WHAT is pride? It is always named first of the seven deadly character defects–but what does it have to do with sobriety? And what can I do about it?
The dictionary tags it “an excessively high opinion of oneself; arrogance.” We are not speaking of legitimate pride, in doing well whatever we ought to be doing. Pride in the alcoholic is a distorted opinion of oneself. Since it is a spiritual quality, it starts and festers within, and therefore a balance must be found without.
Usually, only alcoholics are beaten down enough to go outside for help. Most earth people never know the desolation of the defeated alcoholic. They may not been forced to look into themselves fully, because they do not have the same terminal need. Whatever self-love they have may never be altered.
The alcoholic, on the other hand, has been slugged often and forced to face facts. This is one key to AA progress–eyes are opened and can begin to see. (We are not the only defeated ones. Some others, non-alcoholics, suffer defeat and dig their way upward. But we should remember the Preamble, stick to the primary task, and leave those others to people better qualified to attend them.)
Bill W. says in the “Twelve and Twelve” (page 48) that “pride. . .is the basic breeder of most human difficulties, the chief block to true progress. . . When the satisfaction of our instincts. . .becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses.” Certainly, pride is inseparable from the emotional storms that racked us; it has been a basic cause of suffering everywhere since time began. To escape it, we must look for the absolute opposite–humility.
In the Grapevine (June 1961), Bill said that one could attain “humility for today” only by steering a middle course between “the bog of guilt and rebellion” on one side and the opposite path strewn with the fool’s-gold coins of pride. Bill points out that “a constant inventory. . .is always in order.” Back to the Tenth Step. It’s wonderful how the Steps keep popping up. Once again, we are pushed toward living them, one day at a time. This is a perfect way to diminish pride, first and deadliest of the seven character defects.