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What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:31 pm
by Larry_H
What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty? :?:

Chapter 5 of the Big Book says in part;

"Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty."

What is rigorous honesty?

Part is not lying to ourselves obviously,

How about cash register honesty is it as important to sobriety? What if a restaurant gives you too much change? What if You find a bag of lost money? Do you always remember to return borrowed items.

How about always telling the truth to others? What if your wife asks "Does this dress make me look fat"? and you think it does, do you tell her?

This is only a beginning, feel free to add.

I see a lot of grey areas in rigorous honesty. I would like to hear your thoughts on this? I can never be sure that my thoughts are sane or honest so I need to check with others frequently.

Larry H.
Insanity is hereditary, you get it from yourself

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:00 am
by Ken_the_Geordie
This is a good subject, Larry, thanks; one I've been thinking about myself.

I have something cognitive dissonance about my own 'rigorous honesty' policy. For example I'm about to submit my tax return, and whilst I would like to be totally honest, if I were, I'd probably end up in prison (though I agree I may end up there by being dishonest), and my family would suffer.

The only way I can see to solve this, is to get myself into a position where I can be more truthful with my tax returns; but at over a year sober; my bottom is still levelling out I guess and money is still an issue; though I am working hard and spending more sensibly.

So I try to be rigorously honest where it's not going to hurt others; but if will be honest if it's just me that's made to feel uncomfortable. For example, I've recently got myself a 'big book sponsor' and we're going through the steps; and I will do a more honest Step 4 and 5 this time; even though just typing that made me feel anxious.

I guess I'm still human, and in myself I see 'rigorous honesty' as a case of progress, not perfection.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:49 am
by Steven F
A slippery slope, my friends... For me, rigorous honesty is rigorous honesty. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

If my girlfriend asks me if she looks fat in that dress, she wants to know if the dress fits her. She doesn't want to be flattered. So if she looks fat in it, I will tell her that it doesn't fit in a very flattering way and suggest another one. That is something completely different from being insulting or insensitive. Honesty does not mean we need to be brutal. And if you wish to flatter, do so on points where flatter is justified. Part of sobriety is to see people for their real worth. And they like hearing about that.

When in business, I also practice honesty. I don't care if that would cost me money (it probably even doesn't). Not being honest could cost me my sobriety. Besides, didn't I ask my higher power to provide for my needs, and don't I believe that he will unless I do stuff that prevents that from happening? I have seen that demonstrated in my life over and over again. Part of my personal difficulty is to transform that into faith that it will happen again, but that is another story.

And in taxes - I have been there and it has cost me, but I don't have to look over my shoulder now.

Be honest as much as you can; don't be knowingly dishonest and don't try to twist it by detail-defining honesty. Besides, if you are not honest, and if you plan to continue with this programme, it will one day pop up in inventory and you'll have a heck of a time cleaning it up. There are no grey areas in honesty. If you have made inventory, you have experienced that - beyond the line in the book. Clean up where you haven't been honest yesterday, and be honest today so that you don't have to clean up tomorrow. No need to mess it up by playing God and deciding what is honest enough to pass...

I mean, you can do that if you want, but as far as I am concerned, doing that willingly would be your personal programme, and not AA.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:46 am
by hazel4
Good topic, Larry, but opening a 'grey' world and no doubt very personal reactions.

Rigorous: severity. strictness

I wonder whether Bill meant to use that word when, in Step 9, he gives it a more gentle approach by "...when to do so would injure them or others". indicating that the 'truth' can be used for harm as well as healing. In Working With Others, he does not tell us to hit the alcoholic over the head with the Big Book and threaten him with a choice of "AA or Death", even if a rigorously honest reaction.

Having attempted to live my 'external life' i,e, with others, as honestly as possible, I try to go by that part of the Hippocratic Oath which instructs "Do no harm".
I do not volunteer words that would hurt and, if asked for my opinion, attempt the one that, although honest, is also diplomatic.

With the 'outside' world honesty is a variable scale. I was raised on the adage "Lying takes a good reason and a better memory." Therefore I do not 'evade' taxes, but use every bit of small print to 'avoid' them. If I find a wallet in a store I will hand it only to the manager, obtaining a receipt...and a list of contents. How about on the work front? I can think of more than one job in which I succeeded with flying colours, but, frankly, lied through my teeth to obtain. Prior to retirement, I had three 'engineered' c.v's. dependant upon the Company requirements. Honesty? Heck no, but a means to helping both myself and, in lower management, helping others.

