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The Big Picture Decisions

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Our group considers itself free to make its own decisions, guided by a Higher Power. We don’t have to have certain values or particular ways of doing things just because some other groups do. No one can make us do things the way they think is right. We are free to do things the way we think is right.

But let’s take a hypothetical situation: Suppose we gossiped about groups we thought were doing things wrong and caused others to avoid those groups. Then our autonomy would be affecting other groups. Even worse, maybe newcomers or others would listen to our gossip and conclude that Overeaters Anonymous is too divided and therefore not right for them. In that case, our autonomy would be affecting OA as a whole.

In general, how do the Traditions affect our decisions? Some issues are easy. Is our meeting open or closed? Can people eat during the meeting or bring drinks in? Should we sponsor a Super Saturday? Other issues can be more difficult. What do we do if a speaker starts quoting from an outside source? What kinds of literature will we display on the table? Do we have an official opinion about certain food substances? Shall we change any words in the readings? When we eat out together after the meeting, how do we behave? The Traditions suggest some points to consider in these situations, but a group is free to ignore the Traditions, in the sense that no one has the authority to stop them. (I’m not saying ignoring the Traditions is a good idea, of course.)

In my own journey through OA, there was a time when my two closest meetings openly and enthusiastically used names, words, and prayers from one particular religion. I was completely turned off. That was one reason why I dropped out of OA for over ten years. If I’d had more recovery at the time, I might have just looked for other meetings to attend, or I might have had the courage to challenge those groups. As it was, I just slunk away with the idea that OA was too religious for me—something that wasn’t true of OA as a whole, but I didn’t know it then.

In my years in program, I’ve seen several examples of group autonomy being liberating and energizing and also of it being taken too far. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the big picture.

— Edited and reprinted from OA Today newsletter, St. Louis Bi-State Area Intergroup, April 2015

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