OUR CLOSED MEETING WAS NEARLY over. For an hour we had discussed humility versus pride, and the leader asked a newcomer, still in his tremulous, hangover stage, if he cared to make a comment.
"Yes," said he. "I'd like to say that I don't understand at all what you've been talking about. I don't need humility--I need confidence. Right now, I'm not at all confident I can finish this day without a drink. I've just lost my job and if I were offered another one tomorrow, I'm not at all confident I could handle it. Nor has anyone else any confidence in me either.
"Why should I think of humility when it is confidence I need so badly?"
We probably didn't give him an understandable answer at that time, but I couldn't help but think later how that thing called confidence had meant so many different things to me at different times. Even in the days before alcohol I thought I had confidence in myself, because I had been able to excel in a few spots, I had grown above my original environment, I had spent years away from home even while teen-aged. I had, I thought, plenty of confidence in me alone and my ability to surmount obstacles and eventually come out on top.
Of course, later, much of that youthful confidence weakened a bit, some fears crept in, some doubts arose and some questions were hard to answer. However, by then, alcohol was available. A few drinks answered the questions and the doubts. A few lucky business connections made me think again that I was the boy with the promising future, and a very enjoyable present, as well.
I was confident, what's more, that I could handle this alcohol. . .make it work for me, help me enjoy the new affluence and make that all-important big impression on people who then seemed important. I was mighty confident that alcohol and I could handle this world pretty neatly.
Then came the long years of alcoholism, when confidence in me was waning and the need for alcohol was greater. I was even beginning to recognize that there were certain situations I didn't want to face alone, there were some difficulties arising which I couldn't handle, but which I could avoid by greater and regular quantities of alcohol. That old self-assurance, self-reliance and self-sufficiency had long since gone. . .and even alcohol was not strong enough.
That time, thank God, has also passed--and may it always remain in the past. For now I have again found confidence with a totally different meaning than it ever had before. While I do not pretend to be a Latin scholar, yet I have learned that the word "confidence" was born by the joining of the two Latin words "con" and "fidere" meaning "with trust" or "with faith."
That is the new meaning of confidence to me: with trust in my newly-found knowledge and in the truths I have been enabled to accept, coupled with faith in God and my fellow man. I now have a confidence which can completely support me. No longer must I rely on myself alone, or on alcohol or any of its medical equivalents or substitutes.
Through AA and the people I have met, I have learned of my abilities and also of my limitations, have felt what it means to be needed and to belong. But of more importance, I have found a modicum of faith which for this day is ample strength for all of my needs.
It seems to me that confidence, in this meaning, far from being the opposite of humility is actually unattainable without some humility.
Now, when I think of confidence or feel the need for it, I know it is attainable only with faith. And when I think of faith, I can understand it better if I think in terms of confidence in my Creator, joining with me and with those I love, for now and for the future.
Maybe, for me, it was necessary to learn the derivation of the word "confidence" to understand its value; or, more likely, it was a little bit of faith in Him which matured and has led me to look confidently to a future where reliance on Him and humble acceptance of His favors will enable me to live as I ought--confidently with faith.