Step Seven

Part 1 and Questions for journaling
Part 2 and Questions for journaling
Part 3 and Questions for journaling
Part 4 and Questions for journaling

Step Seven ~ Introduction

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

Hello Fellow Travelers Along the Road of Happy Destiny,

My name is Linda E. and I am a Compulsive Overeater and your leader for this Step Seven.

I want to begin by thanking all the people who have been leading the Step Study this year. You have shared so much of yourselves and your program. Thank you for your service.

By way of introduction, I have been recovering in Overeaters Anonymous since I walked into my first meeting December 28, 1987. Strange time to pick for a first meeting, wasn't it? But I decided I did not want to wait until the first of the year to begin dealing with the food. That was something I had done SO many times in the past, and for whatever reason I *knew* this time would be different and I chose to break the cycle.

I believe I must have been born a Compulsive Overeater. I began using the food before I was two, and used and abused food until I came to these rooms. (And a few times thereafter!) I had used food inappropriately until I was about seven, but did not have a weight problem until after that age. The change in appearance between seven and nine is incredible. What caused that? I don't know -- perhaps several things. My father died, we moved, I began to take on adult responsibilities. At nine I went on my first "diet" and started to try controlling the weight. At thirteen I was on diet pills, by seventeen I was trying any crazy diet I could think of to control the weight. Then as an adult came the diet clubs, health spas and gyms, shrinks, church, anything I thought might help. Many times I lost weight, and attained a normal size several times. In fact, once I got so engrossed in diet and exercise I flipped from compulsive overeater to exercise bulimic and possibly anorectic. At least, several people accused me of that, including a doctor. I just thought I was doing a marvelous job of controlling the weight.

However, nothing worked to alleviate the weight between the ears. I still saw myself as fat, different, flawed. No matter how thin, I never FELT thin or attractive. I continued to be obsessed with food, diet, appearance. I can tell everyone from personal experience, eating disorders ARE NOT about weight, food, diet. They are not about appearance, a need to exercise, or laziness. They ARE about feeling different, flawed, inability to deal with life, fear, using food to cope and to deal with externals. Food, weight, overeating, diets, over-exercise, restricting were all SYMPTOMS. The problem went MUCH deeper than all of those.

I became an expert at dieting, and ultimately dieted (yes, DIETED) my way to 240+ pounds. The exact number? I will never know. I was afraid to step on the scale. After all, if you don't weigh, you never gain. Right?

Late 1987 I ended up at a therapist. I told her that I was afraid my weight was affecting my marriage. I DIDN'T confess that I was suicidal, couldn't stop eating, and had been sleeping in the guest room for three and a half years because my husband couldn't stand the obesity. After a couple sessions she referred me to Overeaters Anonymous. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. For several months after my first meeting I continued to see the therapist, but I was also attending meetings, working with a sponsor, doing the steps, and abstinent. I identified a Plan of Eating right for me, took the first three steps within a week of finding a sponsor, and began work on the Fourth Step. Soon I contacted my sponsor, and did the Fifth Step. It was now time to look at the nature of wrongs (defects of character) identified in the inventory, become willing to let go of those defects and have God remove all the shortcomings.

I wish I could blithely say I did all that and those defects disappeared, forever removed from my life. Not so. For me dealing with shortcomings, character defects, wrongs - whatever you want to call them - has been an ongoing process that is a part of my life. I have worked on defects as I made amends, did Tenth Steps, prayed and meditated, worked with others, carried the message and tried to practice the principles of the program.

I am not a person who came into program, got abstinent, lost weight, and never picked up the food again. I truly wish I were, but that has not been part of my process. I have had one, maybe more relapses in program. The first occurred about a year into program when major stress struck and I picked up the food again. I continued to work the steps, use the tools and try to put down the food again, but it took about fifteen months to again become abstinent. Following the relapse my recovery blossomed. I lost 108 pounds, acheived a normal weight, and maintained my abstinence and that level of recovery through some very rough times. No, life's problems were not magically solved by being abstinent and at a normal weight. But I was able to walk through some of the most difficult, frightening and painful times of my life and do it without excess food by living the program one day at a time.

