sometimes heard that alcoholics and other addicts are
usually looking for love in the wrong places. Dr. Bob
S, AA’s beloved co-founder, apparently thought we
could at least find paths to love in a small book, “The
Greatest Thing in the World.” According to AA’s
authorized biography of Dr. Bob, he advised another member
to get it for a woman who was going into D.T.’s.
“When she comes out of it and she decides she wants
to be a different woman, get her (this book),” he
said. “Tell her to read it through every day for
30 days, and she’ll be a different woman.”
quite a promise for one book, especially one that can
be read in less than thirty minutes. But “The Greatest
Thing in the World” is no ordinary book. Written
in 1887 by a Scottish educator named Henry Drummond, it
presents a simple and yet profound discussion of Love.
Drummond was a distinguished author of many books. But
he is known today only for his simple treatise on Love.
did Dr. Bob consider it so useful for alcoholics in recovery?
Probably because its power lies in presenting simple rules
which aid in overcoming resentment and selfishness while
offering nine simple things a person can do to cultivate
Love in his/her life.
book is based on one great passage in the Bible: I Corinthians
13 which begins by saying, ”Though I speak with
the tongues of men and of angels, and have not Love, I
am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal…”
It goes on to list nine ingredients of Love which Drummond
translated as Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Humility,
Courtesy, Unselfishness, Good Temper, Guilelessness, and
of these ingredients often crop up in AA talks and discussions.
Humility was always a big topic for Bill W., and he also
emphasized the importance of Unselfishness. And Kindness?
Both he and Dr. Bob were very kind in their dealings with
others and I’m confident that they were extremely
Courteous and Generous. They also sought improvement in
areas where they felt deficient. Bill W., for example,
was quick to make amends when he felt that his temper
had led him astray, though he was not really bad-tempered.
Dr. Bob also had a warm disposition. A woman in Toledo
remembered him fondly from her student nursing days at
Akron’s St. Thomas Hospital. She said he only became
disgruntled when he heard hospital staff members belittling
the alcoholics in his care.
good news about the nine ingredients is that we can easily
understand them and choose to practice them whenever we
are ready. Not a great deal of sacrifice or effort is
required. For the most part, we just try to think and
act like decent human beings concerned for the wellbeing
of our fellows. We can become patient with ourselves and
with the person who slips repeatedly. We can be kind even
towards people who are nasty towards us. We can be generous
with our time and resources. We should be humble about
any success, giving God and our sponsors the credit. We
can be courteous to everybody and especially to family
members who get on our nerves. We should also challenge
the demon of selfishness every day. We should watch our
disposition like a hawk, mindful of the damage a single
outburst of bad temper can cause. We can also avoid guile
like the plague, never deceiving or misleading others
for our own advantage. And finally, we can be sincere
in everything we do and very grateful to be rid of the
false beliefs of our drinking past.
all these things and we are on the great Highway to Love,
which comes from God.
more good news: Drummond’s marvelous book is still
in print and available from several publishers. Almost
any book store has it or can obtain it in a few days.
The full text of I Corinthians 13 is also available in
any Bible. It is one of the most beautiful passages in
the Bible and its closing statement should be familiar
to all of us: “Now abideth Faith, Hope, and Love,
but the greatest of these is Love.”
looking for Love, this is the right place to start finding
*Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, AA World Services, New
York, 1980, p. 310