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Overcomers Outreach Group Traditions

The Group Traditions were drafted by members of Overcomers Outreach groups at a national conference some years ago, when the need for unification of the groups arose. The Traditions were modeled after the 12 Traditions of AA, with some modification, and are based on the experience of groups nationwide, including those of other 12 step fellowships. Following the Traditions will help groups avoid and/or solve many problems that could otherwise develop. Internal controversies, communication problems, differences of opinion and troublesome individuals still present difficulties, but application of these traditions has and will help resolve these and other problems as they may arise.
  As the Traditions can guide the group the same way the steps can guide the individual, they can also guide the individual. Groups may or may not survive without the Traditions, just as there are those who "get sober" without the steps. These were developed as a guide, not rules or law, and work best when practiced together. Each Tradition speaks to a spiritual principle, just as the steps do, and these principles are as valuable to individual relationships as they are to the group. If the group benefits so will the members, and vice versa.
  In an effort to increase understanding of the need and necessity of the traditions both in group and individual relationships, each tradition is presented along with a principle and summary, a more detailed description which further explains the tradition, a discussion on personal application of principles to relationships, as outlined by that tradition, and how the group provides, through application, an opportunity for individuals to become productive participants of society and community.
The purpose of this writing is to help group leaders and other individuals “not to govern, but to serve.”

Tradition 1  Tradition 2  Tradition 3   Tradition 4  Tradition 5  Tradition 6   Tradition 7  Tradition 8  Tradition 9   Tradition 10  Tradition 11  Tradition 12     

Group Traditions

1. “Our common welfare should come first. Personal recovery depends upon God’s grace and our willingness to get help.”

Unity - we place the common good ahead of personal desires (ours or others')

Our common welfare is the existence of the group. If there is no group, there is no help. This suggests the need for regular attendance (“showing up”) in support of the group. It is by God’s grace in us that we achieve and maintain personal recovery. His grace works in and through us when we help and support one another. Our willingness to get help recognizes our continued need for His word and the encouragement of others, which leads us to continued participation in the group, avoiding doctrinal or other personal disputes for the good of the group.

The common welfare of groups is the existence of Overcomers Outreach as a whole. Just as individuals need to feel a part of the group, so groups should feel a part of Overcomers. Unity encourages groups to look beyond their own little worlds to the common needs of Overcomers worldwide. By working with other groups in the spirit of cooperation and support, we join together for our mutual well-being, ensuring that Overcomers will be there for others willing to get help. As we look beyond our individual and our own group’s interests, we see the common welfare of Overcomers should come first if we are to grow in unity.

        A solid relationship with God is the foundation of unity in any personal relationship at home, work or everyday affairs. His will and guidance allows us to be more able to participate in healthy relationships. Unity requires cooperation, willingness, honesty, unselfishness, humility, and open-mindedness to be practiced on a personal basis. We honestly listen to others with open minds and share views with others. We become flexible when we stop insisting our own way is the only way. Consider these questions:

  • Am I flexible?
  • Am I a giver or a taker?
  • Do I gossip?
  • Do I walk away when others begin to gossip?
  • Am I gentle with those that rub me the wrong way, or am I abrasive?
  • Am I quick to criticize? Slow to praise?
  • Am I as considerate of others as I want them to be of me?
  • Do I listen when others have something to say?
  • Am I a peacemaker or is it critical to my ego that I be right?
  • Am I patient and tolerant of those who offend me?
As the group observes the first tradition, individuals are introduced to the existence of a “common welfare” and soon learn the importance of placing the common good first. This is a key element of service to others. Seeds of humility, unselfishness and purpose are planted, and the concept of “unity” – being a part of something and sharing a common goal, begins to blossom.

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2. “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He expresses Himself through His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

Direction - we listen to God for guidance in how to best serve Him and His children.

God leads the group. He provides the leadership to serve the group, and we know Him through His divine authority, Jesus Christ.   Our
leaders have the authority to serve but not to rule and lead by example rather than mandate.

