Who Answers?

12th Tradition

Short Form: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our principles, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.


Long Form: And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all.

It’s funny; I’ve been struggling to understand just what exactly it means to be anonymous. I am able to come to terms with the fact that the person who wrote a number of those Chinese proverbs is anonymous. It would seem as though he/she would want some credit for that, right?? I am beginning to realize that taking credit for something, for anything, feeds the ego. It especially feeds the ego when you feel obligated to receive that credit. It is proportionately detrimental to the ego when you feel entitled/obligated to that credit and you don’t receive it.


I conducted a little experiment a couple weeks back. At my sober living, I committed two acts of kindness. The first one, I bought my roommate a few bags of candy and a pack of cigarettes. The second, I bought a 3 dozen pack of chocolate chip cookies from the bakery and set them down in the kitchen for my housemates to consume, not hinting that I was perpetrator. The element of humility I experienced in knowing I did something, but didn’t want credit for it felt unlike anything I had experienced before. Even when I do charity work, I feel like I receive gratitude from the people I am helping, and take credit for that.  Seeing the joy come over the people I care about as they indulged in the cookies, curious as to their origin, brought a feeling to me that was exponentially greater than joy. The anonymous act felt a million times better than the blatant gift. That humility felt amazing.


Now, that we have a clear foundation in the meaning of anonymity, let us examine the “principles before personalities” aspect of the tradition. What the hell does that mean? We all recite it at every meeting. I like the example the anonymous (well, ain’t that hilarious….) author(s) of the 12×12 uses: someone boasts AA publicly. They preach its efficiency, and everything else about it. In the eyes of the press, radio, and film it will be glorified. It will be held to a high standard. Now let’s assume for a second what would happen if that person, glorified, and now publicly known as an AA, relapses. Of course anyone in the program will tell you his relapse is attributed to a number of deficits in the program he is working. To the world, the media, though, “AA doesn’t work!” It would be permanently damaging to the reputability AA possesses. It is better to keep AA anonymous and safe of any public criticism (the principle) than to risk letting an individual risk giving AA a bad name (the personality).

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Filed under: Recovery · Tags: AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, anonymity, anonymous, being of service, humility, public, relapse, twelve steps, Twelve Traditions

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