In our introduction to “Character Defects” in the portal page of this section, we gave a summary of the understanding of character defects which PTP has drawn from the Big Book and the 12&12. We placed this understanding in its historical context, outlining the classical view of what constitutes character, how it goes bad and becomes defective, and how this relates to defective emotion and harmful action. We concluded with the process of spiritual growth and character building—represented by the 12 Steps—by which we change, replacing our defects with the spiritual virtues which enable us to live as it is the will of a loving God for us to live, best exemplified perhaps by the St. Francis Prayer in Step 11 of the 12&12.
Here we supplement this summary with a selection of quotes, spanning over two millennia, which may add to our reflection on the subject. A review of these quotes will reveal a number of consistent themes. Character defines who we really are as people (King, Wooden); differs from personality (Maugham, Letterman); is the product of habit (Plutarch, Ovid, Covey), not of fate or circumstance (Democritus, Dyer); reflects as well as shapes our perceptions (Lewis, Emerson) and our hearts (Augustine); largely determines the course of our lives (Democritus, Beckwith); should consequently be our highest concern (Euripides, Socrates, Goethe, de Montaigne, Spurgeon); and can be transformed (Confucius, Dewey, Frank, Nin) gradually (Heraclitus) through a process of pain and effort (Seneca, Paul, Keller) which replaces its defects with their virtuous counterparts (courage and honesty for Roosevelt, perseverance for Michener and Vonnegut, self-control and forgiveness for Carnegie).
These are of course only quotes, and to get at the substance which, in the case of some of the great thinkers, may lie behind them, we would have to read their works. But even after we do we’ll find that no one even comes close to offering the kind of extensive, systematic, and practical program of action for the transformation of character that is available through the 12 Steps of AA. Nor is there a program of action that has been tested more or yielded better results, in ours an in other 12-Step fellowships. The program works in this very specific and all-important way of making better men and women of us who once were given up for—and thought ourselves—hopeless. We need only work it.
[Image: Gate Lodge, home of Henrietta Seiberling, site of first meeting between Bill W. and Dr. Bob, May 12, 1935.]