The "maybe more" reference to relapses refers to the last several years. I have a chronic respiratory problem which has become much worse in the last several years. It forced my retirement on disability 3 years ago, and has continued to cause major problems. Frequently this condition necessitates the use of high doses of steroid medication. In the last five and a half years, I have been on steroids for all but about 8 months.

Corticosteroids have a couple of side effects devastating to compulsive overeaters: they cause weight gain whether abstinent or not, and incredible, ravenous hunger - true for BOTH compulsive overeaters and "normies". Throughout this time, I have worked my program, done service, worked with a sponsor, taken regular tenth steps, done additional fourth steps and usually been abstinent. There have also been times I could not fight the hunger any longer and overate. Relapse? I honestly don't know. Possibly, or maybe it is just the medication. I know that as soon as the dose is below a certain point I am able to put down the food without problem and the weight begins to come off. Meanwhile, during this time, I gained weight and hit the highest weight in my life just over a year ago.

At present I have lost more than 25 pounds, am abstinent, and continue to live the program to the best of my ability. For me, that means I have a Plan of Eating I follow, maintain regular contact with my sponsor (usually 5 or more times a week), attend two or more meetings a week, sponsor several people, give service at the personal, group, and Intergroup level, practice daily prayer and meditation, and complete a daily written Tenth Step. For me, this is a way of living. I don't work my program, I live it!!

Part of my program is continually looking at my defects of character and when they come up asking that they be removed. I would like to get into the specifics of the Seventh Step beginning tomorrow.

Thank you for letting me share and letting me be of service.

Yours in Recovery,

Linda E.

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Step Seven ~ Part 1

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

Hello Again, Fellow Travelers,

Today we begin our study of Step Seven which reads:

******"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."******

For me, this has been one of the most challenging of the steps. I don't think it is ever finished. Just as soon as I think the defects are mostly gone, they pop up in another form.

Step Seven begins with a small but powerful word: Humbly. One thing I learned early in program was to spend time with the dictionary ensuring I completely understand the meaning of the words in the steps. Bill W., the author of the Big Book and of the steps, used words precisely. If I am to understand what was meant, I must comprehend the meaning of the words. Hence, a trip to the dictionary to define "humbly." The word humbly is an adverb, derived from the word humble. My trusty dictionary defines humble as follows: 1) free from pride or vanity; modest; meek; unassuming. 2) lowly in station, rank, condition, etc.; unpretentious; modest. 3) servile; fawning. 4) respectful.

How very different this was from my initial take on the step, when I equated the word humble with humiliation. I had enough of being humiliated prior to program. It wasn't easy to have a child point at me and shout, "Daddy, look at the fat lady!" That was humiliating, yet it happened. That's just one of the incidents causing humiliation. But the steps calls for me to be humble - NOT humiliated.

Humble is something I can do. It means to take this step without pride or vanity, being respectful to the God of my understanding. Yes, this I could do.

Now, on to shortcomings, the last word in the step. What is a shortcoming? Back to the dictionary! Shortcoming is defined as "a failure or deficiency in character, action, etc." That means my shortcomings are those parts of my character, my personality, where I am deficient, where I lack the full measure of a trait I should have.

But how do I know what my deficiencies are? Identifying these defects of character was, in part, the reason for Steps Four and Five. In completing a searching and fearless moral inventory I look at myself to find out the exact nature of my wrongs. The nature of something is its fundamental characteristic. The nature of my wrongs stem from my defects of character, my shortcomings.

This brings me back to the middle portion of the step - asking God. Here I was very fortunate, or so I thought at the beginning. I had grown up in church and developed a relationship with God as a child. In Step Three I'd turned my will and life over to the care of this God. No problem! For that matter, the God of my understanding, the one of my childhood, had taken an active part in my early days in program coming up with some co-incidences (God incidents) that were just short of miraculous.

