Who Am I?

Note: This excerpt from the Big Book has been modified to use the first person, present tense.

I am almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though my motives are good. I, like most people, try to live by self-propulsion. I am like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in my own way. If my arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as I wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including myself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements I may sometimes be quite virtuous. I may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, I may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, I AM more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. I begin to think life doesn’t treat me right. I decide to exert myself more. I become, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit me. Admitting I may be somewhat at fault, I am sure that other people are more to blame. I becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is my basic trouble? Am I not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Am I not a victim of the delusion that I can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if I only manage well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things I want? And do not my actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Am I not, even in my best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

I am a self-centered-ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. I am like the retired business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twenty first century; politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever my protestations, am I not concerned with myself, my resentments, or my self-pity?

Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, I think, is the root of my troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, I step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt me, seemingly without provocation, but I invariably find that at some time in the past I have made decisions based on self which later placed me in a position to be hurt.

So my troubles, I think, are basically of my own making. They arise out of me, and I am an extreme example of self-will run riot, though I usually do not think so. Above everything, I must be rid of this selfishness. I must, or it will kill me! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. I had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but I could not live up to them even though I would have liked to. Neither could I reduce my self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on my own power. I had to have God’s help.

This is the how and the why of it. First of all, I had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, I decided that hereafter in this drama of life; God was going to be my Director. He is the Principal; I am His agent. He is the Father, and I am His child. Most Good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which I passed into freedom.

When I sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. I had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what I needed, if I kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing I became less and less interested in myself, my little plans and designs. More and more I became interested in seeing what I could contribute to life. As I felt new power flow in, as I enjoyed peace of mind, as I discovered I could face life successfully, as I became conscious of His presence, I began to lose my fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. I was reborn.