Our common welfare should come first: personal recovery depends upon (program) unity.
Gibberish, right? But wait!
This is like another version of principles before personalities. It seems pretty clear that if you are relying on a 12-step program to work on yourself and your recovery from abuse or addiction, you can say that your personal recovery depends on that program being there. And that if it doesn't have unity, it will split up into bickering factions and fall apart.
So common welfare - the welfare of the group - has to come before what any individual person wants. This tradition gives us a guideline for making decisions in business meetings: we know that the number one priority is to keep the program healthy.
But this doesn't just mean that we should remember to work for the good of the program. Presumably, we always have that in our hearts. Sure, we know that sometimes we will have to put aside our wants and priorities for the greater good. But it also means that we have to keep the principles of the program, particularly the traditions by which it is run, as the guidelines for all our business meeting decisions.
You see, it's a given - after decades of rigorous testing by many different programs - that the twelve traditions are what keep meetings and programs in general healthy. So when the first tradition tells us to put the common welfare first, we can remember that the easiest way to do that is to make sure we follow these traditions in making all our decisions. Sure, we might find a really great book by some outside author that we could sell in our meeting to share this book and make a little extra dough, but that would violate the sixth and seventh traditions - we would be mixing ourselves up with what an outside author tells people to do, and relying on sales instead of supporting ourselves through our own donations. Soon the meeting's focus would move from our own recovery to how to get copies of the book, how much to charge, how to promote it, and all kinds of other outside issues.
There's another side to the first tradition too: the concept of having a common welfare. Most everybody in any twelve-step program comes in with control issues. The less experience we have with the program, the more we tend to think we know what is best and what everyone around us should be doing! This tradition reminds us to step aside and think of the group first, not about what the individuals around us want or what we think is best. It restores us to the cooling idea of just doing what keeps the group healthy, instead of the hot little codependent concerns about our own feelings and ideas. It reminds us that the program's health is directly connected to our own, that we are part of a great whole. It holds the most important concept of any twelve-step program: the "we" that reminds us that we do not have to do this alone.