Saturday, 28 December 2013

Orders or suggestions?

Tradition Nine suggests that leaders are servants. That means we suggest rather than ordering, although there are occasions when a bit of firmness is required, for instance when one is chairing intergroup.

What is the difference, though, between suggesting and ordering?

From the point of view, say, of the sponsor, the words may sound the same. A suggestion using the imperative will sound the same as an order using the imperative. "Go to a meeting. Get a job. Stop whining and start taking action," and other good-natured barkings. With the sensitive sponsee, one might bookend the suggestion with "I suggest" and "although it is ultimately up to you," but the meaning is clear: this is what you are going to do.

From the point of view of the sponsee, there is little practical difference between an order and a suggestion. They both consist in an instruction one is going to carry out. If one is not going to carry out a suggestion, that does beg the question of why one is asking for the suggestion in the first place if one retains the ability to override one's sponsor on matters concerning the AA programme.

Is there a difference, then? Most definitely: a person giving an order is responsible for those who are carrying out the order and is responsible for imposing the sanction for failure to carry that order out. This is not true of a suggestion.

As a sponsor, I am not responsible for the actions of my sponsees. I can tell when I have attitudinally taken responsibility, because I become disturbed if they do not follow a suggestion. I also can impose no sanction. If the sponsee wants to walk, he may. 

There is another set of laws in operation, however, namely the laws of cause and effect, and these operate ipso jure, as lawyers would say; in other words, they need no court or judge to deliberate in them; their operation is automatic.

If someone fails to take the steps, one day the tension will become so great that a drink will seem like a good idea. The sponsor is not imposing the sanction for failing to work the steps; the sanction imposes itself.

There are consequences for the relationship if suggestions are not followed. Officers can be removed from their posts; the sponsor may decide that there is no purpose in providing further instructions until existing instructions have been followed. This is not the imposition of a sanction, however, but the fulfilment of the terms of the relationship, which the sponsee has signed up to. The love is unconditional but the sponsor/sponsee relationship is not.

In this way, the sponsee remains fully responsible for his or her recovery, and the sponsor avoids the traps of codependency.

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