Tradition 12

Short Form:

“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

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.”


Overriding Idea of T12:
Principles First – People Second

Reading Assignment:
12&12: Pgs. 184-187

Principles B4 Personalities

From the Foreword of the 12 & 12:  “A.A.’s Twelve Traditions apply to the life of the Fellowship itself. They outline the means by which A.A. maintains its unity and relates itself to the world about it, the way it lives and grows.”


Principles First – People Second

Why are we repeatedly asked in the Traditions to give up ourselves for the greater good? The answer is because any relationship we have that does not involve sacrifice is a relationship that likely will not endure. Each tradition straightens out a disastrous attitude we had about relationships. The twelfth tradition teaches us that a spirit of sacrifice (often times through anonymity) is vital to good relationships.

Giving up the expectation of rewards for doing good is difficult for most of us. It’s easy for us to give and then think, “Well, I’ll get a reward, even if I don’t get public recognition for what I did.” To remove that reward symbol from the back of our minds for whatever good we do is part of practicing anonymity. The next time you hear a speaker in A.A. whose personality is exciting from the platform, see if you can hear the principles behind their words? To which step, tradition, or concept can you relate their pitch? Setting ourselves aside and focusing on the principles of our program is a crucial component in the foundation we need for studying the Traditions and learning how to be in healthier relationships with our fellow A.A.’s and with those in the world around us.

Step-Tradition Parallel

The twelfth step poses the question, “What is a spiritual awakening?” I believe that the evidences of a spiritual awakening are found in a person who practices the twelfth tradition in all their affairs. Such a person sacrifices self in order to practice principles. Their motive in practicing all of the traditions is anonymity: they sacrifice to help others.

The twelfth tradition completes the twelfth step in the following way: I become spiritually awake when I carry the message by anonymously practicing sober principles.

(Excerpts from the text above come from the Traditions Study developed by the Unity Insures Recovery Through Service A.A. Group, Los Angeles, CA.)

Tradition illustrated



As it states at the top of this page, the 12 Traditions were created to help each A.A. group maintain unity and relate better to the world about us.  With that in mind, they have been widely used in helping us learn how to be in better relationships with everyone in our life.  Below is a snapshot inventory you can take to see how well you are honoring the spiritual principle found in this Tradition (in and out of the rooms of A.A.).

(The foundation of this inventory is from the A.A. Tradition’s Checklist first published in the A.A. Grapevine)

  1. Why is it good idea for me to place the common welfare of all AA members before individual welfare? What would happen to me if AA as a whole disappeared?
  2. When I do not trust AA’s current servants, who do I wish had the authority to straighten them out?
  3. In my opinions of and remarks about other AAs, am I implying membership requirements other than a desire to stay sober?
  4. Do I ever try to get a certain AA group to conform to my standards, not its own?
  5. Have I a personal responsibility in helping an AA group fulfill its primary purpose? What is my part?
  6. Does my personal behavior reflect the Sixth Tradition—or belie it?
  7. Do I do all I can do to support AA financially? When is the last time I anonymously gave away a Grapevine subscription?
  8. Do I complain about certain AAs’ behavior—especially if they are paid to work for AA? Who made me so smart?
  9. Do I fulfill all AA responsibilities in such a way as to please privately even my own conscience? Really?
  10. Do my utterances always reflect the Tenth Tradition, or do I give AA critics real ammunition?
  11. Should I keep my AA membership a secret, or reveal it in private conversation when that may help another alcoholic (and therefore me)? Is my brand of AA so attractive that other drunks want it?
  12. What is the real importance of me among more than a million AAs?