I HAVE BEEN a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for several years, and I am most grateful. The rewards and benefits I have received have all been made possible through accepting and following certain conditions set forth in the program of AA. Which of these conditions is of the greatest importance may be debatable. However, I doubt that any of them are more important than honesty. I have heard honesty discussed many times over the past several years, and I hope it will continue to be discussed even more frequently and with greater emphasis.
How honest am I? Whenever I have asked myself this question, the answer has always been elusive and unclear. I wonder how many others have tried to answer it without success. I have come to believe there really isn’t a definite answer, and the reason is the question itself. It clearly indicates there is some degree of dishonesty lurking in the background. It suggests half measures: some honesty, some dishonesty.
In the Big Book, I have found such phrases as “rigorous honesty,” “honest desire to stop drinking,” “the capacity to be honest,” “fearless and thorough,” and many others. If I have to ask how honest I am, then I’m practicing half measures. The Big Book clearly states, “Half measures availed us nothing.” Either I’m honest or I’m not. Is there any in-between?
How honest do I have to be? This is a topic frequently discussed at meetings. I have found some of the comments to be most interesting and intriguing. Some of those heard most often are: “This doesn’t mean cash-register honesty”; “You can’t be completely honest and get along out there in that world.” Do they sound familiar?
The discussions run from mild to heated. At one meeting, the leader summarized with a statement something like this: “Based on what I’ve heard, it is the consensus of this group that it is all right to tell little white lies.” Needless to say, the meeting didn’t end at that point.
These discussions have been and, I’m sure, will continue to be good for me. The net result is that I go back to the Big Book and read it again and again. Any ideas I may ever have possessed about “allowable” degrees of honesty (or should I say dishonesty?) have long since been dispelled. I haven’t been able to find any place in the Big Book that allows for anything less than honesty.
How important is honesty? The word appears throughout the Big Book. Sometimes, an adjective is used with it, such as “rigorous.” It must be rather important, or it wouldn’t appear so often nor would such emphasis be placed on it. There are many passages in the Big Book that imply the necessity for honesty, even though the word doesn’t appear in them.
Early in my AA life, an older member and I were discussing a mutual friend, who had gone back to drinking after several years in AA. I asked the question “Why?”
The older member’s reply was: “He wasn’t honest.”
Since that time, I have come to believe that the difference between honesty and dishonesty is sobriety. Honesty applies to all our affairs, and this means both inside and outside Alcoholics Anonymous–not one or the other, but both. This covers all moral, material, and spiritual aspects of our lives. It means we are to give up those old ideas and walk like we talk. There just isn’t any in-between.