There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed. p.25, Alcoholics Anonymous
I tend never to choose a topic for a meeting too far in advance. When I prepare ahead of time I find that I catch myself trying to make the meeting about my own agenda instead of the solution. As I was unlocking the cabinet to get the coffee out on Sunday night I still didn’t have a topic. W, a delightful young man who is fresh out of prison and serious about sobriety, was eager to talk to me about a personal issue. C and I hadn’t seen each other in a few days; he wanted to share his life with me as he usually does. (Our meetings are heavily populated with men and I am fresh out of a career in which I worked closely with the professional side of recovery; many of the men and women in our fellowship were ordered to attend counseling at the center where I was formerly employed. I’m glad to be just another recovering alcoholic and believe that I lost that job for a reason.)
I gave my full attention to my fellows, as I always do. AA’s future is my responsibility. I was, however, relieved when the meeting started. P read How it Works, M read the traditions. I told myself that I had better just rely on something familiar, a part of the book that makes a for a good meeting no matter what. I chose the above paragraph from page twenty-five. I was actually going to read this paragraph and the one that follows, but something stood out and would not let me focus on the rest of the words: the leveling of our pride. R and I have been talking about pride lately. R has been having issues with work, being insubordinate and immediately seeing the folly of such behavior. I have lost a job that I was fast becoming prideful over. Pride keeps me sick. When I inventory my character defects (defenses!) pride is chief, fear is second. I found some excellent readings concerning pride from As Bill Sees It. Of course humility is discussed, it can be seen as the absence of pride. When it was time to suggest the topic I read the dictionary definition. I know what pride is, all too well, but I wanted to hear it for myself, in the words of Daniel Webster. It starts with definitions I tell myself I don’t relate to: inordinate self-esteem, conceit, a reasonable or justifiable self respect; these are qualities I have never possessed. Having always felt as though they were robbed of me by others, I am beginning to see that I gave them away and now must reclaim them. The next definition I can begin to associate with: delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship. My self esteem, my self respect have always arisen from outside myself, never inside, but my pride can swell as large as a tsunami as a result of praise for my good deeds or hard work, my pretty shiny things or because I am friends with the coolest cat in the room. The kind of pride that causes the most spiritual pain for me results from proud or disdainful behavior or treatment. I look down on you to make me feel better. I have done this and been outright called on it as recently as a month ago. Ouch. As a kid my sister and I would watch American Bandstand every Saturday, critiquing the dancers and their wardrobe choices. Today my proud and disdainful behavior takes the form of spiritual arrogance. Growth, for me, isn’t always enriching.
The meeting was somber but satisfying. Everyone shared, which is unusual for the 8:00 crowd. Several people told me it was a good meeting, that I did a great job, but in light of the miniscule preparation I put into it, I know it had very little to do with me. As with any meeting, there’s something bigger at work when two or more gather to share experience, strength and faith. If I let pride get involved I don’t get much from the deal.