Practicing Principles Before Personalities

My 12-step program promises that I’ll get to practice its principles in every aspect of my life.

Those principles include showing love and tolerance when someone irritates the crap out of me.  So, whether I’m at home, at work, in an airport or a grocery store, whenever there’s an opportunity to smile, nod, and turn the other cheek, I get to leap into action.


Don’t you sometimes just want to stay in bed so that you don’t have to play nice with people?

A code for living

My life is all about not drinking; although I don’t think about drinking, I often think about not drinking.  My code for living is meant to keep myself in a good spiritual condition so that I don’t drink.

Trust me, after 21 1/2 years of sobriety, it’s just as important to follow my code for living.  I’m not immune to slipping back into my active disease of addiction.

But since you do have to get out of bed in the mornings and interact with people, what drives you?  What is your code for living?

Your code may look different from mine, especially if you don’t participate in a 12-step program.  Would you say that you live by a set of  principles?

Do you think about how you can improve your interactions with others?

Part of my work is to improve my humanity to man and increase my appreciation of self.  That’s a heady way of saying I try not to scream or swear at you when you cut me off in traffic or when you question my ability to do my job.

It’s taken a long time in sobriety to realize that my reactions to you depend on how well I’m practicing my code for living.

When the code is clicking, every other aspect of my life is good, including my outlook of the personalities that populate my mind.

Those dreaded personalities

Do you ever dread being with certain people because you know they’re going to suck the life out of you?

It’s not about them, is it?  Remember:  personalities cannot kill your principles!

Admittedly, too much of my time is spent anticipating–and dreading–being with you, if your personality is different from mine.  There are many different kinds of personalities that rub me the wrong way and I’m not very good at practicing tolerance if that’s the case.

Personalities that exhibit large egos, insecurities, a lack of leadership if they’re leaders, a low-level of respect for anyone beside themselves–those are all types that cause me to mentally flail.

The way I see it, I have two options–hang out in silent scorn or live and let live.  The latter gives me freedom, the former kills my joy.

The bonus round

If your code is functioning well, and you really want to advance spiritually, consider praying for those dreaded personality types.  If someone is causing you grief, focus prayerful thoughts on them for two weeks and I promise that you’ll change.

Consider it the Code of Conduct Bonus.

Only people can affect the change of principles, not the other way around.  Only you can change your reaction to personalities.

Putting principles before personalities means withholding judgment.  It means not playing the sarcasm game, letting icky circumstances play out naturally and abandoning the need to insert your will into situations.

What do you think?  Are you up for trying?  Or would you rather stay in bed with the covers pulled around your nose?  Leave a note in the comments below and tell us about your code for living.

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    • Beth says:

      You are so very welcome, Doug. I hope you are finding the posts informative and enlightening. Please stop by again with a comment.

  1. Diane says:

    Hi. I have a question. Principals before personalities. I have an AA meeting here in town that I mostly love. However, there are times during the meeting when people get up and go on and on about outside issues….such as…. gun control, abortion, and political issues…. not related to alcoholism or addiction. Would I be wrong to stand up and tell the meeting that I am there to hear about their personal message about their experience and hope. I don’t care about their opinions on gun control while I’m in an AA meeting. Please help. I have gone to other meetings to get away from hearing unrelated topics discussed.

    • Beth says:

      Hi Diane,

      Gosh, what a familiar refrain! First, let me say that I am definitely not an authority on Alcoholics Anonymous, nor does my opinion represent anything at all that the AA organization would be interested in.

      I was taught that if you’re in a meeting of your home group (wherever you call home is your home!), then yes, you may speak your mind. However–often the problem can be resolved by talking to people one-on-one before or after meetings, talking to the group chair/lead, etc. And of course, you’re always free to get up and leave. If the issue persists, I would encourage you to find out whether the meeting has a group conscience or business meeting where members can have their voices heard.

      Above all–and this is SO hard for me–I only hurt myself when I let a resentment simmer. Find someone to talk to about your reactions to what’s going on and be sure to let your sponsor know.

      Hope this helps!

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