Tradition 10: Why Not Talk about Outside Issues?

OASV Blog Editor

August 25, 2023

Tradition 10: Why Not Talk about Outside Issues?

Sometimes it seems that the 12 Steps overshadow the Traditions. However, understanding the traditions and their influence on meeting guidelines helps keep our meetings safe. A saying in program quips that the steps keep us from killing ourselves and the traditions keep us from killing other people.

I had a humbling experience several years ago that raised my consciousness and respect for the value of the traditions, particularly Tradition 10: “Overeaters Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the OA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

In a share on Step 2, I provided some details about how I moved away from organized religion in my individual concept of my Higher Power. After the meeting, a member took me aside and expressed profound discomfort about those details, saying that hearing them did not support his recovery. I listened, apologized, and thanked him for his courage and honesty, but I left the meeting wondering if I had actually done anything wrong. After all, how could my experience with religion be an outside issue in my personal share about the Higher Power I came to believe would restore me to sanity?

I first considered some related issues. For example, even though “we deal with food,” many meetings specifically request that we avoid sharing sensuous details about specific foods to avoid triggering compulsive thoughts in other members. Along these same lines, we do not talk about specific weight-loss programs and products at meetings. I have never heard a member express political views at a meeting. Although many members have experienced dreadful trauma and abuse during their lives, they do not share details at meetings to avoid triggering another member’s painful flashback. (When difficult issues need to be discussed, our literature advises that we share “intimate details” with a sponsor or a trusted individual.) Although we do not talk about particular religions, a general share about how prayer, meditation, or going to church is part of a member’s experience, strength, and hope gained by practicing the 11th step.

Then, I turned to our literature. Tradition 10 in the OA 12 x 12 describes how religion and other topics are outside issues, and that negative comments have no part in an OA meeting. The following quotation (pp. 153) sums it up:

Ridicule and disrespectful comments about religion, diet clubs, political beliefs, and other matters have absolutely no place in OA meetings. We don’t need to belittle others in order to carry the message of recovery OA has to offer. In fact, negative talk and laughter at the expense of others usually interferes with the positive atmosphere of the OA meeting.

My Higher Power lets me experience the consequences of my character defects. Through this encounter, I fully grasped how making specific remarks, positive or negative, about particular religions and other outside issues disrespects the diversity values of the 12-Step Program and can harm a meeting and OA as a whole by discouraging attendance at meetings. To further my amends to the affected member, I wrote an article (similar to this one) for the paper newsletter we published at the time.

A gentle disclaimer: I am a recovering compulsive overeater with over 29 years in OA. These comments are based on my personal experience, strength, and hope gained through working the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions and using the tools of the program.  ~Julie T. 2023

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