A 12-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. I will share my experiences with each step as a resource for newcomers to the program. It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE that you work through the steps with a sponsor! Step 7 reads:
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
Higher Power Revisited
In Step Two we acknowledge there is a power greater than our individual self. This higher power might be AA, or collective sobriety, Nature or the Universe. It might be the concept of Now, or it might be God. We each have our own understanding of a higher power.
In Step Three, we make a decision to turn our will over to that higher power and to let it guide our lives. For me, it’s important to recognize that I am just one piece of a larger, organic entity. I must be receptive to this higher power and to try to contribute to the greater good. I am a human being, and that is wonderful, but I am only one being in a world with many forms of life. It’s not about me anymore, as they say. It’s about finding harmony with the world and my higher power.
In Step Seven, we are once again interacting with our higher power. It is with humility that we ask our higher power to help us to have good intentions and to free ourselves from our defects of character.
Humbly we asked… or so this step begins. If you think you are humble, you probably aren’t. If you are humble, you probably don’t think that you’re humble.
To me, humility is like a river into which many different streams feed. When we live free of prejudice, we are living a humble life. If we live with gratitude and appreciation, we acknowledge that what we have is not only enough, but it is greatness. This is one aspect of humility. When we have compassion, we accept things and people as they are. Humility involves compassion and acceptance, and letting things become what they will become.
Humility is fed by willingness and openness. The humble person does not say, “My way or the highway.” The humble person is open to learning, remains teachable and has what Zen Buddhists call the “Beginner’s Mind”. Being humble is to know that you are not always right, and that you are not in control.
Humility involves inaction, or what the early Taoist writers called “Wu-wei”. Wu-wei is partially about having patience and allowing things happen according to their own nature. Many of us tend to react and resist change. The humble person observes, processes and adapts to situations. Humility involves thoughtfulness and finding harmony with our world.
Humility is an ideal, or a goal, and therefore something that we can only come close to achieving. It is with humility that we are asked to proceed in this step. There is no perfection in humility. In accordance with humility, it is typical to literally get down on our knees and to ask our higher power to remove our shortcomings. This action in and of itself could literally take ten seconds, but putting yourself into a humble mindset is not so easy.
One last thing about humility. I have found that the ultimate humility is to simply recognize that there is a higher power. This is a fundamental concept in the twelve step programs. We simply can’t run the show ourselves anymore, so we humbly ask for guidance from our higher power.
In my drinking career, the end goal for each day was the ‘sweet nectar’ of alcohol. That was my objective. Everything I did during my work day was an achievement to be rewarded with beer and my hard liquor du jour. In the end, all I really cared about was getting drunk.
In my recovery, I have found a new objective: to try to be a good human being. Character is my objective now. Step Seven is a critical step in this “phase of my development”. Actually, it’s so important that I try to consciously think about Step Seven every day.
Here’s where intent comes in. What is my intent each day and in every interaction? If my intentions are directed by my shortcomings and character defects, then I feel like I’m setting myself up for trouble. If my intentions are good, helpful, selfless and free from resentment (or other shortcomings), then I feel like I’m in pretty good shape.
In Step Six, I basically made a list of my character defects, and their opposing forces. So there are two parts to this Seventh Step for me. First, I ask my higher power to help me remove my shortcomings, which I made myself aware of in Steps Four, Five and Six. Second, I ask my higher power to fill in the void left behind with the good attributes: selflessness, compassion, patience, etc.
Put Into Practice
It is my goal each day to read aloud the 3rd step and 7th step prayers (and the St. Francis Prayer – more to come in Step 11), preferably in the morning before I start interacting with the world. When I do this, it reminds me that this isn’t the “Ron Show”. I wake up each day as a consciousness in this Universe, guided by forces beyond my comprehension, and I try to be guided by a power greater than myself. I go out into the world of people and things, hopefully as a humble servant, not only to other people, but to all life and the Earth, and to my higher power.