Tradition of the Month: Dissenting opinions

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.

No one runs OA. That’s what Tradition 2 reminds us of. It also reminds us that we should make decisions that affect our group purpose carefully. When it comes to matters of carrying the OA message to still-suffering food addicts, there may be ten, fifty, a hundred or more Higher Powers represented in the making of a single decision. Our group conscience, then, arises from the commonalities among the spiritual direction we each receive as we discuss an item of business.

And dissent is good for OA, so long as it comes from a spiritually guided place.

In the Twelve and Twelve, Bill Wilson goes to great lengths to encourage groups to hear every voice, especially dissenters. Often those seeming contrarians save the day with a simple question or statement that catches the larger body off guard. While the rest of us are already steaming along mentally toward dramatic, positive results that leap quickly into the view of our mind’s eye, our contrarian friend spots a tragic flaw in our plans. Perhaps they have experiences that suggest unintended consequences the group hadn’t yet identified. Or they recognize where our designs may compromise one of the Traditions and make us less effective at working on our primary purpose.

We addicts range from the overconfidence man whose big ideas and sureness mask a squishy self-esteem to the mousy wallflowers who dare not speak lest their inner doubts take root in someone else’s mind. We are prone to the same social dynamics that all organizations are. Groupthink, follow-the-leader, squeaky-wheel syndrome, circular decision making. All the familiar thinking that leads to bad decisions out there are present in OA. But unlike the outside world, we trust and rely on the God of our individual understandings as a check on our worst tendencies. Whereas outside of OA, we might feel the need to silence dissension as a matter of time, efficiency, or simple ego, inside OA, we must listen to it because every one of us is an equal in Overeaters Anonymous. None of has a superior Higher Power than another. We are not leading monocultural prayer groups, we’re getting the message out to those affected by our illness.

But dissent can be a burr in the saddle of a smooth-running organization if it comes from a place of pride, ego, or attention-seeking. We are encouraged in OA to decline taking part in the fights that used to fuel our anger. We are encouraged to be humble and not lord our mastery of logic and persuasion over others. We are encouraged to seek freedom from self-seeking behaviors and avoid the high associated with capturing the eyes and ears of others. We don’t argue to argue or to stand out.

We must always carefully weight our motives in speaking up whether in favor or opposition to the matter at hand. We must always monitor whether we are trying to play the hero or the spoiler rather than listening to our spirit. And we must do what the Serenity Prayer suggests and find the wisdom to know the difference between our inner voice and our Higher Power’s voice. But especially in dissent, we must take care that our position is carefully presented to avoid judgment, take-it-or-leave-it language, or anger. Just as those who respond to us should do.

So long as we take our Higher Power’s suggestions, it’ll be OK.

Tradition of the Month: 8 ways to live OA unity every day

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

Is there anyone in our program who doesn’t believe in OA unity? In order to be a listed OA meeting, a group need only meet a precious few requirements. Primarily that it welcomes all compulsive eaters and that it follows the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of OA. This is the most basic unifying principle of OA. It’s everything after that where things get tricky. After all, no one in OA believes in the power of factionalism to arrest our illness.

Whether it’s our disease talking through our pride, or it’s our zeal to share our experience with others, we sometimes get a little off the beaten path. As we do we may find ourselves feeling apart from other members and perhaps even recruiting others to help us make things “right” with our meeting or the program. Thus disunity emerges from a wish to do good.

Here are ways that we can ensure we don’t interrupt the unity of OA and jeopardize our recoveries and those of our fellows. There are many others, but these represent seven common situations that can arise in OA (and all human endeavors).

  1. Let others use the food plan of their choice.
    In the past, OA has been so divided by the question of what food plan is best that factions broke away and formed their own independent recovery program. When we advocate for a specific food plan, we may be making others’ plans “wrong” without even realizing it.
  2. Identify as a willing sponsor.
    The Steps and Traditions of the program are best learned from an informed sponsor. When we raise our hands for sponsorship at a meeting, we create opportunities to pass along the message of OA unity.
  3. Let other do the 12 Steps by whatever means they wish.
    We all have our own path to finding recovery through the 12 Steps. Just because one way works for us or many of us doesn’t make it right for all of us. Besides, it may be that a person needs to do it one way at first and will eventually try it your way. In which case, you may find yourself able to help them.
  4. Let others make mistakes.
    Decades after its inception, it should be clear that no one person can topple OA by making mistakes that violate a Tradition or a part of a meeting format. Take the opportunity to gently remind the mistake maker of the Tradition in play. Most of these mistakes arise from ignorance, not belligerence. Live and let live.
  5. Give those we disagree with the benefit of the doubt.
    Our OA fellows are not enemies or extremists. We’re all trying to get better together, and we’re all going to be sick with this disease for our entire lives.
  6. Keep speculations between our ears.
    When we begin to place motives on people or divine their true intentions, we engage in a form of dishonesty that can be harmful to our abstinence if we let it fester. But gossiping with others about those speculations can lead to rifts between members and lay groundwork for factionalism.
  7. Let God guide the group’s conscience.
    If ever we find ourself rallying consensus and counting votes, we’re politicking rather than seeking God’s will as expressed through our group conscience.
  8. Ask our Higher Power to open our minds and our hearts.
    If we are in intense disagreement with another member, perhaps we are clinging too strongly to our own beliefs. We can ask God to show us why. Better yet, we can ask our HP to show us the question at hand from the other person’s point of view. And even better, we can ask God to show us how to be loving to that person even when we are in disagreement.

In the end, we could surely sum up these and many other ways to adopt a unity stance this way: Practice OA’s 12 Steps and 12 Traditions in all our affairs. If we can embody those principles and practices, we’re going to feel great, our fellows will respond with greater kindness and respect to us, and we will be doing our part to keep OA unity healthy and strong.

Together we get better!!!