“The 12 Traditions of A.A. tell us that “we ought not ever be organized…” (Tradition Nine) but, this statement comes out of the organization’s lack of sanctions and disciplinary measures for the membership."
I’m often saddened when attending “12 Step” service conferences. Many times, I’ll see a member who is passionate about “carrying the message” present a new idea about “12 Step” work, and the attendees of the conference almost seem to unite in their efforts to quash the motion. Often, I hear the following statements in response to the idea: “We’re not supposed to be organized”. “Remember, we’re supposed to keep this simple”. “If the newcomer wants what we have, they’ll find us”.
Finally, some grizzled old timer with decades of sobriety will yell out, “Easy Does It”. Everyone nods approvingly and the idea seems to whither on the vine. Funny how the old timer never adds to the slogan, “Easy Does It, But Do It”.
My question is this - when did mediocrity become the benchmark of our service work?
The 12 Traditions of A.A. tell us that “we ought not ever be organized…” (Tradition Nine) but, this statement comes out of the organization’s lack of sanctions and disciplinary measures for the membership. It has nothing to do with conducting our 12 Step work. From page 173 in the book 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, we find the following…
Neither the General Service Conference, its Foundation Board, nor the humblest group committee can issue a single directive to an A.A. member and make it stick, let alone mete out any punishment. We’ve tried lots of times, but utter failure is always the result.
Further on, in the same chapter on page 175, we find this statement on service…
Just as the aim of each A.A. member is personal sobriety; the aim of our services is to bring sobriety within reach of all who want it. If nobody does the group’s chores, if the area’s telephone rings unanswered, if we do not reply to our mail, then A.A. as we know it would stop. Our communications lines with those who need our help would be broken.
I hunch that the reluctance of some members to implement new ways to “carry the message” comes not from a desire to adhere to the traditions, although that is often the reason stated, but rather the reason is something simpler – they are afraid of change. Or even sadder yet, they are afraid they may be asked to help in these efforts.
The great renaissance painter Michelangelo once said, “The great danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark”.
When it comes to our service work, let’s aim high.
JD is a volunteer at The Retreat who does a monthly workshop on the “12 Steps” and Sponsorship. He will be the guest speaker at the Breakfast Club in October.