The Conference acknowledges the primary administrative
responsibility of the Trustees
The rights of appeal and petition protect minorities
and insure that they be heard.
This right of appeal and petition protects the minority but it also protects the program as a whole. We all make mistakes. Having a process in place to correct our mistakes ensures that the fellowship will have every opportunity to make the best possible decisions. Our goal isn’t to “win” these debates, after all – it’s to provide the best answers. And new ideas often take time to develop and be understood. As does communication, which requires courtesy, respect and effort. But without this effort, we can miss the best solution.
- “An example of such a win/win solution is the story of the two people who wanted a single orange. Recognizing that if one got the whole orange, the other would be unhappy, they agreed to compromise. Each took half of the orange. One promptly peeled her half, threw the peel away and ate the pulp. The other peeled the half he got, grated the peel for a recipe, and threw away the pulp. Had they listened more closely to each other, they could have discovered a solution in which each won the whole part of the orange they wanted, and none of it would have been wasted.” Paths to Recovery p 279
The right of appeal also reminds us that as members of our fellowship, we offer our fellows consideration and respect. That means that while we may disagree about an issue, we agree to listen to one another. For many of us who grew up in dysfunctional households, learning that our opinions count, that we have a responsibility to share them and that when we take that courageous step, we will be listened to with courtesy, is a revelation.
- A member shares, “There was no such thing as a “group conscience” in my family or origin – it was my mother’s way or the highway. She was just so lethal, no one wanted to challenge her and in fact we were asked by my father to just keep quiet because the fallout was too hard to take. I’ve come to understand that this is often the way in alcoholic households – the addict rules the roost. And one of the impacts of growing up this way is that it’s very hard for me to ask for what I want. Raising my hand to share was very hard at first but the response I got – quiet attention and perhaps a hug or a kind word after a meeting - helped me to gain the courage to share my feelings and ask for what I need.”
The right of appeal also means that we extend that same courtesy to others. It’s often not easy to listen when we disagree. Some of us have been bullied and ignored, our wishes and needs trampled on. Listening to someone else when we know we are right and when our safety has so often depended on taking the situation into our own hands, can feel scary. But the rooms give us a safe place to practice tolerance and our tradition of listening to others share without offering feedback helps us learn how to listen in a healthy way.
- A member shares, “When I’m listening, I have to remember to stay objective. I can often listen to the one critic instead of the dozens of people who think what I’ve said is a good idea. This is, of course, an old habit from my family but today I am aware of it.”
- “When I get stuck in the box of my own thinking and can’t get out, I am usually being petty or impatient. I may be hungry, angry, lonely or tired. That’s when I believe God speaks to me through the voice of someone expressing a minority opinion. At that moment, it seems that God challenges me to look at something from another angle.” Reaching for Personal Freedom p. 142
Even if we don’t agree on an issue, it’s important that all members feel welcome in the fellowship. To insure this, we make sure to listen to the minority point of view in all business decisions from the group level all the way up to the Conference. Even when a clear majority favors an outcome, we make sure to have a full discussion to make sure all members feel part of the process. In the selection of delegates, if a candidate doesn’t win by at least two thirds of the votes in the first several ballots, all the names of the candidates go into a hat. In these ways, we insure unity and promote discovery and growth.
- A member shares, “There are a plethora of minorities who might be attending our meetings--perhaps you are the only male in the room; perhaps you are the oldest or the youngest person in the meeting; there may be physically disabled members who have made it to our meeting. Any of these minorities (and others) may have a special request which can be heard in order to honor this Concept. And then, of course, there are the challenges that come up in the natural course of our meetings and group conscience discussions. If I am the only one in a business meeting with a particular point of view, do I feel safe to share it? Concept Five gives me that assurance. "Do I truly listen to those with whom I disagree?" (Paths to Recovery p 283). Not only do I listen, but I also find it stimulating, often enlightening and sometimes an opportunity to change my opinion/vote/knowledge base. 'We're all equal, but we're not all the same.' Respect, trust, consideration and inclusion of all voices will inevitably lead us to honoring our Concept Five.”
Concept 5 helps us find the best solutions for all of us and promote unity in our fellowship and in our lives.