The group’s purpose is to serve but it has to know where and how to best serve, hence tradition 2. The group seeks direction from God and guidance to follow the example of His Son as revealed through the Holy Spirit. Leadership serves the group and the group serves the individuals as well as Overcomers outreach as a whole. Trusted servants tend to the needs of the group by serving as secretaries, treasurers, and coordinators, being mindful of the changing needs of the group as new members join. God works in and through every member of the group, so all are considered equal. Members chosen to serve are trusted to fulfill their commitments to the best of their abilities and those who chose them are responsible to support their servants. Unity is strengthened under the direction and guidance of God.

Recognizing God’s ultimate authority leads the individual to the practice of surrender, faith and humility. We seek His direction in both group and personal affairs. We surrender to His guidance as expressed in the group and walk with faith that our leaders will serve us according to His good purpose. In this way, we enter into a state of humility. Consider these questions:
  • Do I insist on being the leader at home or at work?
  • Do I feel that it is my place to govern?
  • Do I try to speak for my co-workers/mate without consulting them?
  • Do I criticize my co-workers/mate?
  • Do I trust them?
  • Am I completely trustworthy?
  • Is my ego so strong that I must have credit for more than I do?
  • Am I so insecure that I must always have praise for my actions and ideas?
  • Do I support a majority decision opposed to my own?
  • Am I able to perform service work without seeking personal reward?
Those chosen to serve become accountable and responsible to the group, and the rest of the group learns to trust those servants. The common welfare is served equally by all members under God’s direction. The principles of anonymity and humility are brought into practice and faith in God’s authority is strengthened. The willingness to surrender personal ambitions for the good of the group further strengthens unity within the group and provides the individual with direction in all affairs, while improving the practice of being open-minded and unselfish.           

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3. “The only requirement for Overcomers Outreach membership is a desire to stop addictive or compulsive behavior.”

Recovery - we are all-welcoming

Overcomers Outreach is all-welcoming. Anyone desiring to stop addictive or compulsive behavior, regardless of faith, lifestyle, belief or lack of belief may attend, without exception. Whether suffering from their own behaviors or those of a loved one, help and support is offered to all who seek it.

         The group is able to serve under God’s direction by offering help and support to anyone who suffers. This tradition frees us from judgment and reminds us that all are equal under God. We are equally subject to suffering in this world and therefore equally entitled to share in the blessings of recovery. The group should increase the individual’s desire to stop by offering fellowship and loving support. Membership is based on the personal decision to get help and we recognize that God has led the individual to us for His good purpose, so we welcome all in brotherly love. Willingness to come to a meeting shows a desire to stop a behavior, and group members, through a commitment to serve, keep that same desire to stop.

         Recovery is based on our personal relationship with God and others. Relationships are based on mutual desire and willingness to make the relationship work. An attitude of helpfulness, acceptance, and unconditional love can be achieved by the individual through the practice of principles including tolerance, humility, compassion, and anonymity. Consider these questions:
  • Do I prejudge my co-workers/partners as losers?
  • Am I able to communicate with others despite race, religion, age, gender, social standing or education?
  • Am I tolerant of others’ inexperience?
  • Do I expect others to keep my ego fluffed up?
  • Am I able to share my feelings with others?
  • Can I listen to others’ feelings with an open mind?
  • Am I committed to and do I encourage others to have spiritual, professional, and individual growth and freedom?
 By welcoming all who have a desire to stop addictive or compulsive behaviors, we look beyond our personal bias and prejudices. Tolerance grows to acceptance to love as we learn to accept those who continue to struggle. With the same love that God shows us, we begin and grow in new relationships with others, as we recover together. We learn compassion when we set aside our self-righteousness and reach out in brotherly love to those suffering. We become free to witness the miracle of growth in others and see despair turn to joy as we learn to make a commitment to serve others through participation in the group. As we welcome new members, we welcome an opportunity to see God’s providence work in and through us all.

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4. “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or Overcomers Outreach as a whole.”

Understanding - we abandon all ideas of human authority or government but consult other groups in matters affecting us all. We must have the ability to become unselfish.

Every O.O. group serves their members as they are called to do so. Providing a comfortable and safe place to share openly for individuals seeking God’s wisdom and healing may be accomplished in a number of ways and groups are encouraged to pursue what works best in
their specific situation. Overcomers Outreach groups are identified by their Christ-centered 12 step recovery and the observance of OO Group Traditions.

