Second in a mini-series dealing with seven deadly character defects
Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. – Date unknown
No one would argue if you said at a meeting that resentments are among our worst enemies. But resentments, like alcoholism, are a symptom. When you go looking for the cause, envy will often be dug out of the woodwork. Yet most people think of envy as a mild flaw, easily skipped over in the Fourth Step.
The truth is that envy has long since earned a high pace among character defects. Like many an insidious foe, it has a way of throwing slider s that can fool anyone. As long as our defects go unrecognized, they have a way of growing; they aren’t likely to fade away and get lost without real effort by the victim. And envy can sour the thinking process like sauerkraut in a milk-shake. The victim would never admit this. (Guilty ones rarely confess anything. Ask any judge, lawyer, or jury.)
To envy means “to feel annoyed or aggrieved at the superior possessions or advantages of another person.” Any time an alcoholic gets annoyed in this way, there is danger ahead. What shows first as irritation grows quickly into resentment. Emotions can merely simmer; but as in a kettle with the lid jammed on, pressure rises, and resentment can burst into rage.
So what started as a touch of mild envy may eventually boil into something lethal and end in tragedy (which to us means a drink).
Suppose someone remarks here, “Why worry about it? Remember, Easy Does It.” Ther e is a strong answer.
It comes from Bill W., AA’s co-founder, who noted in the Grapevine (November 1960) that alcoholics have three choices in seeking sobriety: (1) “A rebellious refusal to work upon our glaring defects can be an almost certain ticket to destruction”; (2) for a time, we can stay sober with a minimum of self-improvement and settle our selves into a comfortable but often dangerous mediocrity”: or (3) “we can continuously try hard for those sterling qualities that can add up to fineness of spirit and action – true and lasting freedom under God.”
If we take the third course, we’ll begin with a “searching and fearless” look into ourselves. Do I envy John or Jane Doe, recently promoted while I sat still? Or their new car while mine is old and rusty? Or the fact that his son made MIT while mine took a low-level job? The list will be long; for each, it will vary; but honesty will show that envy warps countless minds.
Envy has a long arm; its fingers touch many sides of our thinking and therefore influence our actions. Is this a human frailty that can’t be helped? No! Once anyone uses the Fourth Step without reserve and begins to see exactly what is wrong, a start can be made. Only that is needed. Perfection isn’t in reach. But willingness will open many gates, and the road ahead can be upward, if we so choose, one day at a time.
Bill C., Hull, Mass.