Following is an article on spiritual principles written by John Van D. and published in the January 1981 INTERGROUPER.
Tradition Twelve: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, World Services).
Just as our 12th Step makes the promise to each of us of a “spiritual awakening” as the result of these steps, so too does our 12th Tradition state flatly that the “spiritual foundation of all our traditions” is anonymity.
And for more than twenty years of sobriety I had never been entirely clear as to the meaning of the words spiritual and spirituality. I guess I had equated the term spiritual with religious devotions and the like.
Until several years back my attention was caught by a headline over a short item in a weekly religious newspaper. It read: “What Is Spirituality?” The story went on to state: “In the present as in the past, the concept Spirituality has often been misunderstood and mis-applied. A genuinely spiritual person is a person with integrity–a person who has it all together. Spirituality pertains to the whole person: psychological, intellectual, and formally religious.
“What are our criteria of spirituality? Number of devotions attended? Time spent in chapel? Frequency of confession?
“What about the courage to stand up for what is right regardless of the risk to one’s reputation, fortune or organizational status? What about sensitivity to other people? A sense of compassion? Patience? Generosity?
“What about a seriousness of purpose regarding one’s obligations? Sound critical judgement?”
Suddenly, as the opening of a curtain lights up a darkened room, the full meaning of spiritual became clear to this alcoholic. And viewed in this broader light, I could accept my illness largely as a spiritual disease, and therefore requiring a spiritual healing. And that healing is found in our 12 steps, each of which is a profound spiritual exercise, as is each of our 12 traditions, which guide and govern our unity and purpose as a fellowship.
Put into practice, one day at a time, we trade off our spiritual defects:
- Self deceit, dishonesty for honesty
- Egocentricity for compassion
- Impatience, discontent for tolerance
- Selfishness for generosity
- Unreliability for reliability
- Courage for fear, timidity
- Purposelessness for a sense of direction
- Snap conclusions for sound critical judgement
- Arrogance for humility
- Inebriety for sobriety
What, you may ask, does all this have to do with anonymity as a spiritual foundation of all our traditions? To me, it can be summed up in one word-humility. To know at last who and what we are, and how we relate to God as we understand Him, and to those about us, and to seek to do for others without rewards, praise or recognition—that is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions. Perhaps that tradition can be more meaningful if we repeat it as it appears in The Twelve Traditions—the 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.”
– By John V., Fairbanks Group