Honoring our Differences While Embracing our Unity
Dear FA Members,
The board received the letter below from a member of FA. With the permission of the writer, who agreed that the letter should be sent without a signature, we are forwarding it to the fellowship as a whole. We believe it offers a perspective that is and will always be important to all of us, if we are to stay abstinent ourselves and effectively share the hope of recovery with all.
Same Illness, Same Solution, Different People
At one of the recent FA business conventions, I struck up a conversation with two fellows in the hall, one of whom, an old friend, had, like me, joined the fellowship when we were still part of OA. I reminisced about how wonderful it was in the very beginning. I remembered out loud the excitement we felt and, especially, the unity, as we developed the outlines of a new way of life. "We were all together," I said. The newer fellow seemed to disagree. "No," I said, "Really. We were all together, in unity."
Later, my old friend helped me see the error of my very unfortunate, ignorant assumptions: (1) the newer fellow was not White, she was Black, and (2) she did not experience unity within FA, she experienced moments of racism. Her experience was not mine.
In this difficult time in the United States, my mind goes back to that earlier conversation and to my own jarring experience within our program. Before we became FA, I was sitting in a huge meeting in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the only Asian American in the room and surely the only Asian American or Asian in our entire fellowship. In talking about the food she used to eat while young, the speaker used a racial epithet for "Chinese." I froze, but I had no impulse to run. I needed this program too much. Immediately after the meeting ended, a small group of people came to me to tell me how bad they felt about the share. Apparently, one or several others went directly to the speaker. Without delay, the speaker came to me to apologize, explaining that she'd grown up hearing and using such language and that the word had come out of her mouth without her conscious thought. I easily understood and forgave her, on the spot.
Perhaps we can all use both of these stories. The Twelve Steps are perfect, but we who are trying to live them are not. We bring the prejudices and behaviors of our earlier lives into the rooms: the infliction of stereotypes, dismissive language, or epithets used in reference to people in communities, or racial, ethnic, religious, or economic groups not our own; disrespect or ignorance regarding those whose sexual orientation or gender identities differ from ours; lack of empathy for and awareness of others' trauma and pain.
What can we do? We can stay abstinent and live our Steps. Honesty. Humility. Willingness. We need to learn as much as we can to sensitize ourselves, listen with respect, speak up when hurtful remarks are made. We, the ones who hear or overhear hurtful remarks, need to respond. We must not leave this up to the person who is the target or who is wounded. And humility is key, if we come to see that our behavior or remarks reflect old prejudices. We all have them, but the Tenth Step shows us clearly what to do.
Today, there are people in FA who are Black, Asian, Latinx, and Native; there are those who are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and non-religious; there are people whose families face dire poverty and people who live on trust funds; people who are straight and those who are LGBTQ+; and all of us with varied gender identities. Let us be aware of one another's differences, even as we joyfully embrace our unity. We have a disease that is fatal and an answer in FA and the Twelve Steps, but unless we are humble and teachable, our behavior has the potential to drive other food addicts from the rooms.
In humble service,
The World Service Board
The World Service Board
The World Service Board is made up of a group of thirteen food addicts (including four officers and nine committee chairs) who serve the FA fellowship as guided by the World Service Conference. The Conference represents the collective conscience of FA and comprises representatives elected by individual meetings. The WSB abides by the will of the Conference, implementing decisions made at the annual World Service Business Convention.