Unified, under God’s direction, the group offers recovery to all who seek to gain or sustain it. To be autonomous is to be self-governing, free from outside influences and from our own personal prejudices. We are free to offer comfort to all who suffer in whatever way the group finds most beneficial. But with this creative freedom comes responsibility. This tradition encourages groups to be free, strong, and lively while balancing this freedom with the responsibility to preserve the unity we discovered in tradition 1. All groups, large or small, “old” or new, are equal in importance and standing in Overcomers Outreach “as a whole”. Each group has an equal responsibility in the work and reputation of Overcomers Outreach. The group exercises autonomy in a responsible way when it takes care to consider the common welfare of other groups and Overcomers Outreach in general. We come to understand that the decisions we make may affect others. Consider these questions:
  • Do I always think about how or if my decisions will affect my partner/co-workers?
  • Do I communicate with others and come to agreement?<
  • Do I put down others’ behavior when it is different from mine or do I learn from it?
  • Do I carefully avoid injuring others emotionally, physically, or spiritually?
  • Do I understand that there are many ways to look at an issue?
  • Do I also realize there are many ways of doing things right?
  • Do I realize that to some who know that I am in the fellowship, my actions and behavior may represent Overcomers Outreach as a whole?
 As the group demonstrates freedom balanced with responsibility, individuals become more aware of what it means to be unselfish and open-minded. We are free to act in a variety of ways, but now understand that we are responsible to ourselves as well as others, both for our actions and how they may reflect on our associates. We begin to put others needs ahead of our own as we welcome everyone with a desire to stop addictive or compulsive behavior.

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5. “The primary purpose of each group is to serve as a Bridge between traditional 12 Step groups and the church. We carry the message of Christ’s delivering power to individuals and family members both within and without the church who still suffer.”

Sharing - we express God's Love by sharing our lives in and outside of the church

An OO group serves as a way to Jesus Christ for suffering individuals, whether they are in church seeking His healing power, or in 12 step groups seeking His healing power. The group offers the same message to all, namely deliverance through Christ, and carries that message to congregations and other groups alike.

        Our primary purpose is the most important thing the group does. It is the reason the group exists. Our united effort as a group, under God’s direction, causes the group to carry the message of Christ’s delivering power through different individuals within the group. By providing a safe place to share and welcoming all who want recovery, along with a familiar meeting format and setting, the group serves as a connection between the 12 step rooms and church congregations. We have a common responsibility to carry the message to those still suffering. As individuals, we have a part in everything that goes on in and outside of the group. We carry our message by practicing the 12th step. The message is for all of us, regardless of length of abstinence. Consider these questions:
  • Do I really understand that my troubles are of my own making?
  • Do I really understand that I have a part in everything and that whenever I’m upset, there is something wrong with me?
  • Do we express God’s love in our relationships?
  • How important is liking myself to my relationships?
  • Do I have or need self-esteem, self-respect?
  • Am I a patient and uncritical listener?
  • Can I see others through God’s eyes or hear others through God’s ears?

The group serves as a bridge and carries the message at the location of the meeting, while the individual carries the message by example.  We share our experience, strength and hope at other groups while always respecting the traditions of that group. Our actions express His love more than our words ever could, and they also reflect our integrity. When we freely share our lives outside of our group with integrity and responsibility, we share God’s love with those still suffering and offer the message of Christ’s delivering power.

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6. “An Overcomers Outreach group uses The Holy Bible along with the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for its tools of recovery. Outside enterprises are prayerfully evaluated lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”

Simplicity - we study the word of God and overcome in and through Jesus Christ

An OO group does not endorse or oppose any doctrine or 12 step program of recovery or treatment, nor should it accept or provide sponsorship of or by any outside enterprise or facility. The Holy Bible is used to discover the application of the 12 steps to daily life.