As time went on, I found that the problem with my program was that I didn't really TRUST God. I held back, and was afraid to really give my thoughts and actions to Him - to really put myself in God's charge. Because of my fears and lack of trust, God could not really remove those defects. I continued to try to run the show myself. In a way, I didn't believe that God COULD remove those defects of character. So I held back, held on to dealing with them myself. As time passed, I became aware of this and slowly changes began to take place. But we'll get to that next week.

Meanwhile, we have now grasped the essentials of Step Seven. Here are a few questions for your consideration:

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Step Seven ~ Part 1: Questions

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

1. What were my shortcomings, my defects of character, identified in the previous steps?

2. How do I take this step with humility? Does this require a change in attitude on my part? Explain.

3. Is this a step I take just once or do I consider it an ongoing part of life? Why or why not?

4. Do I have a God of my understanding, a Higher Power, who will remove my shortcomings? Who, what is this Higher Power?

Thank you for letting me share. I look forward to reading YOUR shares on this step and on the questions. Please feel free to join in.

Hugs from Las Vegas,


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Step Seven ~ Part 2

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

Hello again, Fellow Travelers,

Today we continue with our study of Step Seven:

*****Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.*****

Last week I talked about how I held back from allowing God to take my shortcomings, how I continued to try to run the show myself because of my lack of trust.

The problem with trusting God was made *painfully* evident at a meeting after I had been in program for a while. We were studying step 11, and the meeting speaker was leading us in a meditation. It was a guided imagery meditation, and the gist of the meditation is as follows:

We were asked to close our eyes, and imagine walking down a hallway. At the end of the hall was a door, and as we walked toward the door it opened and a bright light was shining out of the door. We were told that the light was our Higher Power, and we were to reach out to that Higher Power.

When we were told to reach out to God, my immediate, automatic reaction was to pull my arms back so violently that the elbows struck the wall right behind my chair. (I SAID it was painful! ;D ) Up until that moment I didn't even realize that I didn't trust God - but the reaction was so automatic and powerful it would have been impossible NOT to recognize the existence of a problem. This was obviously something I had to work on, but how?

Over the next weeks I spent a lot of time in introspection. I realized that lack of trust stemmed back to my father's death when I was 7. I'd been told my father died "because God needed him in heaven." Hence, I blamed God for my father's death. If God, this Creator, this Higher Power could take a Daddy from a 7-year old child, how COULD I trust Him? To carry that thought further, how could I then turn my will and life over to this God, and WHY would I then put God in charge of my defects? I'd end up in worse shape than I already was!!

Oh, gosh, back to the drawing board. And I thought I'd already worked through all those things and was up to Step 7. Time to back-track. How was I ever going to get anywhere?

Part of what I had to do was to re-think my concept of God, realizing that I had some pretty childish notions and that it was about time to grow up. I thought, I wrote, I talked to my sponsor, I prayed. I wrote a want ad for God so I could do as was suggested in the Big Book: define my own conception of God.

I did a LOT of reading to see how others viewed God, to see what the religious materials from my church and various religions had to say about God. I worked on letting go of the "gotcha God" of my youth and replaced it with the God of love, the caring and nurturing God I found in what I read. But it took time for the image I had to change and it took work to change from a person who VERY MUCH did NOT trust God on a SUB-conscious level and to one who could have even the beginnings of faith. And the truth is, that this was an ongoing process for a very, VERY long time. *I* could not just develop trust overnight after I had lived without it for 30 years. I needed time. But with prayer and work, the trust began and started to grow.

The miracle of this program is that I don't need to make the changes overnight, and that I CAN back up and work some more on any given area whenever that is needed.

Up to this point it seemed as though I had made little progress with the defects. I tried so hard to turn things around, but it wasn't easy. It felt like I was fighting every step of the way. As time passed I realized more and more that *I* was never going to make any progress as long as I was trying to remove my defects myself. The step says "Humbly asked HIM to remove our shortcomings." It doesn't say "humbly strove to remove our own shortcomings." Self cannot overcome self. I could not make myself good - or honest, or accepting or anything else. The change had to come through God as I understood God. So, having come to this realization, slowly I was more and more willing to have God in charge and to trust the God of my understanding with all aspects of my life, including the removal of my defects of character. It was in this manner changes slowly began to take place as I let go of those things identified as objectionable in steps 4 and 5.

