This week’s Here’s To Your Health is a continuation of Step Six: “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” But before we begin I’d like to quote something from Bill W’s book, Alcoholics Anonymous: “The man with the grown-up brain and the childish emotions-vanity, self-interest, false pride, jealousy, longing for social approval, to name a few-becomes a prime candidate for alcohol. It is a state of being in which the emotions have failed to grow to the stature of the intellect. They are trying to make themselves think they are grown-up, and the strain of their effort is what’s causing them to drink.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, pp. 534-5).
On page 67 of his book, “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,” Bill Wilson said, “Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness.”
When gluttony is less than ruinous, we have a milder word for that, too; we call it “taking our comfort.” We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less degree, everybody is infected with it. From this defect we must surely get a warped yet definite satisfaction. Why else would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it? And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful later on-only we call that “retiring.” Consider too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables. Nearly anyone could submit a good list of such defects as these, and few of us would seriously think of giving them up, at least until they cause us excessive misery.
Some people, of course, may conclude that they are indeed ready to have all such character defects taken from them. But even these people, if they construct a list of milder defects, will be obliged to admit that they prefer to hang on to some of them. Therefore, it seems plain that few of us can quickly or easily become ready to aim at spiritual and moral perfection; we want to settle for only as much perfection as will get us by in life, according, of course, to our various and sundry ideas of what will get us by. So the difference between the boys and men working Step Six is the difference between striving for a self-determined objective, and for the perfect objective; which is of God.
Many will at once ask, “How can we accept the entire implication of Step Six? Why-that is perfection!” This sounds like a hard question, but practically speaking, it isn’t. Only Step One, where we made the one hundred percent admission we were powerless over alcohol, can be practiced with absolute perfection. The remaining eleven steps state perfect ideals. They are goals toward which we look, and the measuring stick by which we estimate our progress. Seen in this light, Step Six is still difficult, but not at all impossible. The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning, and keep trying. To be continued…
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