Tradition 9 – Relationships Based on Service Not Control

Tradition Nine – Relationships Based on Service Not Control

SCA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

Relationships Based on Service Not Control
by John F

In learning about the Traditions, we found that the context of Tradition Nine, much like the context of Step Nine, is about right relationships. The Second Tradition tells us that ultimate authority within SCA rests with a loving God whose will we try, imperfectly, to follow, using the Group Conscience as our guide.

Our all-too-human tendency was to arrogate power; in the self-centeredness of our compulsion, we tried to play the big shot. Many of us gravitated to relationships where we felt safe by trying to control others, and this tendency carried over to our relationship with SCA.

For many of us, our first experience along these lines took place in a business meeting, perhaps one where trusted servants were being chosen, or the group was trying to form a Group Conscience on a matter of importance. Did we try to dominate the discussion? If it was our first time leading a meeting, did we try to impose our will in place of the group's? Were we able to "Let Go and Let God"?

We listened as those with more experience in the Program told us that business meetings inject a dose of reality into what sometimes seems to be the cocoon of a regular meeting. 

Tempers sometimes flared; arguments arose; decisions were made. Frightening things, indeed, for someone newly recovering from sexual compulsion.

Some of us moved beyond service at the group level, finding our sexual sobriety strengthened when we did service at the local intergroup. And as the intergroup tended to attract just those individuals with a history of efforts to dominate, so the intergroup itself sometimes veered in the direction of trying to dominate the groups.

At one such intergroup meeting, the discussion turned to groups that did not seem to be adhering to the Third Tradition. The very name of the group seemed to suggest that only certain kinds of sexual compulsives were to be welcomed; others need not apply. What was the Intergroup to do?

Using the Fourth Tradition as a guide, the intergroup decided that this group's actions did indeed affect other groups or the fellowship as a whole. And the discussion turned to the best way to penalize the group.

The intergroup had a powerful weapon at its disposal: control of the local meeting list. Excluding the group from the meeting list would surely reduce its membership, forcing it to toe the line and adhere to the Third Tradition.

But then the discussion took another turn. Was this a loving, supportive action? And what is the proper role of Intergroup, anyway? Doesn't Tradition Nine say that Intergroup is responsible to those it serves in other words, the sexual compulsives and their meetings in the area? Would excluding the group from the meeting list help or hurt those sexual compulsives? What kind of message would Intergroup be carrying?

Instead of removing the errant group from the list, Intergroup voted to send a message to that group, asking if it agreed that it might be violating the Third Tradition and if it was willing to change its name. By its next meeting, Intergroup had its answer: the group did vote to change its name, to indicate that it is open to anyone with a desire to stop having compulsive sex. The Ninth Tradition worked.

And so it goes. Some of us with a particularly strong need to do service became involved in the International Service Organization. What an ego trip! There we have the opportunity to be the No. 1 sexual compulsive in the world!

We found that the reality was different, although the desire to control was still there. We learned that SCA as a whole is not organized. There is no one individual who 'calls the shots'. Instead, we found that ISO is a service board that considers questions affecting the fellowship as a whole. What was the proper way for an intergroup to do outreach to people who might not be hearing the message? How should meetings be told to develop literature for consideration by ISO for publication?

Through trial and error, we continually were led back to Tradition Nine, and the role of ISO as a servant, not a master, for intergroups and meetings around the world. We decided it was not the role of ISO to tell intergroups how to do anything. We learned we could share our experience and make suggestions. The Fourth Tradition told us that the intergroups and meetings were autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups or the fellowship as a whole. We again heard the Slogan, "Let Go and Let God."

We finally learned to end our efforts to dominate when we learned to step down gracefully from our service positions. We learned that SCA goes on, even without the efforts of any particular individual. SCA is not a cult; it is based on principles, not personalities. When we stepped down, we made every effort to provide a safe bridge for the person replacing us. And it gave us great satisfaction when that person not only learned to serve as we did, but grew into an entirely new role, providing even greater service to the sexual compulsive who still suffers. In this way, we helped carry the message even further.