Thoughts on Tradition 12

Hi Everyone!

I am continuing to find the spiritual principles in the traditions inspiring and so helpful for my program.  I am so grateful that we were able to study them as a group. They really are so useful within program, and outside of program.

As a service, I wanted to post some of my ideas about Tradition 12. I am including the playback recording information from our group on Tradition 12 as well.

08-30-2020 #189. This is the link to the mp3. This week, we completed Tradition 12 in the book Guiding Principles the Spirit of Our Traditions by NA. The principles of Tradition 12 are altruism, love, respect and equality.

Tradition 12 Short Form – Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.

Tradition 12 Long Form – And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all.

Tradition 12 consists of the following core concepts: confidentiality, discretion, principles before personality, humility, gratitude and refraining from gossip.

Tradition 12 – Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.

Principles: altruism, love, respect & equality

Problem: self-will, self-centeredness, fear & isolation

Purpose:   self-effacement, self-renunciation & gratitude

Process: principles before personalities

Practice: confidentiality with what we hear and discretion in what and how we share

Promise: God-consciousness

Proposal: am I willing to practice selfless giving without expectation of personal distinction or reward?

Ponder: what is the difference between anonymity, confidentiality and privacy? How is that connected to humility at work?

Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.

How to personalize Tradition 12:

Dan S., who wrote the BBA, suggested in a talk on the traditions that the traditions need to be personalized in order to understand them. He suggests that after you read the tradition in both the long and short vision, ask yourself:

“Does the group give personal distinction to any AA member either among fellow alcoholics or the general public that puts their opinions above the conscience of the group or AA as a whole?”

Consider: “How may your group or groups around you possibly broken Tradition 12?”

Visualize: “What it would look like what it would look like if a group violated Tradition 12?”

Visualize: “What is a personal example of what it would look like to break Tradition 12?”

After considering what it would look like to break Tradition 12, ask:

If the principles of anonymity, “placing principles before personality” and the practice of genuine humility were applied, could the outcome have been different?


Does the group prioritize the principles of program over the individual personalities?

How is anonymity the spiritual foundation of all the 12 traditions?

In your experience, what are the common causes of disunity?

Practical Application:

Am I willing to practice selfless giving without expectation of personal distinction or reward?

For the sake of anonymity, am I willing to forego gossip, attention, and personal distinction?

Do I permit or encourage people to find out about anything I have done, who otherwise would not have known?

Do I take guidance from spiritual principles rather than from individual personalities?

Am I seeking to replace my self-will with the guidance of God in all my affairs?

Spiritual Principle of Anonymity

I wanted to take the time to discuss some of the definitions of the principles described in this tradition. The more time I spend immersed in the traditions, however, the more I realize how all of the spiritual principles are intertwined with each other. So, please forgive me if some of the information is repetitive.

Tradition 11 and tradition 12 both refer to the importance of ANONYMITY. However, the meaning of the term is slightly different for each tradition.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, anonymity can mean three things: “that something is of unknown authorship or origin; something is not named; or something is lacking individuality or distinction.” Synonyms for anonymity include: privacy concealment namelessness facelessness indistinctness secrecy unrecognizability.

In Tradition 11, the definition of anonymity refers to the meaning of being “without individuality.” In this context of tradition 11, anonymity means that an individual’s membership in program is private but the fellowship is not.

Tradition 11 reflects the experience of the early members of program who observed that for various reasons, it is not good for a person or for the fellowship, when a particular individual is publicly identified with the program. Therefore, members of the program are requested to “maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.” This does not mean that we need to be anonymous with our family, friends or neighbors. And, we certainly do not need to conceal our identities when speaking with members of the fellowship.

In tradition 12, the meaning of anonymity is more similar to “privacy.” In tradition 12, anonymity refers to the practice of respecting the confidentiality of the group. All members of the fellowship must hold in confidence what is heard during a meeting. In order to recover, group members must be able to trust that anything that is said in the group, stays in the group. Collectively, we need to safeguard our anonymity through the practice of self-restraint, good judgement and discretion by practicing discretion in what and how we share during a meeting.

To protect one’s privacy, it is prudent to err on the side of caution, and refrain from sharing any information that could hurt you or other people if the information became public knowledge. Although anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our program, we are all only human, and everyone makes mistakes. Information that could truly harm you is best shared privately with your sponsor or during outreach calls.

Spiritual Principle of Equality

In a lot of documents available on the traditions, the core spiritual principle listed for tradition 12 is “EQUALITY.” I struggled to understand how equality could be a spiritual principle. Perhaps others have also had difficulty understanding this as well? So I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the meaning of equality in tradition 12.

In program, the principle of EQUALITY is a corollary of the principle of anonymity. The promise of the 12th Tradition is God-Consciousness. This tradition reminds us that God is within each and every person.

In the AA BB it says: Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there. For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself.

The soul within all of us is pure and therefore intrinsically worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. As human beings, we are all spiritually equal and equally beloved by God. Each member of the group is therefore equally as important as every other member and all ideas should be listened to regardless of the source.

Understood in this way, equality is first and foremost a spiritual condition, deriving from the shared reality of the human soul or spirit, which is a spark of the Divine within each person. When we connect to the inner Godliness within ourselves and within other people, we transcend the physical barriers that appear to divide us and thereby create unity.

