step 7 aa jason wahler

Breaking Down Step Seven Of AA Alcoholics Anonymous

Posted at February 23rd 2018 | 06:01 PM

“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” 

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.

When working on steps four and five we discovered our assets and our shortcomings. With Step 6 we became prepared to deal with these qualities so that in Step 7 we could be ready to act.

Breaking Down Step Seven Of AA Alcoholics Anonymous

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.

Step Seven And Humility: The Misunderstood Virtue. 

“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.

Step 7 of AAWishing It, Does Not Make It So: Step Seven Into Action

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:

  • How has my understanding of my higher power grown?
  • How have the previous six steps prepared me for step seven?
  • How does being aware of my own humility help when working the seventh step?
  • How do I plan to ask a God of my understanding or higher power to remove my shortcomings?
  • How does the spiritual principle of “surrender” work for me in step seven?
  • Am I comfortable with prayer and meditation- even if it means making up my own?
  • Has my sense of perspective or “reality’ been out of proportion lately?
  • Have there been times when I have been able to stop from acting on a character defect and practice a spiritual principle instead?
  • Are there any shortcomings that have been removed from my life or at least diminished in their power over me?

You can also use affirmations. Here are some suggestions:

  • I accept all of me, the “good” and “bad.”
  • Today I will develop an asset and release one shortcoming.
  • I will remember that I have choices and freedom today.

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.”

Step Seven Of AA’s Alcoholics Anonymous: Moving Forward

“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!

Need Help With Addiction? Call 888-535-2133 or Contact Us


Want Jason Wahler in-person for your next gathering! Book Jason for speaking engagements, events or appearances and let him bring the message of recovery & hope.


Subscribe if you want to be notified.