Step 7: Humbly asked God to Remove our Shortcomings
July being the 7th month, what better time to discuss Step 7 in the Twelve Step program of recovery? We are a 12 step based alcohol, drug and addiction treatment centre, after all. This step, although only briefly described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, is nevertheless an important part of the program, because humility is essential not only to sobriety, but to serene and happy sober living.
The Goal of Step 7 is Humility, Not Humiliation
For addicts and alcoholics who have finally asked for help, life isn’t usually very pretty. The degree of devastation wrought by the disease of addiction varies from person to person, but typically the consequences of substance abuse and dependency have created a great deal of harm in the individual’s life. For an addict struggling with shame, low self-worth and the (perceived or real) stigma associated with admitting to a drug or alcohol problem, Step 1, admitting powerlessness and unmanageability, may already seem humiliating enough. But the Twelve Step program, and Step 7 specifically, asks for humility, not humiliation. So what, then, is humility?
Humility Has a Bad Rap for All the Wrong Reasons
It sounds like the word humiliation, but humility is really just the opposite of arrogance. It is often referred to as being ‘right-sized’ – meaning that we no longer think ourselves better than, or less than, other people. In today’s world of empowerment and individuality, some people associate humility with weakness, but really being humble does not mean a lack of assertiveness. It means adjusting our thinking so we no longer seek to dominate others, or be dominated by them. We recognize that we are equal to everyone else in the world and that all people, ourselves included, deserve equal respect, fairness, and kindness. We realize that we have strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. This kind of balanced, realistic attitude, far from bringing shame or humiliation, actually brings a great deal of joy to our lives.
The Arrogance Trap in the Recovery Journey
When using or acting out in addictive behaviours, it’s easy to lose perspective on ourselves, our rights and the world in general. We often didn’t know how to stand up for ourselves without going on the attack, or how to value ourselves properly without putting others down. This arrogance, while creating pitfalls for everyone, is especially dangerous for addicts and alcoholics because it can keep us trapped in addiction. Arrogant people already ‘know it all’, so they can’t learn new ways of thinking or being. Humility makes it possible not only to admit that we have a problem and ask for help solving it, but also to admit that we don’t know everything about how to live. It allows us to ask for help in removing our shortcomings, the things that make life hard for us and for those around us.
Step 7 and the Spiritual Path
Whatever Higher Power you believe in, even if it’s the program itself or a group of recovering addicts or alcoholics, the significance of Step 7 lies in asking for help, not just with addictions, but also with other habits or behaviours that may be holding you back. The Big Book refers to these in places as ‘defects of character’, which can range from selfishness and dishonesty all the way to very specific shortcomings such as procrastination or diffidence. The idea is that whatever behaviours or ways of thinking that are harmful rather than helpful to hang onto, can yield to the practice of asking for help. The spiritual action of asking for these flaws to be removed, helps us humbly recognize that we do need outside help in order to strengthen our recovery, be of service to others, and become better human beings.
Ready for Step 7?
The Big Book says that when ready, we say something like this: “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.” We have then completed Step Seven.