4) “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.”
4) With respect to its own affairs, each A.A. group should be responsible to no other authority than its own conscience. But when its plans concern the welfare of neighboring groups also, those groups ought to be consulted. And no group, regional committee, or individual should ever take any action that might greatly affect A.A. as a whole without conferring with the trustees of the General Service Board. On such issues our common welfare is paramount.
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?
A bunch of rabble prone to squabble all looking for the cat bird seat, as anarchy reigns supreme , With so many competing voices who could possibly be heard over the din, that one is God, may you hear him now!
Over the years, every conceivable deviation from our Twelve Steps and Traditions has been tried. That was sure to be, since we are so largely a band of ego-driven individualists. Children of chaos, we have defiantly played with every brand of fire, only to emerge unharmed and, we think, wiser. These very deviations created a vast process of trial and error which, under the grace of God, has brought us to where we stand today.
Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth. Tom Barret
Bill W “Every group has the right to be wrong”
Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos. Doug Coupland
When A.A.’s Traditions were first published, in 1946, we had become sure that an A.A. group could stand almost any mount of battering. We saw that the group, exactly like the individual, must eventually conform to whatever tested principles would guarantee survival. We had discovered that there was perfect safety in the process of trial and error. So confident of this had we become that the original statement of A.A. tradition carried this significant sentence: “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.”
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Some groups rise and some groups fall only to reemerge again bruised and battered but wiser from the fall and some rise again not at all
This meant, of course, that we had been given the courage to declare each A.A. group an individual entity, strictly reliant on its own conscience as a guide to action. In charting this enormous expanse of freedom, we found it necessary to post only two storm signals: A group ought not do anything which would greatly injure A.A. as a whole, nor ought it affiliate itself with anything or anybody else. There would be real danger should we commence to call some groups “wet,” others “dry,” still others “Republican” or “Communist,” and yet others “Catholic” or “Protestant” The A.A. group would have to stick to its course or be hopelessly lost. Sobriety had to be its sole objective. In all other respects there was perfect freedom of will and action. Every group had the right to be wrong.
Once upon a midnight dreary a moral indignant had come upon an A.A. group that had a platform of wife swapping. Wholly incensed he cried foul, that this depravity would untimely give A.A. a black eye. Bill what were to do? Bill asked the most pertinent of questions “are they staying sober?” “Well yes they are” was the emphatic reply that leads us to Bill’s most famous retort that “every group had the right to be wrong” (if it was me I would have wanted to be invited to their next grope conscious)
When A.A. was still young, lots of eager groups were forming. In a town we’ll call Middleton; a real crackerjack had started up. The townspeople were as hot as firecrackers about it. Stargazing, the elders dreamed of innovations. They figured the town needed a great big alcoholic center; a kind of pilot plant A.A. groups could duplicate everywhere. Beginning on the ground floor there would be a club; in the second story they would sober up drunks and hand them currency for their back debts; the third deck would house an educational project— quite noncontroversial, of course. In imagination the gleaming center was to go up several stories more, but three would do for a start. This would all take a lot of money— other people’s money. Believe it or not, wealthy townsfolk bought the idea.
You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics. Charles Bukowski
As no roads are so rough as those that have just been mended, so no sinners are so hell bent on your conversion as those that have just experienced immersion
With flags flying and banners unfurled (reminiscent of the temperance movement of a long time ago) with grandiose design and with our hearts on our sleeve we were off to save the world on the other guys dime, An easier softer way was mentioned and the beginning of the one stop sober shop was invented.
There were, though, a few conservative dissenters among the alcoholics. They wrote the Foundation*, A.A.’s headquarters in New York, wanting to know about this sort of streamlining. They understood that the elders, just to nail things down good, were about to apply to the Foundation for a charter. These few were disturbed and skeptical.
The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don’t agree with. Eleanor Holmes Norton
I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical. Arthur C. Clarke
Of course, there was a promoter in the deal— a super promoter. By his eloquence he allayed all fears, despite advice from the Foundation that it could issue no charter, and
that ventures which mixed an A.A. group with medication and education had come to sticky ends elsewhere. To make things safer, the promoter organized three corporations and became president of them all. Freshly painted, the new center shone. The warmth of it all spread through the town. Soon things began to hum. To insure foolproof, continuous operation, sixty-one rules and regulations were adopted.
If the path to hell is paved with good intentions, surely the path to heaven is paved with humility, acceptance, and a timely sense of prevention
A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one. Mary Kay Ash
Enthusiasm: Inspiration as if by a divine or superhuman power; ecstasy; hence, a conceit of divine possession and revelation, or of being directly subject to some divine impulse. Exaltation of soul;
The definition of a sale… The transference of enthusiasm
Signed sealed and delivered the new ship of recovery was launched with 61 rules of tar and a pitch of regulations that would not seal the planking from the coming tempest fury.
But alas, this bright scene was not long in darkening. Confusion replaced serenity. It was found that some drunks yearned for education, but doubted if they were alcoholics. The personality defects of others could be cured maybe with a loan. Some were club-minded, but it was just a question of taking care of the lonely heart. Sometimes the swarming applicants would go for all three floors. Some would start at the top and come through to the bottom, becoming club members; others started in the club, pitched a binge, were hospitalized, then graduated to education on the third floor. It was a beehive of activity, all right, but un-like a beehive, it was confusion compounded. An A.A. group, as such, simply couldn’t handle this sort of project. All too late that was discovered. Then came the inevitable explosion— something like that day the boiler burst in Wombley’s Clapboard Factory. A chill chokedamp of fear and frustration fell over the group.
An unwatched pot always boils immediately
And the lid blew sky high, (is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?)
When that lifted, a wonderful thing had happened. The head promoter wrote the Foundation office. He said he wished he’d paid some attention to A.A. experience. Then he did something else that was to become an A.A. classic. It all went on a little card about golf-score size. 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.”
Life is much too important to take seriously Oscar Wilde
“…But we aren’t a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life.”
(pg 132, The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous)
We laugh, dance, and play we are now present for a life that we nearly forfeit to drugs and alcohol. We are like a group of shipwrecked survivors finding community in a common peril. We find love and service the panacea for all our ills as we grow spiritually we become the men and women that our dogs always thought we were.
Thus it was that under Tradition Four an A.A. group had exercised its right to be wrong. Moreover, it had performed a great service for Alcoholics Anonymous, because
it had been humbly willing to apply the lessons it learned. It had picked itself up with a laugh and gone on to better things. Even the chief architect, standing in the ruins of his dream, could laugh at himself— and that is the very acme of humility.
Humility is when every man women and child become your teacher, how few the wise, how great the fool, for all have a tale to tell, some for good and some for ill
It’s discouraging to make a mistake, but it’s humiliating when you find out you’re so unimportant that nobody noticed it. ~ Chuck Daly
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