Step Seven: Humility

by Kathy L.

Step Seven suggests that we “humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.” For those of you in AA or who use or read the Big Book, Step Seven can be found on page 76 of the Fourth Edition.

I only mention this because it is exactly one paragraph and that paragraph consists only of the Seventh Step Prayer. In a past article where I discussed Step Six, I mentioned that I didn’t pay much attention to it. Likewise, I’m not sure I paid much attention to the real meaning of Step Seven because I was too focused on memorizing the prayer and anxious to begin work on Eight. As a matter of fact, the Big Book even says that after we read the prayer, we have completed Step Seven.

Left on my own, I would have taken those words literally but working with my sponsor, attending step meetings, listening to others share, and reading 12 Step Recovery materials I learned that not only was there a lot more to Step Seven than a prayer but I also came to the conclusion that none of the 12 steps can ever be considered “complete.”

The key word of this step is humility. We don’t just ask God to remove our shortcomings. We “humbly” ask God to remove our shortcomings. So what does this word “humility” mean? I think it can mean many different things depending on who you ask.

Prior to recovery, humility meant one of two things. As far as God was concerned, humility meant that I had to obey and bow before Him. Practicing humility on a day-to-day basis meant not acting or making me look better than others, particularly with material possessions. Here is an example of my old humility that I almost enjoy using for the sheer lunacy of it. I would forego wearing anything expensive if I knew I would be with people who had a lot less. That definitely was not humility but ego – and how much more about “me” could I have gotten? Think back to the days before you began recovery. What was your definition of humility?

Today I think humility is sometimes more a feeling than a principle. Here are a few of the things I have heard, read and believe about humility. It means that we are teachable; we know who we are in our relationship to a Higher Power; making an honest list of our assets and our shortcomings and recognizing both. It is recognition of the gifts God has given us and also the defects that make us human. If we have taken the first six steps of our recovery program seriously, we have built up the humility required to take Step Seven.

So we ask God in all of our newfound humility to remove our shortcomings, but we also have to understand that He isn’t going to remove them all at once. Our shortcomings are the defects we acknowledged in Step Four and were entirely ready to have God remove in Step Six. These three steps are what I call “ready, set, go.” The time has come that we must work diligently with our Higher Power to begin eliminating our most glaring defects.

When I am asked to share a step with a group, I make it a habit to read as much as I can about the step from different sources and then reflect on my own recovery. It is always interesting to read another’s interpretation of a step especially one that doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the Big Book. The consensus seems to be that besides humility, renunciation and relinquishing must be a part of this step. We renounce our shortcomings and relinquish our egos by letting go and turning everything over to our Higher Power.

Yes, it is very much like Step Three but by this step, we know so much more about ourselves. Step Seven is the embodiment of the Serenity Prayer. This is the step that reminds us that if we do not have a “God box”, this is the time. When you find that one of your defects just doesn’t want to go away and it continues to create havoc in your life, turn it over by writing it down and putting it in your God box. I know I have spoken about this before in a different article and I have no problem repeating it constantly because it works!

Earlier in this article I mentioned that we never complete the steps. I would encourage all of you to include the Seventh Step Prayer in your daily ritual. This reminds us every day that we will always have some shortcomings because we are human. When our shortcomings are all removed, we can say we have completed Step Seven. Let me know if and when that happens to you!

The Seventh Step Prayer is not just part of AA. It is part of every 12 Step Recovery program. I am typing it below so that you can read it now. It is not part of the prayer but I always add “Thy will be done” at the end to remind myself that what I want, what I pray for, may not be in line with the will of my Higher Power.

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here to do your bidding. Amen.

~ Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 76

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.


Copyright © Kathy L. Reprinted by permission of the author. Kathy L. is the editor of Bella Online 12 Step Recovery, where more of her writings on recovery can be found. She also hosts the Grateful Recovery page on Facebook.

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Contributors to Renascent’s Blog share their stories of addiction and recovery and/or their professional expertise.