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VI The Twelve Traditions
4) Tradition Four


“Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or R.A. as a whole.”

1. Now we come to the other side of the coin. Everybody who has had experience with the Twelve Step fellowships knows that, in spite of what we’ve just read, many groups do have rules. And, as we shall see, they are entitled to.

2. In the 12 & 12, on page 146, the first paragraph says:

“Autonomy is a ten-dollar word. But in relation to us, it means very simply that every A.A. group can manage its affairs exactly as it pleases, except when A.A. as a whole is threatened. Comes now the same question raised in Tradition One. Isn’t such liberty foolishly dangerous?”

3. Just to show you to the extreme this can go—at one point there was an A.A. meeting in Richmond, Virginia, where the members got together every Friday night to drink beer and play cards. That was a legitimate A.A. meeting.

4. Due to A.A.’s large size, this did not threaten A.A. as a whole or affect any other groups, so A.A. didn’t do anything about it.

5. Each group is autonomous. If a group decides that its members, in order to belong, need to stand on their heads and recite the Lord’s Prayer backwards three times, it has a right to impose that requirement.

6. It is also the right of each member of that group to ignore that requirement. That’s what many people don’t know. They simply are unaware that their rights regarding how they act and what they say are equal to the group’s rights to impose rules, regulations or requirements on its members.

7. A group can impose any kind of requirements, or restrictions it wants to. It’s the individual’s right to ignore these rules or adhere to them as they choose.

8. Skipping down to the bottom of page 146, the last line on the page, says:

“Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provided that as a group they have no other affiliation.”

9. The main thing was that the group not have any other affiliation, that there not be wet or dry groups, or Republican or Catholic or Protestant or Communist or so forth. There is to be no outside influence controlling the group.

10. In other words, there are no requirements that a group has to meet in order to be an A.A. group. The groups themselves did not have to adhere to any rules or regulations imposed by A.A., because even if A.A. had chosen to impose some there was no way of enforcing them. Each group could choose to ignore them if they wanted to.

11. As it says at the bottom of the next paragraph:

“Every group had the right to be wrong.”

12. The discussion of this Tradition continues by sharing about the Middleton Group #1 and its experience with requirements.

13. In the 12 & 12, on page 148, in the second full paragraph, at the bottom of this paragraph, it says:

“To insure foolproof, continuous operation, sixty one rules and regulations were adopted.”

14. But as had happened before with other situations like this, the whole thing fell apart. And eventually the promoter of this organization - Middleton Group #1 - sent a little card into the General Service Board.

15. In the 12 & 12, on page 149, at the bottom of the next to last paragraph in the chapter, it shares what was written on this card. It says:

“The cover read: ‘Middleton Group #1. Rule #62.’ Once the card was unfolded, a single pungent sentence leaped to the eye: ‘Don’t take yourself too damn seriously.’”

16. These traditions may seem to present a paradox, and yet they really don’t, because if both the group and the individuals are seeking direction and guidance, if they are both trying to fulfill that ultimate purpose of being of service to God and the people about us, there won’t be any conflict.

17. So each individual is completely free to do whatever they want, and so is a group, as long as other groups, or the fellowship as a whole, are not affected by their actions.


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