Tradition of the Month: Tradition 12

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all these Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Many of us compulsive eaters do a lot of people pleasing. We share frequently about our dread of conflict, our willingness to do anything to avoid other people’s bad opinion. We seem in general to hurt ourselves with food rather than take it out on those who are hurting us.

The reasons why this might be the case are debatable, and we will each arrive at our understanding of those reasons as we take fourth-step inventory. What’s important as OA members is that we end people-pleasing behaviors, and the Twelfth Tradition points us in that direction.

Another way of thinking of people-pleasing, conflict-avoidance, and their many sibling behaviors is codependence. We don’t want to put anybody out because we feel overly responsible for their feelings. The reality is that we can hardly control our own feelings, so why in the world should we control another’s? Tradition 12 tells us that principles come before personalities, just as we learn in Steps 4 and 5 that feelings are not facts.

Tradition 12 is telling us something very, very important. When we deal with one another, we must put to use the most important life-strategy we learn in OA: Trust and rely on God. When we ask someone publicly or privately to keep the Traditions, we are taking right action and letting God handle the results. We are not in the results business. We can’t make anyone do anything. What we can do is speak gently and kindly about the importance of the Traditions and let the other person decide for themselves. Which is the other important aspect of all this. By letting people hear our suggestion and do with it as they will, we treat them as adults. We let them have their own feelings. We are not trying to shape or control those feelings like we used to. That’s old behavior we are trying to get rid of after all!

We need not worry that we’re being a “Traditions Nazi” or anything like that. What we are doing is safeguarding the program that saves our lives. Isn’t keeping OA going more important than our worries about offending or disappointing a single person on a single day? And anyway, we never know what can come of such an interaction. For example, that person may see the courage that making your suggestion takes as evidence that this program works.

Beside which, personalities are fickle. We addicts know that one day we can be hale and hearty and the next day fearful and paranoid. We can’t begin to know what someone else will be like from one day to the next. Our fellowship has survived not by trying to gauge one another’s moods but by giving us all structure and consistency within which to safely have those moods. That structure is the Traditions, and the consistency comes from the principles they embody.

Remember the old saying: The Steps keep me from killing myself; the Traditions keep me from killing everyone else.