The Spirituality of the Second Tradition

*** The below article appears in the Two Dreams, February Dream Journal. Please click the link to visit the Two Dreams website for many other enlightening articles from the amazing Dr. Barthwell and her extraordinary staff!

When I got sober almost 14 years ago, many things seemed strange to me. Not drinking. Not taking drugs. Seeing a movie… without even smoking a joint! It simply hadn’t ever occurred to me that those things could be fun, or that they were even a possibility for me. Then came the onslaught of expressions I heard in AA meetings which seemed to be oxymora. Things like “surrender to win”, “you’ve got to give it away to keep it” and “admit powerlessness to get power”. When I first heard about Tradition Two, I thought it took the nonsensical cake!

Here’s how Tradition Two is written: “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.” Basically, it says that no single person is actually in charge of the group. Well, with all of the opinionated and know-it-all alcoholics I had met (counting myself of course) it seemed that without somebody in charge, the whole system was doomed to end in a spectacular explosion of arguments and discord.

However, the spiritual principle behind Tradition Two is the “informed group conscience” and it works like a charm. It appears to be the recipe which can keep the groups of AA from not only self-destructing in their sometimes-contentious business meetings, but is what truly helps the groups to flourish. The active ingredient that settles the stew of alcoholics & addicts that is churning with all of their contradicting ideas and opinions, is likely the ‘informed’ part of the group conscience. This means that group issues are actively discussed at length, so that all viewpoints and relevant information have the opportunity to be examined before making a decision. Without this crucial aspect, it’s very easy to see how a ‘motion’ made by a louder or stronger personality could be pushed through for a quick vote. To top it off, even after a vote is taken, the down-voted then get a chance to be heard once more and the group may even revote if necessary.

Having been active in the service structure of two fellowships, I’ve had the opportunity to practice Tradition Two at length. It has given me insight and has helped me to be more thoughtful in consideration of other people’s ideas and views. It also helps me to not take it so personally when the group doesn’t share my outlook. Tradition Two has shown me how I sometimes made what I thought were well-considered decisions, yet were anything but! Informed group conscience has taught me to actively listen, be quicker to think, slower to talk and to learn as much as I can in between.