         The group functions as a bridge, constructed with God’s word and the 12 steps. These are the foundation upon which the group serves its primary purpose. Outside enterprises include literature, institutions, programs and churches. We seek God’s guidance before introducing “outside literature” into our group setting, being mindful of the common welfare of our group and Overcomers as a whole. The freedom and responsibility of autonomy are carefully considered by asking ”does this serve our primary purpose without excluding anyone“. Individuals within a group may benefit from the study and discussion of additional literature, such as AA, NA, Al-Anon and other literature, or Bible study materials, devotionals, etc. Meetings are usually held at churches and are frequently seen as a “ministry” of that church. The church may benefit through growth and the pastoral staff workload may be reduced, but these are outside of an Overcomers group’s primary purpose. Non church members should feel welcome, and specific doctrinal teachings should usually be avoided. Our one true leader is Jesus Christ, and in order to be all-welcoming, the group must remain neutral in matters of doctrines and teachings so as not to imply endorsement or affiliation with outside enterprises, thus keeping the group focused on our primary purpose and serving Overcomers outreach as a whole. Consider these questions:
  • What is motivating me when I try to be all things to all people?
  • Do I encourage and support my partner and/or my co-workers?
  • Do I allow others the dignity to fail?
  • Do I pretend to agree with others just to keep things going smoothly?
  • Can I hear God’s voice when I am screaming at others?
  • Do I take responsibility for my own spiritual, emotional, and physical needs?
 When a group functions as a bridge, the individual learns to cooperate with others. We allow others to have different ideas, concepts, beliefs, and feelings. Through humility we learn to accept others as they are, and are not offended if they choose not to accept our message. With faith and integrity we carry a simple message of truth with a focus on a simple purpose. In harmony we learn to cooperate with each other and outside enterprises.

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7. Every Overcomers Outreach group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

  Independence - we pay our bills so that we are not reliant on anything other than God

An OO group should be supported solely by its membership, thus maintaining autonomy and preserving the identity and primary purpose of Overcomers Outreach.

         Practice of this tradition indicates that the group is responsible for itself. To be self-supporting is more than monetary in nature. The meeting needs to be set up and cleaned up, literature may need to be made available, rent and other expenses met, and most importantly, a commitment to support one another by members consistently showing up and participating. The financial needs of the group should be met by voluntary contributions from the members, thus adding to the group’s identity and unity, while also guarding against outside requirements, agendas or motives that may divert the group from its primary purpose.  As members unite in bearing the responsibility for the operation of the group, we become self-supporting spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Consider these questions:
  • Do I try to be boss?
  • Do I attempt to assume control of my relationships?
  • Do I accept responsibility for myself?
  • Do I think that because something is good for me personally that it is also good for others in my life?
  • Do I deceive myself by thinking how unselfish and giving I am when in reality I am giving only when I can do it on my terms?
  • Do I see that giving is a position of control and that receiving is a position of powerlessness?
  • Can I admit to my innermost self that my problems are of my own making?
 Just as the group meets its obligations, the individual learns responsibility. The blessing of service begins to generate new levels of gratitude, and giving in anonymity builds humility. By declining outside contributions, we grow in faith, which glorifies God, and we become self-supporting as we take direction from God. We recognize the contributions of time, energy, and participation by others to be equally important contributions to the benefit of the group and through fulfillment of our personal commitment to the group, our integrity grows. As we see the simple needs of our group being met, our understanding of and cooperation with others will continue to grow.

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8. Overcomers Outreach groups should remain forever non-professional, but our Service Centers may employ special workers.

Selflessness - we give of our time and experience freely, seeking no compensation

An OO group offers support, fellowship, and love to individuals suffering and asks nothing in return. No one member is an “expert”, whether in clergy, medical, legal, or social fields of employment outside the group. Group members share the comfort they have received with one another as individuals rather than trained professionals. Our Service Centers employ those workers necessary to supply and maintain services and literature needed by our groups.