Perhaps, then, the honesty is more for that person within ourselves and our sobriety. If worked with no evasion or excuses Step Four hurts. But it also cleanses if carried through - in my case several times over the years. In that, the word 'rigorous' applies 100%. Honesty is not a 'comfortable option' and for most alkies an unfamiliar word, but it does, eventually, allow us (okay, me personally) to look in the mirror and find 'something' behind the eyes that I call respect.

So, enough burbling. Honesty? Yes with no reservations. Rigorous? Well, if possible, taking each circumstance on its merit.


Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:21 am
by Blue Moon
Rigorous honesty with self, to smash that delusion in Step 1 that we might ever be able to drink safely.

Not the same as rigorous honesty with everyone else.

A litmus test I use is: you cannot have serenity if you're robbing someone else of serenity.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:32 pm
by ann2
Hee hee, Steven, your girlfriend is of a nationality that knows nothing less than absolute rigorous honesty :-) For certain cultures, the "nice nice" kind of avoiding offense in America (perhaps other nations, I know not) is considered downright untrustworthy.

But as to the question -- for me the really interesting part of this quote is what follows it: "Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest."

A less than average chance was something I aspired to -- any chance was better than the no chance I had before :-)

But check it out -- I most probably did have the capacity to be honest, even if I wasn't completely honest at the start, because I am a poster child for those who come to AA with grave emotional disorders. After 17 years the honesty brought me to my first 4th step inventory, and rescued me from a den of misperceptions.

I discovered then how much I had been lying about myself TO myself, especially the hysterical "I have no resentments" HA HA HA HA . . . .

So I am not sure that I am completely honest with myself, because to be sure in that regard, I would have to discount the possibility that I am fooling myself in some way today, whereas my experience in recovery has demonstrated without a doubt that YES, I was lying to myself without knowing it. Not that I was so clever to hide it, but I was just that clueless about how that works.

I don't think that just because I have put the steps into practice in my life that I am immune to self-deception. So I stay open to others, I stop poo-pooing what others say, I listen to my critics, I take time to share how I really feel so as to welcome feedback.

Rigorous honesty? No alcoholic is safe from this disease, in my humble opinion, and protesting the perfection of one's own honesty is just another self-deception. We are all capable of drinking again, unless we follow the instructions in the Big Book throughout our lives. That doesn't mean that we put checkmarks beside things that say "Rigourous honesty" (Check! Got that!) and then pick apart someone else's take on that principle. It MEANS:

We constantly look at our own motives.

We constantly recognize our weaknesses (pride, fear, you know them by now)

We constantly agree with the statement, wholeheartedly and from the bottom of our hearts, "I could be wrong."

Read the entire book. We are not saints.


Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:13 pm
by hazel4
lisar wrote:Ken, Forgive my bluntness but how are you to teach sponsees about rigorous honesty if you are filing a false tax return? I have found that most people, most agencies will work with you if you are honest. I have gotten extensions on a heck of a lot of bills that way. I have also made payment arrangements. And you don't have to look over your shoulder to see who's coming after you!
I appreciate your point but one or two counter questions come to mind.
On a light approach, How fit was Agatha Christie to write of murder with no practical knowledge of it?.
Secondly, I knew very little of my (three) sponsers' private lives, nor was I interested. I simply 'used' them as teachers who knew more of my 'chosen course' than I did. They, too, were only concerned with my analysis and understanding of the Big Book. Should I have questioned their home or business life?
One of those reiterated the old maxim "If you point the finger of judgement at anyone, don't foget thre are three pointing back at you."
Not one of my employers knew or cared about any other attribute, other than my ability to carry my job well.

In my 'umble' opinion, there are some great teachers in AA - a few in this Forum - who have given me a reason to come back, to stay sober. Were they honest with me? I think so. Did they pay their taxes...or alimony...or all the etceteras? I need them - "warts and all", so do not care.

Back to rigorous I have shared...Do no harm

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:49 pm
by joey
Ken_the_Geordie wrote:To be honest, a spell in prison sounds nice; three meals per day; no bills, and I get to play pool all day; they even have AA meetings. We have a nice prison regime in the UK; and I could come out feeling all clean and spiritual - my debt to society paid. I'm not sure where Mrs Ken or daughter would be living at this stage; but as long as I'm 'free' from my past, that's fine; is it? And there's more to this than I care to tell.
Amen to that. I think we always need to consider how our "making amends" can affect other people. AA life is ok to follow "in theory". Not so easy in practice always for everyone. The implications vary from person to person.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:17 am
by Steven F
In so far as it would be needed, I just wanted to make clear that my post was not meant to pass judgement or to mount a moral horse. I simply wanted to answer to the idea that there are "important" and "unimportant" dishonesties.

