October 20, 2010

Can There Really be a Place Where No One Is in Charge?

We had a newcomer at our EA meeting on Sunday.  What had he expected I wonder, when he came in the door, and burst in us all, in the midst of sharing?   Part of his challenge in understanding how our groups work, is that he was a half an hour late and I was not prepared to review our suggested guidelines.  

No one was in charge, yet everyone was in charge. One member told our newcomer that he was free to share as he needed. As leader for the meeting, I sensed that advice was asking for trouble, but I did not know the best words to say. So I deferred, avoiding misguided speech, and let things flow as they would.

Looking back, this innocent newbie likely was suprised by the apparent absence of rules of our meeting.  When it was his turn to share, he likely felt put on the spot.  As he spoke it became clear that he defined his problems in terms of the society in which he is a member. He shared in general intellectual terms that he was the kind of person who wanted to make the world a better place.  

Later,  another member shared deeply about her current situation, and as soon as she had passed, he immediately felt a need to comment on it and tell us how it made him feel. He did not follow our example, even, in giving his name before he shared. 

It seemed impossible, yet our group worked more effectively than many organization with which I've been involved.  Our newcomer was cut short by two of our group members. For a few minutes, we broke all the rules against cross talk. Amazingly, the newcomer was able to hear us and did not leave in frustration.   And then, the moment came for me to get us back on track. I felt that the best way to do so, was by using the venue of my own personal experience. 

I could not govern, even as leader I don't run the show. 

Like it said in CTC's reading for the 17th, the ultimate authority is "a Higher Power who works through all of us."

I learned that I can truly trust my fellow members. Each contributed to the "well-being of our fellowship, where no one person is in charge," through participating in a dynamic, group conscience. 

Now, it remains to be seen if this confused newbie returns for another dose of humility. I know I got my own on Sunday:  I experienced first-hand that "Our groups are guided by a Higher Power whose will is expressed in our group conscience. [We saw] the Traditions in action, guiding us by suggestions rather than rules."

"Our groups, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve."  Tradition Nine


  1. It is amazing how it works without any leaders. But it does. Hope that the newbie returns.

  2. I also hope our newbie returns. HP is in charge of that too, Syd!


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