There is no individual authority in 12-level groups. No member “directs” or “controls” the actions of the other members of the group.
Tradition 2. There is only one ultimate authority for our group purpose – a loving God as He can express himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are only trustworthy servants; they don’t rule.
Group decisions are just that, group decisions. After discussing all aspects of a particular situation, including minority opinion, the group votes on the issue and an agreement is reached with the majority. This vote is known as “group conscience”.
Every group is a community of equals. Regardless of the background, education or expertise of an individual member, no member has authority “over” the group. In this way, the community reaches out to all who seek solace and gives all members a “sense of belonging” atmosphere.
But there are leaders …
This tradition has often been misquoted as “we have no leaders”. But it clearly states that every group has its leaders, they simply have no authority over the rest of the group. Whether they are the group’s representative in the region or district, or the secretary or treasurer, they have been given the responsibility to serve the group and not make decisions about it.
Groups clearly have other “leaders” as well. There are those who, by sharing their wisdom and strength in the gatherings, are tacitly recognized by the group as “spiritual leaders”. There are members who are sufficiently well versed in the principles and traditions of the program that the group will turn to them if questions arise regarding possible violations of those principles and traditions. These too are leaders, but neither do they rule.
Here are the stories of visitors to this website who shared their experience with Tradition 2:
A sense of belonging
Before I came to Al-Anon, I never felt “belonged” to a group. No matter which committee, board of directors, steering committee or group I was a member of, I always had the feeling that everyone else “belonged” there, but somehow I was just visiting – or even intruding.
To make up for my low self-esteem, I usually overcompensated. I always had to be the one who sold the most tickets, raised the most money, volunteered most of the time, or whatever.
In this way I tried to get to the point where my membership in the group was “justified”. So that I have the feeling that I am really part of the team. But it never really worked.
In Al-Anon, I learned the concept that the “meeting” did not belong to anyone except those who showed up and attended. There was no one who “ran” things. Nobody was “responsible”. Our leaders were only trustworthy servants, they did not rule.
As I kept coming back to the various meetings, I found that Al-Anon really meant what he said. Every meeting I have ever attended has been just as “my” meeting as any other.
It took me a while to settle in, but I finally got that sense of belonging and it carried over to other areas of my life. I now know that just because I am a member and show up and take part, I am just as much a part of the group as the oldest “oldtimer”. And my opinions are just as taken into account and are just as welcome as anyone else in group discussions.
A group awareness as necessary
It was one of those memorable meetings that we are sometimes allowed to attend. In Australia, people do not volunteer for an anonymous alcoholic meeting, but are called by name or pointed out by the chairman. Some walk by and just say that they will “only” identify with their name and the fact that they are alcoholic, but most will come forward and try to share.
The person in the chair was an Australian guy who mainly called men just to speak. After the first men spoke, the women became restless, after the next men spoke, some of the women were very excited, and after a few more predominantly male calls, one of the women literally exploded.
She got up and shouted, “No! That’s it, you sexist pig! Are we invisible? Not worth hearing?” Our chairman said, “Look, I’m sitting in the chair calling whoever I want to choose and it’s not you, so sit down and respect the meeting!”
Oh oh! Not exactly the right thing to say to this recovering feminist former street person! In her anger she made her way to the chairman with obvious murderous intent! Others cheered or scoffed when the pandemic broke out.
A vintage car jumped up, raised its hands and shouted “Group consciousness, group consciousness …” like a chant. A few others took up the chant and there was a moment of silence.
“Tradition two on the banner there indicates that I was a member of that group and can call for a group conscious meeting at any time, and I’m calling to one now!”
The woman was asked: “Please tell us all about your case”. She did. She said fairness requires that female speakers take turns with men until all women have had a chance to either pass or speak.
The man in the chair was then asked to present his case. He said he found that there were five times more men than women in the room and thought it was fair to see women a fifth of the time.
Others were asked for further comments. There were a few women who felt offended and only one friend of the chairman who agreed with him. It took a moment of quiet reflection to ask our respective higher powers to guide us in the voting and then all were asked to close their eyes except for the injured woman and the chairman, who put up their hands together for each Method would count.
The woman’s “boy-girl” alternative method was apparently adopted by an overwhelming majority, and we all decided to have a nice second part of the meeting.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen “group consciousness” during a meeting, but it was the most dramatic.
Back to the study of the twelve traditions