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Editorial from Central Bulletin, March 1949 Vol 7, #6

Temper is bad business. An outburst of it frightens other people. It often antagonizes them. It leaves the person who indulges in it weak and sheepish.

People who tend toward extremes in their living and in their relationships with others, and this comprises all alcoholics, are prone to express themselves violently.

Many of us have found that sobriety has not, as a matter of course, brought that serenity of disposition toward which all of us should strive.

Very often dry binges are started by fits of temper, and angry outbursts come during depressed spells. The two are associated. The introvert, will harbor his resentments, the extrovert will allow them to blow up externally. In either case, the cause is the same and the result practically identical. The only difference is that the voluble extrovert may frighten people more than the sullen introvert.

Now these outbursts, often caused by inconsequential acts, slips of the tongue or rolling of the eyes, are evidence that complete sobriety has not yet been attained.

If we try to implement Step Four: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” many of us would find that temper is one of the defects of character, a very active and challenging one, delaying the making over of our lives.

In this habit of temper, an emotional value whose escaping stream often scalds others, we need help just as in the habit of drinking. We find assistance against both in the same source: the Higher Power which controls our destiny.

But before we frankly tackle a defect with the honest aim of eliminating it, we just know its nature. A great help to this end is the famous classic, “The Greatest Thing in the World,” by Henry Drummond.

The greatest thing in the world, briefly, is love. And the greatest threat to it, in Drummond’s view, is temper. We quote a few of Drummond’s time-tested sentences:

“It is not in what it (temper) is alone, but in what it reveals. This is why I take the liberty now of speaking of it with such unusual plainness. It is a test for love, a symptom, a revelation of an unloving nature at bottom.

It is the intermittent fever which bespeaks un-intermittent disease within; the occasional bubble escaping to the surface which betrays some rottenness underneath; a sample of the most hidden products of the soul dropped involuntarily when off one’s guard; in a word, the lightning form of a hundred hideous and unchristian sins.

For a want of patience, a want of kindness, a want of generosity, a want of courtesy, a want of unselfishness, are all instantaneously symbolized in one flash of temper.”

These are strong words. This is a heavy indictment. Even those of us who believe that Drummond, for effect, may have overstated the charge will have to admit to his basic truth. This bad business of temper is a problem, for those of us afflicted with it, that cannot be smoothed over or by-passed. With the help of a Higher Power it can and will be solved in order to make more complete the happiness of sobriety.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.