A.A. Oldtimers…on the Tenth Step…

A.A. Grapevine, August 1945 Vol. 2 No. 3

Editorial: On the 10th Step…

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

THE admission of a wrong compares in its effects to a strong cauterizing agent. When applied promptly it burns away the infection, but the treatment may be painful. How much mental pain an individual incurs by admitting a wrong depends not so much on the degree of the wrong as on how seriously he is afflicted with vanity and false pride. The more vain the person, the more reluctant he is ever to admit a mistake. The more false pride he has, the more imperative it seems to him to perpetuate the illusion of his own perfection.

Since we all know that vanity and false pride are distortions of the mind, perhaps the reason they are so common is the fact that, although we can spot them immediately in others, we have considerable difficulty in detecting them in ourselves.

Here the value of the personal inventory is self-evident. If it is honest and thorough, it will leave no vanities and false pride unrevealed. It is the means by which we can detect in ourselves the faults we note so readily in others and which we know are obstacles to the growth of an effective and happy personality.

The first inventory we take as we begin to apply the A.A. program naturally tends to be the most soul-searching and the most revealing. In most cases, it is the first self-reckoning we have undertaken in many years and most of us are likely to unearth a great accumulation of debris.

This inventory provides the guide for basic, and usually drastic, correction. Subsequent inventories serve to show whether the first efforts toward correction have been effective and what additional correction may be needed. By this method of personal checkup, we can determine for ourselves whether we are actually moving forward or have slipped backward.

Continued personal inventory is also a medium for readjustment to new objectives. As the A.A. moves upward he frequently finds that he is constantly lifting his sights. What satisfied him previously does not do so any longer. When he was learning to crawl he looked ahead to being able to walk. When he could walk he wanted to run. His expanding personality demands larger fields. If the person he wanted to be yesterday has come into being, he now wishes to be a still better person.

The inventory, obviously, is only part of the treatment. The deficiencies it reveals must be made up. Or, in the thought of the 10th Step: When wrong, promptly admit it. That is putting the inventoried knowledge into action.

Haliburton once wrote, “When a man is wrong and won’t admit it, he always gets angry.”

Anger, as we well know, is particularly poisonous to us. How foolish and ironical to fall prey to it through vanity!

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