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.