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July 1951

Tolerance of Intolerance

ONE of the toughest things that a newcomer has to face in AA is the sad fact that being human, we do not always extend the practice of tolerance to those who are intolerant. We come into AA hoping to find an answer to our big problem--drinking too much. We find the answer and then we begin to find a few other things. Maybe we put AA to work for ourselves and we stop drinking. In a few weeks we think we know the Program "by heart." We almost wish they hadn't been in such a hurry to write the Book because we have a few ideas too that should have been included. And certain parts of it maybe we could have written even a little better. We admit we are alcoholics but we don't accept the fact too gracefully. Then maybe we figure we know the Program so well that we could risk a little controlled drinking. We assure ourselves that if we have any trouble, we know right where to go. We know the answers now so maybe it's safe to fool around with a drink. We have the drink and we learn the hard way, if we're lucky enough to get back to AA. (And there have been plenty who never had the second chance) that the First Step has a lot of meat in it. Maybe we didn't quite understand it. Far from knowing the whole Program, we learn that we haven't even got the first step yet! So we come back, feeling sheepish and keep our lips buttoned and our ears pinned back and we begin to learn. There are a few members who now look down their noses at us. We are labelled "slipper" and it irks us. If we are unfortunate enough to slip several times we become aware that in some circles we are ostracized. They accuse us of "kicking it around." We get sore and get drunk again. Why can't the narrow minded so and so's show a little of the tolerance they talk so much about? Well, the answer is that AA is made up largely of humans. And being human they are not perfect. They are occasionally intolerant. It has ever been thus. Roger Williams was banished from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the elders of the Church because he preached some doctrines that varied slightly from their own. The elders had forgotten that they had left England a short while before, to escape a religion forced upon them by the State. Yet they saw no reason why they should not do the same thing now that they were the "State."

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