At first blush, unselfishness would seem to be the simplest of all to understand, define and accomplish. But we have a long road to travel because ours was a real mastery of the exact opposite during our drinking days.
A little careful thought will show that unselfishness in its finest sense, the kind for which we must strive in our way of life, is not easy to reach or describe in detail. In the final analysis, it must gain for us the selfishness which is our spiritual cornerstone, the real significance of our anonymity.
Proceeding with the question method of digesting the absolute, we suggest you ask yourself over and over again in judging what you are about to do, say, think or decide, “How will this affect the other fellow?”
Our unselfishness must include not merely that which we do for others, but that which we do for ourselves. I once heard an old-timer say that this was a 100% selfish program in one aspect, namely that we had to maintain our own sobriety and its quality before we could possibly help others in a maximum degree. Yet we know that we must give ourselves to others in order to maintain our own sobriety, in a spirit of complete selfishness with no thought of reward. How do we put these two things together?
Well, for one thing, it points up that we shall gain in direct proportion to the real help we give others. How many of us make hospital calls simply because we think we need to do it to stay sober? Those who think only of their own need and who reflect little on the question of doing the fellows at the hospital some genuine good, are missing the boat. We know, for we used to make hospital calls in much the same way that we took vitamin pills.
Then one day in our early sobriety, we were asked to call on a female patient. There weren’t enough gals to go around in those days and the men were called in to help. Never will we forget the anxiety on the way to that nursing home. And after nearly two hours of earnest talk we left one of the noblest women we will ever meet, worried about whether we had helped, or hurt, or perhaps had accomplished nothing at all. Some of her questions stayed with us. We thought of better answers later on, and returned to see her several times.
We are helped on our long journey to unselfishness by our great mission of understanding which sometimes seems as precious as the gift of sobriety itself. But the quality cannot be confined alone to that which we do for others. We must be unselfish even in our pursuits of self-preservation. Not the least of our aid to others comes from the examples of our own lives.
Is there any protection against that first drink which equals our thought of what it may do to others, those whose unselfish love guided us in the beginning, and those whom we in turn guided later on? We are again reminded of the last verse of an anonymous poem:
I must remember as I go
Through sober days, both high and low,
What I must always seem to be
For him who always follows me.
-This article is referenced to a pamphlet titled “The Four Absolutes,” printed by Cleveland Central Committee of AA