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Step Seven of AA’s Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step program of recovery is about getting rid of character defects and replacing them by practicing humility & spiritual principles. Working on the seventh step requires constant thoughtfulness and commitment to being honest, courageous and humble.
So here’s the thing, quitting alcohol and drugs is a big change. I think you know this by now! Moving into step seven actually involves us in the personal change of actively letting go of our shortcomings, actions and feelings that are liabilities. This change requires effort and action.
Simply asking for your shortcomings to be removed does not automatically make them go away. It is up to you to be aware and make new choices. Many people in recovery find comfort that their higher power can and does remove their character defects shortcomings when asked.
While working on the previous six steps you’ve been stripping away age-old layers of denial, ego, self-centeredness and other liabilities that consumed you when you were active in your disease. When we arrive at step seven we are ready to stop thinking so much about what we are going to get in life and start looking at what and how we can contribute to others in the world.
In my experience my higher power has never left me empty handed; everything I have lost has been replaced with something better. I was asked to put down the drink and the drug because my higher power wanted me to pick up something greater. This is humility to me.
“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” – Confucius
When it comes to working your seventh step, the quality of humility really breaks down to having a reasonable perspective of yourself. It is quite simply seeing the truth of your life and your place in the world. In AA terms it is the practiced art of being “right-sized.” When you humbly ask your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings you are recognizing that you are neither too big nor too small. Gone is your self-entitlement or grandiosity; as is your shame, regrets or unworthiness.
You’ve actually already taken your very first act toward humility, by admitting your powerlessness and unmanageability. Typically when practicing step seven recovering addicts realize that humility is not a state of being in despair or groveling, but a state of peace, serenity, and acceptance of “life on life’s terms.”
In The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions it is stated, “the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of AA’s twelve steps.” The seventh step of AA is an ongoing opportunity for us to embrace the pursuit of humility as a fundamental aspect of staying sober.
Taking action means work. I know, most of us are averse to the word “work,” but the kind of work I’m talking about here has nothing to do with punching in a time card and suffering through 8 hours. Our work on the steps of AA’s Alcoholics Anonymous program simply means using our energy to be disciplined and committed in the pursuit of our goal of long-term sobriety and recovery. It takes work to stand up for ourselves, to be patient or to accept the emotional discomfort of new behaviors.
Catching ourselves in our shortcomings and changing our reaction takes work. The more familiar you become with your shortcomings the more you start to notice, “this feels familiar, I’d better stop and pay attention to this!” Whenever a reaction feels involuntary, it’s probably something that needs changing. The great news is that when practicing humility in Step Seven you really gain a sense of your own humanity and the ability to have compassion for yourself and for others. We are all in this together, and we are all the same.
Putting Step Seven into action means, for example, when you consciously gather the courage to say “no” to the request of a friend who tries to guilt or shame you into saying “yes,” you are actually working your program of recovery. When you set a boundary, pause when agitated, practice restraint of tongue and pen (this is a huge one for long-term peace), choosing not to interact with people, places and things that trigger you- you are working on Step Seven!
Getting Right-Sized: Step Seven Questions & Actions
Part of getting right-sized in Step Seven means making changes with the activity of our minds in addition to accepting and expressing our emotions. We learn to gradually bring the different parts of ourselves into a healthy balance as we practice new living skills. For some people a daily dose of prayer, meditation, and affirmations is very useful.
Here are some questions to help guide you through Step Seven:
You can also use affirmations. Here are some suggestions:
The “Seventh Step Prayer” is a great way to right-size your day:
“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.”
“We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens IN us – how we can take it, what we do with it – and that is what really counts in the end.” – Joseph Fort Newton
When practicing our seventh step we are exercising our freedom from addiction by developing our assets, discarding defects and making new choices.
Step Seven is a prime example of the much-used 12-step adage “progress not perfection.” Humbly asking that your shortcoming be removed is not a guarantee. Some of our shortcomings will stick with us despite our best efforts, and plenty are returned- free of charge- any time we choose to re-engage with them.
We can measure our progress in recovery in relation to who we have been while using, instead of measuring ourselves against other people. We can take stock of our own journey, acknowledge our strengths and use them with humility, seeking only for an honest way of living in a sober reality.
Deep and lasting change comes slowly, and no one lets go of shortcomings all at once. However, they do disappear as we become aware of them and take action, one at a time, one day at a time.
Remember this: spiritual principles meet us at our point of action- so while we cannot control the course of life, we can control each and every spiritual move we make.
Go to it and get to work!