The first six steps of the twelve-step program of recovery form a unit. They deal with what we were like. The second six steps form a second unit that covers how to live with sobriety in our daily lives.
The seventh step is where we get in touch with humility and ask for God’s help. The 7th Step tells us to:
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
The step requires us to humbly approach our Higher Power and ask that our character defects be taken from us. It is the time when we cast ourselves into the care of God.
There is a seventh-step prayer to guide us in doing this step. It goes 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.
Let’s unpack this prayer and the step and see what we can learn.
The first thing we need to do is realize that humility and humiliation are not the same. Merriam-Webster offers several definitions of the word “humble” but the one I want to use here is this one –
Humble: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission.
I like this one because it shows how we should approach the God of our understanding – in deference and submission. We defer in the belief that God can act to intervene to resolve our alcohol abuse. We submit to the need to act on whatever God’s bidding is.
The concept of humility does not sit well with many people. When you think about it though:
Pride holds you in the bondage of self.
This is one advantage of support groups because in them we are exposed to humility in action and this helps us in the attainment of greater humility.
We need to realize at all times that this 12-step program is a 12-step process. None of the steps of AA can be done without thinking about the steps already completed. This step is the completion of steps 4 through 6.
The results of these steps are what get us to this point.
In step four, we took that fearless moral inventory of ourselves. In the fifth step, we admitted to ourselves, to God, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Finally, in step six, we prepared for this step. We prepared ourselves for true humility and opened the door to a new way of life even further than we did in the first step. In time God will give us knowledge of His will.
Pride doesn’t admit character flaws and is governed by selfish things.
The idea of a personal inventory does not even feature in prideful thinking. In the modern world, pride is considered a positive attribute and blanks out any reasonable perspective on our problematic behaviors. Sources of temptation often arise from the need to ensure our pride.
When I was still drinking, I used to pride myself on how compassionate I was towards other people. After I stopped and started on the path to my own alcohol addiction recovery, I learned that this compassion was a ruse. People don’t buy drinks for others who are nasty. This compassion I showed was a tool to get drinks.
The sixth step meant handing over the fraud of “caring” and my Higher Power saw fit to make that caring unconditional.
What, then, does humility bring to the recovery journey?
It brings spiritual growth. We have already started our spiritual awakening, and this is the beginning of a life based on spiritual principles. It also begins our ability to deal with life on life’s terms.
I find what the book Twelve and Twelve says about the seventh step very interesting. It says,
Indeed, the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of A.A.s Twelve Steps. For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all. (p. 70)
This is a huge statement. It tells us that humility is a fundamental aspect of ensuring long-term recovery from substance abuse. The pursuit of humility counts as does the quality of humility. Speaking for myself, arrogant pride was one of the worst habits of my old ways. It acted as a defensive tool. It allowed me to say I knew better, and deny I had a drinking problem.
Sacrificing pride, we begin to cast off old habits and embark on new ways of dealing with the world. But look back at the prayer. The first line says, “My creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad.”
In this step, we offer our Higher Power our whole being. Yes, we ask that all of our addictive behaviors be removed, but when we offer ourselves for service, we offer that in us which is good as well.
Despite what we were like while we were drinking, we still need to take a balanced view of ourselves.
There was good in us.
Perhaps it was hidden or seldom expressed. If we are to follow an honest way, we need to see all of ourselves. If we see only the bad or only the good, then we do not see the whole of us and we cannot be aware of our spiritual healing.
Let humility become a way of life.
When we think about where we were and where we are now, there is a lot to be humble about. Now in humility, we make new choices and chart new ways forward away from our substance abuse disorders.
I just want to say as I wrap this up, that in my experience:
Humble people rejoice in what they have, whereas proud people tend to lament what they lack. Humble people have a happy life.
Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous