Honesty is one of “The Four Absolutes” of the Oxford Group, which was the precursor to Alcoholics Anonymous that touched both Bill W and Dr. Bob seperately before they met. Initially, the “meetings” they held were part of the Oxford Group, so it is there that AA had its begininngs. This photograph is from Dr. Bob’s grave. It is part of his headstone.
While purity, unselfishness and love are certainly worthy characteristics to have, I haven’t heard them touted as part of the AA program. Honesty, though, is central to AA. It appears in one of the slogans – HOW – honesty, openness (or open-mindedness) and willingness – HOW it works. Honesty makes many appearances throughout the literature and to my understanding, I can’t really work the program without being very very honest. Dishonesty will lead to drinking.
It was one of the first benefits of AA that I experienced, and I experienced it in a big way. Each time I stopped drinking and put a few sober days together, the fact that I did not have to cover anything up gave me immediate relief. Not only was the there the dishonesty of drinking and all that entailed, there was also the fact that in my particular character, I think I lied when the truth would have done just as well.
I lied about drinking and being drunk, to be sure. Many times I went to a meeting messed up and lied in the faces of the people there who were so kind to me and such good friends. More than that, they could spot a drunk a mile away, and my lying was stupid and shameful. I lied to teachers and people who went to school with me in order to excuse away my insane behavior. I’m sure my lies weren’t very convincing. There’s also the fact that I was living a lie in the relationship I was having with the married man across the street. I lied to everyone about that, including his wife, who thought I was her friend.
Not drinking, a whole group of lies were no longer meaningful, and I did always realize what a relief that was when I experienced it. Much more than that, though, is the fact that AA tells us and teaches us to be as honest as possible with all people in all situations. There are some drastic circumstances, I suppose, when honesty would be more hurtful than helpful, but I can’t really think of any. All this to say that so many alcoholics will still try to justify hiding things and being untruthful since they do so for the good of others. This is hardly ever true.
My thoughts about the deeper, more complicated aspects of honesty aren’t clear to me now. I’ve heard it brought up as a topic, even, should we avoid all white lies for the sake of honesty? What if you think the baby is ugly, the hair cut is unfortunate, the painting is bad? Happily, as members of Alcoholics Anonymous, we have infinite resources to check these things out. There are always people to talk to and literature to read, so we can check on our particular cirumstances and motives.
For me right now, I’m wondering about the very deepest meaning of honesty. When at work (where else?) I stay quiet rather than speaking up. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. There are a few people who know my situation in depth, but the answer isn’t clear. So here I am, considering these steps and these principles again specifically, and in depth.