I would like to offer some questions for your consideration this week, and then next week we can look at some specific defects of character.

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Step Seven ~ Part 2: Questions

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

1. Do I trust my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings? If yes, why hasn't this happened before? If no, what can I do to increase the level of my trust? What specific action should I take next?

2. Is the Higher Power I have strong enough to remove my defects? If not, do I need to change my concept of God? What changes need to be made? What does my Higher Power look like - describe this God of my understanding.

3. In Step 7 I am to ask God to remove my shortcomings. How do I go about giving these defects to God?

4. Do I expect God to do all the work in removing my shortcomings? What, if anything, is my responsibility in this step?

Thank you for letting me share on this step.

Yours in Recovery,


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Step Seven ~ Part 3

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

Dear Companions on the Road to Happy Destiny,

Today we continue with our study of Step Seven as we move forward with recovery.

As we took inventory in Step Four, and admitted our wrongs in Step Five, we identified our defects of character. These wrongs, defects, shortcomings are what block us from "the Sunlight of the Spirit" as Bill W. calls it in the Big Book. The defects are what cut us off from God, and since the entire purpose of a 12-step program and of recovery is to have a spiritual awakening, to come closer to God, we must let go of the defects that block us from God's will and thus from the power needed to recover.

What are the defects? The defects are the characteristics of self-will and there are many of these. Among them are selfishness, self-seeking, resentment, fear, intolerance, judgmental and critical attitudes. Then there are the seven deadly sins: Pride, Anger, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Sloth. And the list continues: self-centered, self-pity, impatience, gossip, doubt, resentments, suspicion and hurting others. There are other defects, but recognizing these at least gives us a place to start.

In general, the AA literature, from whence the 12-Step programs of recovery stem, indicate that our defects generally stem in one way or another from our reaction to threats to the Basic Instincts of Self. Our basic instincts are Social, Security (Emotional, Material and Physical), and Sexual. What happens when one of these is threatened? For example, if my co-worker threatens to tell the boss I've been falsifying monthly reports, playing computer games at my desk, and using the company copier for personal business. Depending on the boss and the company, I may lose my job!! There go the defects in full battle gear!! Anger. Resentment. Self-pity. Desire to retaliate. Fear. Critical of the other person - how dare she when she's always late!

Why such a reaction? Well, a threat of that sort affects all of these Basic Instincts doesn't it? Many friendships are through work and my self-esteem and self confidence will be nil. (Threat to Social Instinct) Then if the job is gone and I can't pay the bills I might lose my car, my house, end up on the street, my emotions destroyed. (Definite threat to Security Instincts) My husband will be angry and might leave me. (Threat to both Sexual and Security Instinct)

But I learned in doing the Fourth and Fifth Steps that most of the time I put myself in the situation to be threatened and write the scenario myself. Let's say the above were to happen and assume the statements by the co-worker were true. How did I contribute to the situation? Well, if those statements were true, I did something wrong in the first place. I was being greedy, selfish, self-seeking. I lied about what I was doing. I broke trust with my boss. I hurt the company by failing to do my job properly and using company property and time for something other than its intended purpose. I am NOT the poor victim here -- I did something wrong.

Most of the wrongs, shortcomings and defects of character (all those phrases refer to the same thing) show up in my actions when there is a threat of some sort or when I am being selfish and self-centered. They come from SELF. Many times they serve a purpose of one sort or another. Sometimes they are coping mechanisms that helped us through a particularly bad time but then took over our lives. I think that for me there is a little of that with the food. Although I was already showing signs of a lot of self-will and what I can at this stage identify as characteristics typical of a compulsive overeater with the food before my father's death, I REALLY began to abuse the food when my father died. The food was, at that point, a coping mechanism. I think the abuse of the food became worse when I was sexually molested and then even worse when the health issues began at 13. It progressed with each trauma. At each point I used it to cope. It served a purpose and maybe even helped me to survive through these tragedies. BUT, I continued to use the food in an abusive fashion. It took over my life.

