It has been true for me, that not only is the seventh step mostly about humility, but I believe that humility is the underlying principle of every step in this program. Humility, as it turns out, is the key to teachability, forgiveness, right sizing, realistic expectations, serenity. In fact, I have often taken pen to paper and written out the serenity prayer substituting humility for serenity (and wisdom) in order to see a situation more peacefully: God grant me the humility to accept the things I cannot change, the humility to change the things I can, and the humility to know the difference. With humility comes serenity. If we’ve taken the 5th step in the spirit of how it’s intended, we now have some words to describe what we’ve been doing that hasn’t gone so well thus far. Putting aside any thoughts of justifying our behavior, we can admit that there’s plenty about us that could use a little tweaking, a little polishing up, or downright transformation. An attitude of humility will pave the way.
Humility is not humiliation. This comes up often in program with people who aren’t yet acquainted with the value of a humble spirit. Some of us do experience some humiliation when we realize just what we did with others. I was often mortified when I looked with sober and abstinent eyes at how I had behaved in the past. For example, I had a very consistent history of getting fired from very good executive jobs when I was actively using. At the time, when I was spoken to about my behavior (mostly insubordination and lack of cooperation with co-workers) I really believed they were idiots for not “getting” me. I’d leave those jobs with a smug attitude of what a bunch of jerks. After I got some recovery under my belt, I looked back and saw the situation very differently. I saw that these people gave me every chance to change before they had to let me go. I saw that my attitudes were disrespectful and arrogant. I felt humbled by all the great jobs I lost, and by the kindness that was shown me in every situation. Eventually I was able to write some letters to these employers acknowledging that I was a pretty difficult employee to have on board, and I remember them as being very nice people to work with. I finally felt some humility in looking back at how I stampeded through my profession without caring who got hurt or left behind. Right-sized is a good phrase to ponder for achieving humility. Many addicts need to feel above it all, or below it all – extremes, when the realistic place is often somewhere in the middle.
Working with a sponsor, or someone who can help us get clear on the behavior that we wish to have God lift, we imagine what constructive behavior would replace the old behavior, and ask God to help us have the humility to start practicing the new behavior.
A word of caution: many character defects go and come and go and come again. I wouldn’t get discouraged to find out that something that we thought was lifted, has come back. Living life on a spiritual basis is a constant awareness of how we are in the world, self inventory, restitution, faith, and good works.
Questions for reflection:
What are your feelings about humility as it applies to resolving conflicts with people who do or say things that you do not like?
Have you had any “aha!” moments where assuming an attitude of humility has helped you feel better about a previously unresolved resentment you have had?
As far as you understand yourself today, how would becoming ‘right-sized’ be helpful to you in navigating your way through life?
What is one action you will add to your spiritual practice to begin a lifelong partnership with God to be free of destructive character defects?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps