Some thoughts on the 2nd Tradition

2nd Tradition
“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.”

Being February — and approaching elections time — it is time to think about the 2nd Tradition. This tradition is unique among all the traditions, in that the “Short Form” is actually longer than the “Long Form”. When he wrote the traditions, Bill wrote nearly a paragraph about most. No one could memorize them, and they were rather cumbersome. The 2nd tradition was the only one that was succinct: “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.” A single sentence.

By the time he rewrote the traditions into the shorter form, he’d realized that the 2nd tradition was insufficient — people were trying to “rule”, groups were being terrorized by petty tyrants — so he added the second sentence: “Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

So it’s clear that we are supposed to “lead” but not “govern”. How does one do that? Looking up the definitions of the words, I saw that to lead is “to go before or with, to show the way; to guide, conduct or escort”. To govern is “to control the way that (something) is done, to control  the actions of (someone or something)”. “Guide” versus “Control”.

10 years ago I was at my lowest point, and had a job mucking out the wet sand after they’d sandblasted the inside of a cargo ship. It was about 120 degrees in the hold — and shoveling wet sand will never be fun — but the crew chief made it worse by micro-managing the operation, telling us when to move the conveyor belt, how many guys should be shoveling at once… The biggest guy on the crew of day-laborers explained it to him this way: “They didn’t put you in charge of the ‘shit shovelers’ cause you so damn smart. You ain’t supposed to tell us HOW to shovel it, you supposed to make sure we SHOVELIN’!”

I think that’s the best definition of “leader, not governer” I’ve heard. It’s not the Treasurers job to tell us how we’re allowed to spend our money — to put Supplies or Activities on a budget — but to track how much we’re taking in and how much is going out. It’s not the place of the Meetings Chair to say who can and can’t chair meetings (provided they have enough sobriety time) and how many slots they can fill, but to make sure that meetings are being chaired. And it’s not the President’s job to control the group, but to guide it, so I won’t try to enforce any of these things past encouraging all those currently Trusted Servants and those intending to run to spend some time thinking about the 2nd Tradition.

I have struggled over the last 2 years with control. One of my first business meetings as “El Presidente” we voted that parking out back of the meeting place needed to stop. There were no designated parking places back there. It was a access way for the trucks that deliver goods to the merchants in the strip mall, and we inadvertently blocked them in from time to time. It was my personal belief that if you parked in a place that had no lines (which is what defines a “parking place”) then you were a self-entitled asshole who thought the rules didn’t apply to them. For 2 years I have wanted to have the dozen or 2 cars — mostly driven by Trusted Servants — towed. I wanted to “enforce the rules”. Not doing anything was the hardest job I’ve had.

As I write this I am preparing for my last full business meeting as Chairman of Sobrenity. I have held the position for 2 years, and tonight we will nominate people for the coming year. Next month I will turn over guidance of the group to the new Chairperson. I hope that I will be remembered as a leader who guided — not governed — but recognize that my legacy is in your hands and God’s. I am only responsible for my words and my actions.

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