Other defects can be assets that go wrong. I tend to be very attentive to details, organized, a good manager, and a reliable worker. All of those are good traits. But they can be subverted and become DEFECTS when I take those traits to an extreme. This is true when I start demanding that others do things my way, when I attempt to control the actions of others and delegate tasks but then try to "manage" (control) from the side-lines and never let go of the reins.

Another trait is that I have always been a person to whom others have come with problems -- to talk and to ask for help. Being helpful, caring, loving and accepting is good. But it can become a defect when I expend all my energy in giving and doing and fail to properly care for myself and my health needs. That is using an asset and gift from my Higher Power (being loving, nurturing and caring) and turning it into a liability where others get hurt. When I over-do on commitments and start giving too much of myself, I become sick, end up in the hospital, and this hurts my husband, my close friends who end up taking care of me, and of course it hurts myself.

There are so many other defects I've manifested. Pride is one in all of its manifestations. Taking pride in accomplishment and doing a task well is normal; it is healthy; it is natural. However there are many ways in which it manifests as one of the "Seven Deadly Sins." Pride can show itself as thinking I am better than anyone else, that I am the one with all the right answers, that everything must be done MY way, that I don't need to listen to anyone else and so have a closed mind. Conversely, pride can also show its ugly head in the form of poor self-esteem, feeling less-than or worse than anyone else, feeling I don't have the right to live or to take up space in the world, feeling that I am a bother to everyone. There is a saying in program that comes from this. We are often referred to as "Ego-maniacs with poor self-esteem." Well, that was me!!

Now, why is awareness of defects and working Step Seven so important? Well, I tend to see Steps 6 and 7, often the most overlooked part of the program, as the key to recovery. They are, to me, the crux of the program. How can they be so important? There are only TWO little paragraphs in the Big Book that really talk about those steps. Aren't you exaggerating Linda? No, I don't think so.

The entire purpose of the 12-Step way of life is to achieve a spiritual awakening. The need for this is referred to time and again in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, including three asterisks in the first 47 pages. Step 12 tells us "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps". The spiritual awakening is, based on that statement, the GOAL of these steps. But then, what is a spiritual awakening?

Appendix II in the Big Book (page 569) talks about both the spiritual experience and the spiritual awakening, pointing out that the terms are used interchangeably in the Big Book. It then goes on to define these terms as a "personality change sufficient to bring about recovery". Where does the personality undergo some of the greatest changes? In Step Seven where we ask God to remove our defects of character.

Does this happen overnight? Do I just wake up the next day a changed person? For some of us the answer is yes. That is certainly what I wanted and even what I expected at first. I thought would change dramatically, but I didn't. However, I could see from the start where things began to change in me. Fears were removed, I became less defensive and also less aggressive. I was able to face and admit to mistakes. I used food less and less as a coping mechanism and was able to let it go effortlessly over time. The desire to overeat has for now been removed. I am less angry, less determined to show I am right. I can offer suggestions and let go of controlling the result. I am able to give of myself and support others, but have also been given the ability to walk away from people, places and situations that are unhealthy. The result is that I am able to lead a happier and more fulfilling life than ever before and to do it without the food.

Having looked at so many aspects of this step over the last few weeks -- the meaning of the step, the role of our Higher Power in this step, the nature of our character defects, and the central purpose of the step in recovery, next week we will explore how the personality change can come into being.

Thank you so much for letting me share and participate in this part of your journey to recovery. I look forward to being with you next week.

Yours in recovery,

Linda in Las Vegas

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Step Seven ~ Part 3: Questions

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

1. Do I REALLY believe that I need to change more than just how I eat? Why or why not?

2. How have my shortcomings impacted my life?

3. What three defects of character are causing me the greatest problems? Explain.

4. What would I be like without these defects?

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Step Seven ~ Part 4

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

A final Hello for my Fellow Companions!

Today is the last day for our sojourn in Step Seven where we "Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings."

