselves, are to some extent emotionally ill as well as frequently wrong, and then we approach true tolerance and see what real love for our fellows actually means. It will become more and more evident as we go forward that it is pointless to become angry, or to get hurt by people who, like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up.
Such a radical change in our outlook will take time, maybe a lot of time. Not many people can truthfully assert that they love everybody. Most of us admit that we have loved but few; that we have been quite indifferent to the many so long as none of them gave us trouble; and as for the remainder—well, we have really disliked or hated them. Although these attitudes are common enough, we AA's find we need something much better in order to keep our balance. We can't stand it if we hate deeply. The idea that we can possessively love a few, ignore the many, and can continue to fear, or hate anybody, has to be abandoned, if only a little at a time.
We can try to stop making unreasonable demands upon those we love. We can show kindness where we had shown none. With those we dislike we can begin to practice justice and courtesy, perhaps going out of our way to understand and help them.