Thursday, 6 June 2013
Self-esteem and integrity
Page 28 of the book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' states:
'If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed, or colour, are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try.'
Herein lies the answer to what I would in the past have termed 'low self-worth'. I was crippled by this condition, and it was the chief symptom of a spiritual malady to which alcohol was an adequate solution at least for some time. For me to stay sober, the spiritual malady must be resolved, and to achieve this, this line from the Book must be implemented in my life.
The first noteworthy idea is that we are the children of a living Creator. To me, this idea suggests that, as any child of a parent, I am of infinite worth to that parent. Only in sick families are there favourites; in healthy families, there are none. I am totally loved by God, but so is everyone else. This understanding is the basis of healthy self-esteem.
For this self-esteem to be manifest in my life, however, I need to pay attention to the second part: I need a relationship with God formed upon simple and understandable terms.
It may appear, therefore, that the spiritual path will involve absolute devotion to creating and maintaining a relationship with God. The method of achieving this is not so self-evident, however; at several points in the Book, it suggests that this relationship is created in practice chiefly by forming relationships with others, on a particular footing:
'Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that.' (Pages 14–15)
'Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.' (Page 77)
'Both of you will awaken to a new sense of responsibility for others. You, as well as your husband, ought to think of what you can put into life instead of how much you can take out. Inevitably your lives will be fuller for doing so. You will lose the old life to find one much better.' (Pages 119–120)
So, service to others appears to be the method by which this relationship is achieved, and the truth of our infinite worth as part of a greater family becomes manifest.
I would suggest, however, that a further element lies here: 'Now we try to put spiritual principles to work in every department of our lives.' (Page 116)
To me, this boils down to integrity:
In addition to the question of whether I am putting others first, I need to ask the following questions:
Do I place character-building first?
Do I take on levels of service (inside and outside AA) commensurate with my ability, energy, and true availability?
Do I do what I said I was going to do, when I said I was going to do it?
Do I ever try to get something for nothing?
Am I living up to my responsibilities to the wider community and society?
Am I self-supporting?
Am I loyal, where loyalty is due?
Am I generous without being reckless?
Am I candid when necessary?
Am I discreet when necessary?
Am I wasteful of anything (time, money, opportunity)?
Am I doing anything to harm others or cause suffering—in word or in deed?
If I can answer these questions satisfactorily, I have integrity.
Without the understanding that I am of fundamental, unchanging value, my sense of self will fluctuate like a stock-market index, reflecting the sentiment and transient ups and downs of each day.
Without integrity, the sense of eternal value will remain an abstraction, a taunt, or a joke.
With understanding and integrity, every block to a relationship with God is removed.