Taking Step Seven

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Suggested Reading for Step Seven:

Big Book:
Chapter 6 – Into Action: Page 76, paragraph 2

12 & 12:
Step 7

The 12 & 12 dwells on the word “humility” to some length. Here’s what the dictionary says:

hu-mil-i-ty (hyue mil’i tee; often yue-) n.
1. the quality or state of being humble; modest opinion of one’s own importance or rank; meekness.

hum-ble (hum’buhl, um’-) adj. <-bler, -blest> v. <-bled, -bling> adj.
1. not proud or arrogant; modest.
2. low in importance, status, or condition; lowly: a humble home.
3. courteously respectful: in my humble opinion.

The root “hum” means earth. When the definition says that Humble means “lowly” it does not mean servile or inadequate. It means, simply, not exalted, as is the earth as opposed to heaven.

So, humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. 

The way we have come to look at humility is that it is a virtue, one of the principles that AA teaches us to live. The definition we have adopted pictures us as standing naked before God, without pretence or reservation. It means hiding nothing, being our real selves, both good and bad.  A good synonym for humility is honesty.

Mother Theresa obviously knew precisely what humility means when she said:

If you are humble nothing can touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are.

In the context of Step 7, then, we find that our taking of Steps 4, 5, and 6 has prepared us to know much of who and what we are. It is our real essence, then, that stands before its Creator with the prayer that its shortcomings be removed. (The expressions exact nature of our wrongs (step 5), defects of character (step 6), and shortcomings (step 7) are to be used interchangeably, according to Bill Wilson.)

But, just what does get removed? Does God remove defects that we don’t know about? If He did, then steps 4 and 5 might be unnecessary. You have been instructed to go to a great deal of trouble to bring to the surface your defects of character.

Knowing of our defects is only a precursor to becoming willing to stop hanging onto them in step six.

We don’t think this effort is all make-work. The Higher Power we have come to know does not intrude into our lives without invitation. He only responds to step seven prayers that are very specific. He wants us to understand which qualities of character are desirable and which are not (within the context of His scheme of things). He wants us to know ourselves well enough to know which character attributes we have and which are missing. Therefore, we believe that there is no catch-all we can invoke that just says, “clean us up.”

The point is that we are to ask God to displace our own character with the character He chooses us to have.

Does God remove all our defects of character that we ask Him to? It seems not. Sometimes we think something is a defect of character when it might be right for us, like a mole on our cheek. Maybe we haven’t yet learned enough from our defects to really be ready to have them removed, even though we think we are.

Most of us take Steps Six and Seven every day. The process of letting go and letting God is not instantaneous.  We whittle away at the old self, often painfully, until His magnificent configuration slowly emerges.

The Seventh Step Prayer

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.

Excerpted from “Taking Step Seven” by the Big Book Bunch. The complete article is available online at seekers-group.org/12_STEP_WORKBOOK.doc.

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