Let's take a close look at what it will mean to rely on God to remove those traits that block us from Him. First, it means reaching out to God with a request. Asking is something I'm not very good at. Like many in the Fellowship, I went through life relying on myself. Over achievement was part of how I made myself acceptable to the world - or at least to my own eyes. In many ways and for many years, I was the highest power I knew. If something needed to be done, I did it myself. This need for independence - to trust and rely only on myself - reached ridiculous portions at times. I wasn't good at asking others, and of course did not trust God so why would I ask Him?

But Step Seven is all about asking and trusting. I need to be free of pride and self-reliance, to reach out and ask God to help me let go of the worst parts of me, including some of the very ways that helped me to get through life. The Step Seven prayer on page 76 says it better than I ever could: "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."

Is that all we do? Yes, and no. Some people suggest using a list of our defects to name each, and ask God to remove each one. That is one way. My method was to review the defects, to look at what they did TO me (the harm they caused me) as well as what they did for me (what role they played in coping with life). I did this review over a few days writing about each of the defects I had identified. Following that, I used the Seventh Step Prayer with as complete awareness as I could muster, asking God to remove those traits.

I also believe that Step Seven is a cooperative effort. These are the Steps *WE* took, they are not the Steps God took. If I am a dishonest person, I cannot make myself honest. If I am a selfish and self-centered person, I cannot make myself unselfish and concerned with others. Self cannot overcome self. I cannot make myself *good* nor can I remove my defects. However, I cannot work my program and deliberately act in a way contrary to God's will. Recently I was at the store making a purchase. In ringing up the sale I noticed the clerk had one price on the register, but a minute later when she charged my credit card there was a lower price on the charge slip. I was certain she had missed one item or perhaps accidentally deleted it in applying the sale discount. When she handed me the slip, I looked, verified the mistake, and pointed it out to her so she rang up the missed item separately. Would I always have done that? I don't know. I usually was pretty honest in "cash register" situations. Regardless of whether that was a normal behavior for me or not, I must do my best to act as I believe God would have me. A second of asking said God would want me to point out the error. This is what I believe my part is in Step Seven.

Once I have asked God to remove my defects, I believe it is my role to rely on my Higher Power for guidance. How does this work? In any situation, I try to remember to ask for help and guidance. How would God want me to behave in this situation? I have given Him my will and my life - my thoughts and my actions. What is His guidance for this moment? Then I try to act as I believe I have been directed to act or as I think God would want me to behave. Sometimes I the direction seems very clear to me; other times I have no idea so I have to make a guess as to what the kind, loving, honest, or unselfish action would be. Then I take a stab at it.

Do I mess up? You better believe!! There are times I do totally wrong things with the best intentions. There are times I forget to ask HP for direction and screw up that way. There are times I fall into old patterns just out of sheer habit. Do I do better than I did in years past. YES! No, I don't always do the right thing; but I am living more in God's will than I did for many, many years. Are the shortcomings all gone? Again, no they are not. But they seem to be less than they were for a long, long time and I trust that as each year in recovery passes I will continue to grow to live more and more in God's will for me.

What do I do when I make a mistake? I acknowledge that a defect has again surfaced. I ask God to remove it again and to help me be more aware of how to act better in the future. If the opportunity arises, I discuss it with my sponsor and get feedback from her. I do my best to avoid falling into negative thinking by acknowledging that I am human and that I am to strive for growth in this program.

The glory of the 12-Step program is that I don't have to be perfect today. Nor must I aim for perfection tomorrow, or the next day or the next. We seek progress and growth - not perfection. As long as I am achieving growth and progress toward the person my Higher Power wants me to be, I will be recovering from the disease of compulsive overeating.

Thank you for the privilege of sharing on Step Seven. I have enjoyed the opportunity to participate in this year's study.



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Step Seven ~ Part 4: Questions

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

1. Identify a defect currently causing difficulty. How can I cooperate with my Higher Power as He removes that defect?

2. What do I do when a shortcoming returns?

3. Do I trust God to remove my shortcomings or do I still cling to some behaviors from fear? What do I fear would happen if I let go of this defect?

4. What are three defects where I have made progress in letting go? Identify the changes that have taken place? Has this been God's work, or mine? Why?

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