Sunday, 30 December 2012

Q: who gets to share at the meeting?

Tradition 4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.

A group can therefore stipulate who has the opportunity to share. In some groups, there is no restriction whatsoever. In others, those sharing are handpicked by an officer of the group.

Tradition 9. AA, as such, ought never be organised; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

The spiritual principle here is allowing God to work through the room.

Here are some useful questions:
Will we allow God to act just through the picker, who chooses without raised hands?
Will we have raised hands for those wishing to share plus a picker?
What are the picker's criteria? Length of sobriety? Likelihood to observe Tradition 5 and the other Traditions?
Or individual fairness? Picking people in the order they raised their hands?

I've been to some great meetings where there is hand-picking, but some awful ones too. The same applies to free-for-all meetings.

Tradition 5 is important: structures and formats are often chosen to promote Tradition 5 above all else. This is not bad. It is a group's prerogative.

There are, however, other principles that might be relevant.

Tradition 1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.

To be unified, we must all have a common stake. As my friend Tom W. says, 'we all have one share in AA. You don't get an extra share or an extra vote just because you've been here longer.' Linked to this is Concept IV:

Concept IV. At all responsible levels, we ought to maintain a traditional 'Right of Participation,' allowing a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge.

Now, this is obviously not about voting, but sharing, but the principle of participation nonetheless applies. AA is a participation, not a spectator sport. I see AA functioning and flowering most effectively where everyone is given the chance to participate. Having even newcomers participate allows them to feel part of AA right from the start and to be valued as such. At my home group, newcomers participate freely, and they are simultaneously very eager to take on active service at the group, as tea-makers, greeters, etc. I do not think this is coincidence.

Tradition 2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

A group is indivisible: Tradition 5 (long form) refers to a group being a spiritual entity.

A partly stifled voice is no voice at all.

God, unfortunately, has no taste whatsoever. He has the habit of picking the most improbable people to speak through. Sometimes, He has the temerity to voice AA's message of recovery and love most clearly through someone who is a few days sober, and resolutely fails to use the old-timers routinely trotting out their well-worn spiel.

It is established in spiritual traditions outside AA that it is often the most innocent or the outsider who are chosen by the Spirit as the voice of God, and that the established leaders are bypassed by the Healing Force.

I would therefore be very hesitant to see sharing restricted only to old-timers or 'trusted hands'. There's a risk of an AA group being a command-and-control pharisaic institution.

The pendulum can, however, swing too far, and I have been to meetings where there is little message and a lot of craziness.

Typically, timed sharing tends to take care of that. If sharing is limited to three or four minutes (and this is monitored by a bell, and the bell is respected), enough people will be given the opportunity to share for balance to prevail. This will often be sufficient to ensure balance.

If there is far greater demand for sharing time than there is supply, a group will have to have raised-hand sharing plus a picker.

Here, one way of ensuring that the above Traditions and Concepts are respected is a principles-based system rather than a personality-based system (cf. Tradition 12).

E.g.: alternating men and women; alternating established members and visitors; alternating experienced and inexperienced members.

This can act as the minimum organisation necessary to allow smooth and effective running.

As with much else in AA, lightness of touch can go a very long way.

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