        The Central Service Center, or Central Office, is operated by Overcomers Outreach, Inc., under the Executive Director, who in turn is accountable to the OO Board of Directors.  Employees are compensated for their work skills, such as clerical, accounting, and computer.  Special workers take care of business tasks as well as seeing that the channels of communication between groups and interested individuals remain open. Phones, website, and mail require full time attention and the special workers handle these tasks. In this way, the groups are better equipped to carry out their primary purpose. Consider these questions:
  • Do I try to sound like an expert on things? If so, why do I need to do that?
  • Do I believe that someone else should be in charge based on their gender, experience, education, etc.?
  • Do I make an effort to understand others’ opinion and views?
  • Do I really listen to others and show respect for those opinions and views?
  • Can I give for fun and for free – requiring nothing in return?
  • Do I really understand that I will reap what I sow?
Members of a group share what works and what doesn’t for their own personal recovery with the hope that others may be helped by their experience. We do not offer diagnosis, therapy, or other professional services, nor do we ask for dues or fees. What we offer was freely given so that we may freely give. In humility, we claim no credit for victory, only that of the Lord in our lives. With that same humility, individuals should seek professional legal, medical, and financial advice outside of the group. Professionals within the group practice anonymity by sharing as fellow members, not authorities, and our common welfare is strengthened. Both our personal and group integrity is enhanced by freely sharing the simple message of one another’s experience. By remaining non-professional, the group fulfills the primary purpose of carrying the message and functions under God’s direction. Enlisting the support of special workers keeps the groups free from outside influences. By making and keeping a commitment to support the group through attendance and service, the individual achieves selflessness.   

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9. Overcomers Outreach, as such, ought never be organized, but group coordinators network with the Central Service Center, seeing that the group is facilitated through adherence to the Freed Book’s “Meeting Format” and rotation of leadership.

Service - we lead with the authority to serve but not to govern.

Overcomers Outreach, as such, is the group serving individuals through their primary purpose, as a bridge carrying the message of Christ’s healing power, using the 12 steps and the Holy Bible. The Central Service Center serves the groups through the group coordinators. The common welfare of OO is maintained through adherence to the meeting format and rotation of leadership assures that authority rests solely with Christ.

An OO group exists to serve individuals through love and support of one another in fellowship. Each group determines how best to serve the individuals in that group, sharing our message through our primary purpose, under the direction of one governing authority, namely Jesus Christ. The meeting format consists of opening prayer, first-name introductions, readings, study of scripture and steps open sharing by members, and closing prayer. Some groups have speaker meetings once a month which does not include sharing time or study, and many groups include worship songs in their format while others don’t. The group coordinator network stands as an organized service structure, existing to serve the groups through communication with and support of one another. This organization provides service to the groups by helping the groups focus on their primary purpose and does not attempt to control the way groups choose to do this. Rotation of leadership maintains humility, anonymity, and the common welfare of Overcomers Outreach as a whole. Consider these questions:
  •   Do I try to be the boss?
  • Am I mature enough to use the principles of the steps and traditions in my everyday affairs?
  • Do I exercise patience and humility in the things I do?
  • Do I assume responsibility or do I try to take on authority?
  • Have I learned how and when to step aside gracefully when I begin to overstep my bounds?
  • Am I a “peace at any price” person – does it get expensive?
 Application of this tradition requires the practices of selflessness, humility, respect for independence, and recognition of simplicity. Service to others builds unity in any relationship. When it is based on responsibility to those served rather than control of those being served, the role of servant-leader is assumed and the relationship is strengthened.

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10. Overcomers Outreach is, without apology, a Christ-centered recovery group; however, persons of all faiths are welcome. Discussions of doctrine should be avoided; our focus must be upon our mutual recovery.

Survival - we offer our individual testimony to His Power and Glory, without judgment of others

An OO group is a Christ-centered recovery group which meets to share with anyone seeking recovery the love, support, and general caring we have received through coming to know Christ as our Lord and Savior. In order to welcome all faiths, the group must focus on mutual recovery, seeking God’s wisdom as revealed in the Holy Bible for application of the 12 steps to daily life.

