Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Seven Essay
"When ready, we say something 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. Amen.' We have then completed Step Seven." (AABB, page 76)
If we have been honest while completing the last six steps, then we have probably already accomplished two important things that we need for working this seventh step. One is that we have developed a list of our character defects. The second is, that by going through this process of identifying these character defects, we have begun to achieve a state of humility. We have taken a painstaking look at our lives and seen that we do indeed have flaws in our character, flaws that go beyond that of simply being a compulsive overeater. Having arrived at the conclusion that we are unable to remove these defects of character through willpower or other humanly means, we are now ready to recite the above prayer or to voice the idea in any words of our own choosing that offer these defects to our Higher Power.
But before we do, I would like to discuss some of the points presented in this short paragraph from our Big Book. Many of us fear that by taking this step, we will lose our own identity and our desires and that we will become these "perfect" beings that we generally equate with leading a quite dull existence. Some of us have defects or vices that we can't find the willingness to give up so we balk at this step. We fear giving up our last pleasures in life. And even if we do have the willingness to offer them up to our Higher Power, we are overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of ever living up to such ideals. We dread the thought of fighting these character defects off, knowing that we are all too human and are bound to fail, and are unwilling to indulge in what we see as the hypocritical nature of one who professes a spiritual change yet fails to adhere to these spiritual principles.
Beyond the reciting of our prayer, there is no difficult work involved in the seventh step. Nowhere does it say that WE are assuming the responsibility for removal of our character defects. As in Step Three, we are merely offering it to our Higher Power and it is then up to our Higher Power to do something with it. It clearly says in the text that "I pray that YOU now remove from me...." Maybe our character defects will be removed, maybe they won't, but it isn't up to us. It only says in the step that we are willing for our Higher Power to remove them and that this willingness is to be expressed through prayer. This may lead some people to ask how we are to be rid of any character defects at all if we don't at least help by lending our own will to them or to suggest that since we can't remove them ourselves, then we have free reign to indulge in them to our heart's content. If you stop at Step Seven, I guess this may be true, but that is why we still have five steps remaining! It is also worth noting that in addition to our defects, we are also offering those good traits we have to our Higher Power.
So what defects are we expressing a willingness to have our HP remove? All of them on our list of character defects that we wrote in the previous steps? Again, the text is very clear on this matter. All we are asking is that those defects be removed which stand in the way of our being helpful to others or to our Higher Power, which is probably the same thing. This is a very important concept in that it introduces the cornerstone of what will become our 12th step and thus enables us to achieve lasting recovery. We are asking for the removal of these defects, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. This begins our journey out of selfishness and self-centeredness and into a life we could never have imagined in the past. The miracle of this journey is that it is a gift given to us as a result of our willingness, not as a result of our efforts.
We take our list of character defects in hand, much like we did in Step Six. We look at each character defect individually and give some thought to how holding on to that defect may hamper our ability to reach out to others. If unsure of what that is, it can be helpful to review how it interfered in our relationships with others in the past. We ask our Higher Power to do deal with it whenever and however our Higher Power wants. We express our willingness to have that shortcoming removed through our seventh step prayer. We ask that the removal of these shortcomings be used not for our own satisfaction, but so that we can help others.
Having done so, we have completed Step Seven. Most of us, if we look back on our lives and compare it to our lives since we began working the steps, are easily able to see a huge difference in our attitudes towards ourselves and towards others. The progress may have been too subtle to notice week by week, but when the total of our experience is examined, we can't deny that we have gone through some fairly novel and drastic changes. We have begun to realize that our Higher Power has done for us what we could not do on our own, despite a lifetime of effort!