PRINCIPLES BEFORE PERSONALITIES – How can we practice this part of Tradition 12?

The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question:
The last part of Tradition 12 tells us that we should practice principles before personalities. Please discuss the meaning and how we can apply this to our service.


It says in the A.A. 12 and 12: “At this altitude (press, radio, films, and television), anonymity – 100 percent anonymity – was the only possible answer. Here, principles would have to come before personalities.” I have to be willing to give up my need for attention/money and be humble enough to do the work of the fellowship without expecting anything in return. I get sobriety. That’s enough for me. If sober members tell their full names and identify that they are sober in S.L.A.A. and then go out and get arrested for engaging in their disease, the public might think S.L.A.A. doesn’t work. It’s a good principle and the personality that loved drama and craved attention in the past, I try to leave behind.

The way I understand this tradition is that humility prevails in all our actions related to the fellowship. Each and every one of us gets recovery through the fellowship and part of recovery goes through carrying the message to the still suffering. So I believe that the key message here is to focus on the message of strength and hope rather than our own accomplishments or run riot wills. It is not about who we are, what we did or what we can do, but how we are as a vessel for recovery.

I also believe that the 12th Tradition is closely interlinked with the 1st and 2nd Traditions where our common welfare should come first (rather than our only personal one) and that our Higher Power is our sole conductor through group conscience (not our sole conscience) as we are but trusted servants. This way, I think we can keep our personal ego at bay within service. So, that would be my understanding of respecting anonymity within the fellowship in a service position.

When it comes to outside exposure, the same principles would apply. Again, we are there as humble witnesses of recovery, with our own personal and unique story and personality, of course, but one of all the recovering and sometimes suffering members. The only thing more we possess compared to non-members, is the experience of recovery through the 12 Steps and knowledge of the fellowship. This is why; we should keep it at that in any outside communication, in order to never hurt the fellowship as a whole.

Step 12 says practice these principles in all areas of our lives.

For me this means taking the example, of talking to your sponsor (Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7,) before making amends and applying this to not only volunteer service for the fellowship of SLAA but to relationships with work and family. In volunteer service, for me this means talking regularly to a Service Sponsor about topics before bringing them up in groups. It also means gathering a sampling of a group conscience to help me make proposals to groups that have some thought and some likelyhood of serving rather than just being a minority opinion that is widely discussed and then not accepted. Sometimes even things that were not discussed before presentation get passed with very little discussion, but then do not serve the group but injure either the group as whole or individual members of the group. This is not following the principle in Step 9 where it talks about except when to do so would injure them or others.

Tradition 4 talks about leaders being servants of the group. For me this means leaders need to take a group conscience, either informally or formally and provide the group with what the group decides it wants. Tradition 4 goes on to say our leaders do not govern. For me this means no political type activities and no manipulation with humor. It means respect and dignity for all, all the time, and bringing a pleasant serene spiritual atmosphere to the group’s activities.

Some of my service experiences in 2003, and 2004 included emotionally exhausting exchanges among participants. I observed and talked first hand with many who quickly stepped down from their service commitments, because they discovered that the service was not spiritual, not with people who practiced the principles of the 12 Steps, and not with people who placed principles before personalities.

Over the years I have noticed a gradual change, which over a period of years has made a big difference. Each year from 2007 through 2011, other people have told me that the business meetings they attended became more spiritual and more serene. All of them appreciated the change. I had the same experiences in other business meetings that I attended during this time.

In the fall of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 I noticed an increase of the past patterns of less spirituality, less principles before personalities, and more emotional exhaustion from high drama that had returned to some SLAA business meetings that I attended.

I am wondering where the group consciences are on these issues? Do we just let members change the experience from serenity and spirituality to high drama and emotional exhaustion? Or do we take group inventories and group consciences on this topic?

I wrote a version of the above with some more specific references and emailed it to the participants of the business meeting. I could have also printed it and taken it to a face-to-face business meeting.


What do you think?
The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.