        As a bridge between churches of all denominations and 12 step groups, Overcomers neither endorses nor opposes any church doctrines or programs of recovery. Our common welfare is based on our personal recovery and the message of God’s Grace that it carries. All denominations, as well as members of all 12 step fellowships, are welcomed with patience, tolerance, courtesy, and kindness. We talk about what we do, neither supporting nor opposing what others do. The group provides an atmosphere where all can share freely about recovery. We each are entitled to our own opinion on other issues, but we share what draws the group together, united in Christ for His Glory. Consider these Questions:
  • Do I try to avoid heated arguments or controversy?
  • Am I careful to keep confidences given to me by others?
  • How important is it for me to be right?
  • Would I rather be right than happy?
  • Do I expect or need others to see and feel the same as me on issues?
  • Can I let others disagree with my ideas without feeling rejected and getting defensive?
  • Am I sharing from my experience or am I expounding on an opinion?
The principles of responsibility, unity, anonymity, selflessness, and humility are enhanced in the individual when this tradition is applied. By avoiding discussion of issues outside the primary purpose of the group, we remain simply one in recovery willing to help others. Our willingness to accept others allows us to grow in understanding and usefulness.  We share responsibly and humbly carry the message of Christ’s healing power in our lives.

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11. Our public relations policy is based upon attraction rather than promotion; we need to always seek the Holy Spirit’s discernment whenever sharing in the media, in order to maintain personal anonymity of all Overcomers Outreach group members.

God Reliance - we praise God, not ourselves

OO groups provide a safe environment for members to share about their challenges in strictest confidence. Personal anonymity and knowledge of the existence of the group are both important to the group’s ability to fulfill our primary purpose, but individual anonymity must take precedence over all public relations activities.

        Overcomers Outreach is not a secret society. Our existence needs to be made known in order for those suffering to find us, so we have a public relations policy which identifies groups, not individuals. “Sharing in the media” should extend beyond press, radio, television and films to include prayer lists and other groups. What is shared or who attends a group should remain confidential. Our attraction is to the visible result of God’s presence in our lives as we share His love with others through our actions and personal testimonies. As examples of His healing power, we encourage others in a gentle, respectful way. We accept others as they are and respect one another’s privacy. Consider these questions:
  • Am I guilty of promotion rather than attraction?
  • Can I go about my affairs without giving everyone advice on how he or she should conduct theirs?
  • Can I do good things anonymously?
  • Do I give others the right to be wrong?
  • Am I careful to keep confidences when shared with me?
  • Is my sobriety/abstinence attractive enough that others would want it?
  • Do I always try to give positive comments rather than negative criticism?
Anonymity is that ability to do something good and not have to advertise it. It is an expression of a positive attitude and grows from gratitude. Faith in the effectiveness of our groups is at the core of this tradition. We need not advertise or offer extras. We publicize, where appropriate, where to find our groups and what to expect from them. Every individual, as part of an Overcomers group, is a representative of Overcomers. We maintain personal anonymity for ourselves and our fellows while attracting others by our walk with Jesus Christ. The better our public relations, the better we will be able to serve.

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12. Jesus Christ is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. We claim God’s promise that His power can set us FREE!

Self-Sacrifice - we express God's love through gratitude, forgiveness, understanding, joy, and freedom

An OO group is founded on, centered on, and focused on Jesus Christ. We recover together in and through His power, as we humbly lay aside our differences to be united with Him.

        The principle which drives all service is self sacrifice, the ultimate form of selflessness. The other eleven traditions are founded upon the single premise that “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” – John 15:13. As Jesus commands us to love and serve one another, we form groups to do just that. By uniting in these groups we abide in Him as we comfort and support each other by sharing with each other. We work under His direction, understanding that He equips us for His good purpose. Our groups remain independent from outside influences by being self supporting, while in faith we humbly rely on God’s word and the 12 steps as our tools of recovery. We form committees and service networks to better serve both the groups and His children, so that we may carry His message of healing and freedom to others who still suffer. As the foundation, tradition twelve speaks to the practice of all of the principles in all of our affairs. Consider these questions:
  • Have I had a spiritual awakening?
  • Is my conscience clear when I retire at night?
  • Do I have an immature need for attention and recognition?
  • Do I treat my friends in a way that I’m proud of?
  • Do I have personal integrity?
  • Can I be true to my own beliefs?
Following the Traditions will help groups avoid and/or solve many problems that could otherwise develop. Internal controversies, communication problems, differences of opinion and troublesome individuals still present difficulties, but applying these guidelines has and will help resolve these and other problems as they may arise. As the group prospers so will relationships between individuals, and as we serve others, we serve Him.

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