Tradition of the Month: Tradition 7

7. Every OA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

There’s nothing like money to spoil a perfectly good program of recovery. Its accumulation, handling, and dispersion lead to more fights in society than nearly anything else. Look at how marriages dissolve over it, how towns can be factionalized by it, how companies can be ruined by it. Multinational money crises occur all the time with countries demanding certain reforms of other countries, pitting peoples and countries against one another.

In other words, money divides people and institutions. That’s a big problem for a fellowship like ours. Our individual recoveries, says the first tradition, “depend upon OA unity.” Luckily, we also have a primary purpose, courtesy of the fifth tradition:  “carrying the message of recovery to those who still suffer.” The 7th tradition, therefore, shows us how to deal with our fellowship’s monies in a way that avoids disunity and helps us move our funds in the direction they are needed.

When we pay the rent or buy the literature for a meeting, it’s obvious what the money is going to: our primary purpose. Rarely do matters such as these cause any friction in the least among our members. In fact, they seem sometimes so utterly mundane that we might wonder why we stayed for the business meeting to begin with. Meetings in the Seacoast area are, however, quite small. Consider a group from a big city that might take contributions in one night that our bigger meetings receive in one month. These meetings could run considerable surpluses, and if so, what do they do about the money?

Luckily OA’s service structure and 7th tradition work together. OA’s World Service, which performs numerous crucial tasks related to carrying our message (especially, creating literature and operating, depends upon contributions from OA’s Regions. The Regions, which coordinate the activities of the Intergroups within them, in turn depend upon donations from their Intergroups. Finally, the Intergroups depend upon donations from their local meetings. In order to continue to enjoy the benefits of OA’s World Service, meetings are encouraged to only maintain a balance sufficient for operating expenses. The rest goes to the Intergroup, which either spends it on workshops and other ways of carrying the message or sends the money onward. Because our fellowship has taken a vow of poverty, because it ultimately depends upon local contributions, we need never keep extra funds on hand at the local level. To do so would curtail OA’s primary purpose. So we pay our group’s operating expenses, then send the rest on.

When we follow these suggestions, we rarely or never have to negotiate matters such as:

  • Which bank is giving the best rates?
  • Is the money safe with that institution?
  • What kind of account should we open?
  • What do we do with the interest money or dividends?
  • Who in this group do we trust to handle all this money?

We avoid suspicion of profit motive, hysteria about whether to buy or sell an investment vehicle, and worry about the liquidity or illiquidity of our money. We also have reassurance that the money is being used in a way that benefits people who need help (us!) rather than sitting idly without a primary purpose.

Money is often said to be the root of all evil. That may or may not be true, but it brings with it a host of decisions and consequences that can distract us from our primary purpose. Just like our food plans give us freedom from food obsession by structuring our relationship with food, the 7th tradition does the same for our meetings around money. We are free to think about how we can help others find abstinence and recovery instead of ever thinking about the status of our funds.

Tradition of the Month: Our Primary Purpose

5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the compulsive overeater who still suffers.

The fifth tradition reminds us to keep it simple, silly. When we get into grand planning and big ideas, we addictive personalities often go astray. We can overreach and find ourselves diverting our individual and collective energies away from what we do well and into what we think we might do well. And that gets us in trouble.

After all, we’re still living with the faulty mind that needed OA in the first place. When we write our fourth step inventory, we see how our mind can twist things around. We see how we can at different times be grandiose or unreliable, generous or selfish, well meaning or indifferent. With this kind of brain, we often take on projects we can’t deliver on, get resentful with our inability to complete them, and find ourselves frustrated that the fruits of our brainstorms don’t inspire commitment and devotion to our ideas in others. As the Big Books says, the addict is, “even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony.”

As individual OA members, if we don’t make it simple, we’re simply not going to make it. The same is true with our meetings and at the intergroup level. In our individual lives, when we focus, laser like, on what our Higher Power guides us toward, we usually feel purposeful. Inside we probably feel calm, or at least we sense a lack of conflicting emotions. When we act out of selfish interest and ignore our Higher Power, we will likely feel torn—our spiritual Spidey Sense will tell us that we’re not aligned with God’s purpose.

As a meeting or an intergroup, whenever we work to carry the OA message of hope, we feel assured. We are doing the work our Higher Power has set out for our organization at every level. When our motives and activities align with this goal, locating the group conscience doesn’t feel like grasping for the walls in a dark room. Instead it sometimes feels as though the answer was apparent all along, and we merely had to confirm it. In situations such as this, divisive votes need not be taken because substantial unanimity will be obvious to all participants.

Many situations, typically minor ones, arise that test the fifth tradition, and almost always with the finest intentions. Perhaps a book produced by an outside organization appears on the literature table, photocopies of a trusted (non-OA) food plan circulate during meeting time, or someone requests the intergroup to place an outside event on its website. In none of these cases has anyone gone about trying to harm OA or its members. But in such cases, it is the duty of our members to gently ask whether our primary purpose is reflected in these actions.

As the above examples suggest, tradition five is closely related to tradition six, which tells us to avoid doing anything that aligns us with an outside enterprise. Tradition five, however, goes a little further, by alerting us to potential dangers with inside enterprises. It is not, for example, our job to dispense nutritional advice or to host workshops on how to eat well. Most of us may well have the same trigger foods and dietary needs from our food plans, but we are not a diet-and-calories club. Those clubs have their job to do, and OA has its, which is to carry the message of hope.

We can make it simple for ourselves, our groups, and OA when we focus on carrying the message. When we sense division among members, we might lean on tradition five and ask whether everything we are doing is leading to the single goal of getting this message to compulsive eaters.