“They say the empty can rattles the most.” -Metallica

Many seem to have the misperception that one who is quiet is weak. Or that silence in response to angry provocations is a weak sign of tacit acquiescence.

Small wonder! Our archetypal heroes, most of whom are forged on the Silver Screen in an age where many prefer visual osmosis over the “effort” of reading, are loud and aggressive, shouting down and shooting up the manufactured “enemy” in a binary universe where everyone is a “good guy” or a “bad guy.”

The quiet, spiritual variety of courage that was practiced by such luminaries as Jesus, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many others throughout history, and that is practiced by some us as we face the formidable demon of mental illness and navigate a world crippled by our malady, is incredibly strong in its own right..

When my Bipolar Disorder was like a freight locomotive barreling down the tracks at a frightening speed, racing towards the imminent horrific crash, I too bought into the cultural misperception that to be “strong,” you had to be aspire to a Die Hard, Harder, Hardest, action-figure “worthy” way of functioning in the world. Kicking ass, taking names, obscene levels of testosterone constantly coursing through your veins.

But since my rock bottom, locomotive-obliterating crash in 2010, AA has taught me a better way. I no longer “have to” scream, shout, fight, and constantly force my will upon the world.

When I was doing that, I was the “empty can rattling the most.” And typically it ended in disaster -with me landing in trouble, having alienated someone, or having provoked a similar response, such that neither person “got their way,” and both ended up battered and bloody.

When I first came to AA, I read on page 84 of the Big Book:

“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned.”

I was highly skeptical, having scrapped to (barely at times) keep my head above water for many years in what I perceived to be a hostile, hateful, dog eat dog world. I did not believe that the quiet strength and assertiveness derived from a Higher Power (and striving to do their will) rather than relying solely on my own self-will would get me anywhere but beaten down.

However, over the last 8 years, I have discovered it is quite the opposite. Filled with spirit, love, and strength from my Higher Power, I am far stronger than the “empty can” I was before. The people whom I admire most have become the quiet spiritual giants, like Jesus and Gandhi. And I have found that there are many people in this world who are not hostile, hateful, or cynical.

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