Mel B. (Toledo, Ohio)
I've sometimes heard that alcoholics and other addicts are usually looking for love in the wrong places. Dr. Bob S., A.A.'s beloved co-founder, apparently thought we could at least find paths to love in a small book, The Greatest Thing in the World. According to A.A.'s authorized biography of Dr. Bob, he advised another member to get it for a woman who was going into D.T.'s. "When she comes out of it and she decides she wants to be a different woman, get her [this book]," he said. "Tell her to read it through every day for 30 days, and she'll be a different woman."*
That's quite a promise for one book, especially one that can be read in less than thirty minutes. But The Greatest Thing in the World is no ordinary book. Written in 1887 by a Scottish educator named Henry Drummond, it presents a simple and yet profound discussion of Love. Drummond was a distinguished author of many books. But he is known today only for his simple treatise on Love.
Why did Dr. Bob consider it so useful for alcoholics in recovery? Probably because its power lies in presenting simple rules which aid in overcoming resentment and selfishness while offering nine simple things a person can do to cultivate Love in his/her life.
The book is based on one great passage in the Bible: I Corinthians 13 which begins by saying,"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not Love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal …" It goes on to list nine ingredients of Love which Drummond translated as Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Humility, Courtesy, Unselfishness, Good Temper, Guilelessness, and Sincerity.
Most of these ingredients often crop up in A.A. talks and discussions. Humility was always a big topic for Bill W., and he also emphasized the importance of Unselfishness. And Kindness? Both he and Dr. Bob were very kind in their dealings with others and I'm confident that they were extremely Courteous and Generous. They also sought improvement in areas where they felt deficient. Bill W., for example, was quick to make amends when he felt that his temper had led him astray, though he was not really bad-tempered. Dr. Bob also had a warm disposition. A woman in Toledo remembered him fondly from her student nursing days at Akron's St. Thomas Hospital. She said he only became disgruntled when he heard hospital staff members belittling the alcoholics in his care.
The good news about the nine ingredients is that we can easily understand them and choose to practice them whenever we are ready. Not a great deal of sacrifice or effort is required. For the most part, we just try to think and act like decent human beings concerned for the wellbeing of our fellows. We can become patient with ourselves and with the person who slips repeatedly. We can be kind even towards people who are nasty towards us. We can be generous with our time and resources. We should be humble about any success, giving God and our sponsors the credit. We can be courteous to everybody and especially to family members who get on our nerves. We should also challenge the demon of selfishness every day. We should watch our disposition like a hawk, mindful of the damage a single outburst of bad temper can cause. We can also avoid guile like the plague, never deceiving or misleading others for our own advantage. And finally, we can be sincere in everything we do and very grateful to be rid of the false beliefs of our drinking past.
Do all these things and we are on the great Highway to Love, which comes from God.
There's more good news: Drummond's marvelous book is still in print and available from several publishers. Almost any book store has it or can obtain it in a few days. The full text of I Corinthians 13 is also available in any Bible. It is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible and its closing statement should be familiar to all of us: "Now abideth Faith, Hope, and Love, but the greatest of these is Love."
When looking for Love, this is the right place to start finding it.
*Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers (New York: A.A. World Services, 1980), p. 310.