The simple fact is that we have commenced a new way of living, in which honesty is an important factor. There is no way that we are going to figure out by ourselves which dishonesties are ok, and which are not. If we are dishonest today, we risk getting uneasy about it, and that doesn't really help to maintain fit spiritual condition. My advice: be as honest as you can - not "as honest as you want" - and don't knowingly do anything dishonest. Sure, retrospect might show that you have done something today for dishonest motives you were not aware of, but I wasn't talking about that.

As for the "white lies", I find that I can still surprise people and hand out complements without the need for my feelings or actions going against my words.

As for dishonesties of the past, these fall under amends. Even if you have no resentments, the issue would still figure on your harm inventory by the way. I wouldn't dream telling anyone what to do with amends (except to relate my experience that making them in earnest has been hugely beneficial to me). My own tax comment was therefore by no means meant as some kind of "you do this and you should do that" statement. In my particular situation, I was faced with a question in the here and now, not with a clean-up from the past. I had to decide whether or not to declare in honesty, even if it would cost me money I didn't really have, even if nobody would have ever found out if I hadn't declared properly and even if the prevailing opinion of those around me was that I would be crazy to "donate the money". I decided to declare it all anyway, because I realised I would not feel in peace if I wouldn't (the fact that I pondered the question for two days and smoked twice as much during that time could have been interpreted as a hint 8)). That has by the way nothing to do with morality, and everything with self-preservation.

Might all be superfluous, but I didn't want to leave it risking that anyone might think they are being judged...

PS Ann, maybe that is why I manage to keep this one and failed with so many others :lol:.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:02 am
by Ken_the_Geordie
Steven F wrote: If my girlfriend asks me if she looks fat in that dress, she wants to know if the dress fits her. She doesn't want to be flattered. So if she looks fat in it, I will tell her that it doesn't fit in a very flattering way and suggest another one.
But what if the answer honestly is, "No darling, that dress does not make you look fat, it's your fat that makes you look fat!"

Could or should you be as rigorously honest as that? Whether I want to be honest or not, I just wouldn't have the backbone to point that out; call me selfish (I know I know) but my life wouldn't be worth living afterwards.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:12 am
by happycamper
Honesty without compassion is brutality.

I obviously needed to be rigoursly honest with myself coming into AA and the plain , simple hard facts were that booze was killing me , and AA offered a solution to this problem. So, I got honest with myself , therefor allowing me to be honest with my sponsor who could not help me if I wasnt honest with her.
She has been a great sponsor for the last 6+ yrs and has been rigoursly honest with me as well. she tells me the truth !! she doesnt sugar coat stuff for me, and she doesnt beat around the bush. What good would that do for me ?

Hence .. I am the same way with my sponsee's.
I try the hardest that I can to be loving, tolerant and compassionate with anyone I come in contact with. I do the best I can to tell the truth. Im the one who has to live with my conscious and put my head on my pillow at night.

Im a business owner who deals alot in cash sales. Do I report every single dollar I make ? Not no, but hell no !! I put a little more in the basket at church and throw a few xtra bucks in the basket at an AA meeting :-) I believe God understands my dishonesty.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:50 am
by Mike O
"...being honest with themselves..." is the most important part of the original quotation, for me at least.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 2:52 am
by rpinkard
Nitpick all you want. If God wants you to cheat on ur taxes. He will let you know.

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 7:50 pm
by desypete
i am a hgv driver and i have been done for drink driving twice in my lifetime, once at 17 and once again when i was 38
now when i came to aa to rebuild my life i had to start to try to apply for jobs again and i waiting till the endorsement was removed from my licence before i went back to driving for work
now came the interview stages and do i tell them its ok i am an alcoholic but i haven't had a drink in years ? or do i not mention it unless asked to ?

these are the sorts of things i have had to learn about being honest from my sponsor and others in the rooms who have guided me as i would of thought its best to tell any future employer all about my past but in the real world it wouldnt get me very far would it ? i mean who would employ a drunk as a driver ? or a dr ? or a nurse or any number of positions that are very important that no drink be involved ?

when i was first learning to live this new life, i had an good idea =biggrin
i thought i would join up on some dating sites and look for a new partner there, now on the sites they had profile pages i filled in and i put down all about my past, being a drunk, losing my kids ending up going to prisons etc it was a virtual step 5 but i did so as i was trying to live honestly and not trying to hide anything from anyone

of course i never got one single enquiry from the ladys who must of took one look at my profile and ran like hell lol

so honesty i have learned is on a need to know basis

if i am ever asked about my past i will not hide from it

Re: What is your opinion of Rigorous Honesty?

Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:57 am
by PaigeB
I once had to say to a gal who was "telling it like it is!", ie taking my inventory, that "rigorous honesty"
IS NOT Brutal Honesty.

I have to THINK =