Love and Service

Reflections in Recovery

Fr. Dowling of St. Louis, AA friend and spiritual advisor to Bill W.
In an honest desire to be of service, sometimes we may assume a position of responsibility or acquire a leadership status that seems to bring out the worst in people. Slings and arrows strike from all directions. After a while, we just want to quit and say the hell with it.

We scan our AA brain for an answer and the expression “love and service” bubbles up. Paired this way, it suggests that the two go together, that one doesn’t work well without the other. True, it’s hard to see how we can love people who patently wish us ill or even hate us, especially when we are trying to be of help. But this is because we think of love primarily as a feeling.

However, if we think of love as a principle, as it appears in Step 12 (p. 124), then we can try to practice it whatever the circumstance. For, in practice, love is expressed concretely in such virtues as understanding, kindness, forgiveness, and generosity, character qualities which, once acquired, we can exhibit toward all. Seen this way, we can love even our enemies, respond to evil with good, and persevere in a life of “love and service” with complete equanimity.

[Posted 02/02/13. Image: Fr. Dowling of St. Louis, who met Bill W. at AA’s first clubhouse at 331½ West 24th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and went on to become one of his unofficial sponsors, together with the Rev. Sam Shoemaker. For Bill's tribute to him, see "To Father Ed — God Speed," in The Language of the Heart, pp. 364–366. For the story of their relationship, see The Soul of Sponsorship: The Friendship of Fr. Ed Dowling, S.J. and Bill Wilson in Letters.]

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