I also loved this great expression that is said in the rooms on tradition 12: “there are no big shots in NA, and no little shots, because one shot and we’re all shot.”

Since I have a passion for the spiritual principles embodied in the 12 Traditions, I wrote a tradition 12 inventory to reflect upon the spiritual principles or concepts within this tradition.

Shira’s Tradition 12 Inventory: 


What role does anonymity play in all the traditions?

How does the principle of anonymity take the focus off our differences and lets us see the similarities with other people?

Am I willing to live an inner directed God-led life based on spiritual principles rather than an outer directed self-led life based on personality, ambition, status or prestige?

Am I willing to give up what is comfortable for me in order to be of service to others?


Do I do my best to avoid argument, attack, defense, and unnecessary criticism, in order to preserve unity?


Do I refrain from telling anyone, other than those who should or need to know, what an individual shared privately with me or publicly during a meeting?

What are the dangers of not respecting the confidentiality and privacy of another member?

What would happen to the fellowship, and the group if people did not practice anonymity?


Am I careful to act and speak in such a way as to avoid controversy or reveal private information about myself or others?

Am I careful to focus on the principles of the program and how they are working in my life?


Am I respectful and considerate towards others?


Do I refrain from gossiping or talking about others behind their back?

How do I determine the difference between gossiping and expressing concern?

As Dr. Bob said: “let us also remember to guard that erring member – the tongue, and if we must use it, let’s use it with kindness and consideration and tolerance.”

“Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” Spanish proverb


Does the group make decisions through the guidance of the group conscience or do we let one or several strong personalities run things?

What would happen to the fellowship and the group if personalities were more important than spiritual principles?

Do I pay more attention to WHAT people say rather than WHO is saying it or HOW it is said?


Do I see people for WHO they are and not WHAT they are?

Am I willing to change from seeing my personality as WHO I AM to seeing my personality as a vehicle for God to do God’s will through me?


Am I sensitive to the feelings, and honor of others?

Do I treat others the way that I would want to be treated?


Am I willing to practice selfless giving without expectation of personal distinction or reward?

Do I try to make the meeting about me?

When do I struggle to serve selflessly?


Do I relate to others in a spirit of harmony and love or from a place of suspicion and fear?

What is the importance for my recovery of being a PART OF the group rather than APART FROM the group?

Am I willing to set aside all those things that I use to judge, discriminate and separate myself from other people?


Am I afraid to tell others that I am an addict?

Am I afraid to tell people that I am in program?

Should I keep my membership a secret or reveal it in private conversation when that may help another addict (and therefore me)?


Do my words promote harmony, love, and truth that give credit to God?

Am I willing to sacrifice my personal ambition for the common good?


Do I acknowledge the people who have inspired me?

LOVE:  The will to extend ourselves for the purpose of nurturing the spiritual growth of another. It is the willingness to give selflessly without an expectation of anything in return.

Am I willing to allow other people to be who they are and choose for themselves what they want to do, without expecting any personal gratification in return?

Tradition Twelve Affirmation– Let me remember that we need to credit the results to Him – to take off our mask and practice His Principles in all of our affairs.


Shira’s Tradition 12 Prayer:  

Since Tradition 12 is about making “WE > ME,” I thought I would writer this prayer is the plural rather than in the singular.

God, please grant us the willingness to practice selfless giving without an expectation of personal distinction or reward. May we connect to each other in a real spirt of love, brotherhood and compassion, and refrain from causing one another any harm. Please subdue any feelings of pride, judgement or self-centeredness so that we will always merit to be freed from being controlled by our desires, fears and insecurities. Grant us the strength to recognize our common humanity and acknowledge that we are all special and equal in Your eyes. Grant us the strength to overlook the deficiencies of one another, just as each of us would wish for our own faults to be overlooked. May we all be blessed to experience the true satisfaction of right living for which no pomp and circumstance, no heap of material possessions could ever possibly substitute. How wonderful it is that we do not have to be especially distinguished among our fellows in order to be useful and profoundly happy!


As Tradition Twelve reminds us, we have something stronger than our human personalities to rely on. Our principles come first—and they are not our own invention. They reflect eternal spiritual values. With this Tradition, both as individuals and as a fellowship, we humbly acknowledge our dependence on a power higher than ourselves. (P-43:15)

“Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.” Anonymous.

“By living a spiritual life, by asking God for help, I have learned to love, care for and feel compassion for all my fellow men, and to feel joy in a world.” (AA BB p 83)

I hope that everyone will find this information helpful!

Thank you all for sharing this journey with me. Together we can do what we could never do alone.

In love & service,



Here is the post as a PDF

ES&F Thoughts on Tradition 12

Here is a link to the page on the blog that lists all of the various Traditions Study Guides and other references on the Traditions.


  1. OOOO I dont have facebook, twitter or any social media!!! But i did want to tell you that i find all the comments and explanations every week so VALUABLE. They are so True. I want your permission to use or even read from some of your explanations on traditions on Wednesday afternoon when i lead a meeting. I want to spread this awareness. I think it is vital to success of Program!!! Thank you Shira!

    • Thank you Leah for your comment! I am so happy that you are finding the blog so helpful! Of course you can share anything on the blog! The purpose of the blog is to help “carry the message.” Please just say where you got the information from and share “within the guidelines of the traditions.” Meaning: any information shared is available for free and may not be sold for a profit.

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