By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them
by Bill W.
A.A. Grapevine, November, 1949
TRADITION Week is AA's very first attempt at concerted action on an international basis. As a movement we are so loosely knit that we are hardly geared to rally behind any outside "cause" or to conduct any "crusades." That's as it should be -- according to the very Traditions we seek to perpetuate.
This, however, is strictly within the family. We are, in effect, asking ourselves to take the 4th and 10th Steps en masse; to take a moral inventory not so much for our individual good but for the good of AA as a whole. It may be the first time many of us have stopped and seriously considered our relation to the group and to the entire body of AA. As an annual habit it may some day turn out to be our salvation!
Most of us agree that AA, as it stands, is well nigh perfect. At the same time we recognize that this "almost" perfection rests on a foundation of our individual human weaknesses. AA cannot let itself down. If that ever happens, it will be you and I who do it.
In this issue of The A.A. Grapevine, the 12 Traditions are thoroughly discussed and their relation to the individual, to the group, and to the general public fully treated. These 12 statements are not "musts." Nothing in AA is. You are perfectly free to disregard them if you choose. In that respect they are a lot like the laws of nature. Nobody's going to stop you from breaking them. But just as surely as the sun rises in the east and flowers bloom in the spring, nature has a way of making you pay.
The AA Traditions are not mere words that Bill thought would look nice in print. Nor does Bill or anyone else dream of laying down any laws of behavior for AA members or AA groups. The Traditions are the boiled-down wisdom of all AA experience, some of it gained the hard way.
The Traditions are statements of AA principles, not a precise code of ethics. They are written to give you something to check your own ideas against. You may not care about your personal anonymity. But the principle of anonymity is proved as one of the basic reasons for AA's success. You may not see any danger in owning property, clubhouses or even hospitals, but the principle of keeping AA clear of material possessions (including inordinate sums of money) has already been demonstrated many times and in many places. Management of such worldly affairs quickly takes precedence over the one job we really know how to do.
AA has no place in controversies, even those that deal with alcoholism. You may holler your head off at some medical opinion, as an individual. Just don't speak your piece in the name of AA, that's all. You may enter politics. You may even run for President -- and we'll all vote for you -- unless you campaign on the strength of your connection with AA. In short, the principle of minding our own collective business is important to all of us.
It must be fairly evident that AA has been guided through these formative years by a wisdom far greater than the best brains AA can assemble. The 12 Traditions represent our humble efforts to realize our blessings; to live by the Grace of God, as it has been shown to us!
The A.A. Grapevine, November, 1949