It’s no small achievement to dispel fear and resentment
RECENTLY, I HAD the experience of writing a dear friend in the Fellowship about a serious personal problem with which he was wrestling. I gave him rather blunt advice, the kind you would send only to a treasured friend. Nothing was heard for weeks. Finally, I wrote again, expressing deep concern lest my forthright suggestions might have been resented. I begged forgiveness if this was true.
Almost by return mail came an answer. No, he had not taken umbrage. He had just been embroiled with the problem and had fallen behind in his correspondence. Then he said, “I have not been successful in developing many virtues in life, but two very minor ones I do have. I do not scare easily, and I do not get sore easily.” This is a relatively simple statement about two rather simple traits. Yet somehow, it moved me to a great deal of reflection.
The minor virtues he mentioned are not so minor after all. All of us have come to know, in trying to live the AA way, that self-discipline is an indispensable ingredient of a fruitful sober life. Knowledge is important, but until it is absorbed into our philosophy of living, it is ineffectual. When we cease being newcomers, we face the necessity of stepping up our own self-discipline. Are there any two qualities that serve us better than insulation against resentment and fear? Offhand, it would seem difficult to name any weaknesses against which we need greater protection.
Fortunately for us, our efforts to live day by day should accomplish a great deal in battling fear and resentment. Almost all fear in life is based on apprehension about tomorrow. Almost all resentments are over things that happened yesterday. In the dark days, we were always scared easily by everything but alcohol. We ran from all the problems of both reality and imagination. When we were not running, we sat in our isolated alcoholic cocoons, resenting everything and everybody. No beautiful butterfly ever emerged from the cocoon of self-pity.
In our slow, steady progress toward facing reality head-on, we must grow a protective coating against both that which caused us to run and that which caused us to vegetate in sorry little packages, all wrapped up in ourselves. I am going to make a whole new start in trying to emulate my friend. I must toughen up this thin skin, which too often causes me to resent the acts of well-meaning friends. And I must face the reality of this very minute, leaving the future to ripen into the present. While I am at it, perhaps I should also develop some measure of restraint in giving blunt advice to friends. Some of them might not have made the progress this one had.