For as long as I can remember, discussions of step seven have been about what humility is, who has it, how you acquire it, why itís so foreign to addicts, and why itís so important to true peace of mind and finding our true place in the world.
The OA step book does a pretty good job of explaining why humility is a character trait we need to develop in order to recover. As it says on pages 59 and 60, as our eating disorder made us more and more powerless over food and the consequences of compulsive eating, our self esteem looked desperately for someplace to excel, and many of us assumed character traits that convinced ourselves that we were better than others, smarter, more capable. The net result was that we placed ourselves above the human race as a coping mechanism to compensate for how ashamed we were about our compulsive eating. Many, many character defects were born by our desperate need to feel important in spite of our hopeless dependence on excess food and the way it made us feel.
So humility is the key to balance, to right-sizing ourselves in the world. Every defect that we have identified in our 5th step can be worked out of our personality with an attitude of humility.
One of the things that I have done to help me understand how humility can help me, is to use it in the serenity prayer: 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. Looking at the serenity prayer through the lens of humility, we can see how accepting ourselves as we are, good and bad, requires humility. Realizing that real work has to go into achieving success in life, especially good relations with others, requires humility. And finally Ė the ability to accept our limitations, that we are workers among workers, people among people, family members among family. We strive with this step to be a part of the human race, not above it, or below it.
The 7th step prayer is a helpful tool, it can be found on page 76 of the third edition of the Big Book of AA. The aim of this petition to God is to remove the defects that stand in the way of us being useful, loving people to all we encounter. Just as we looked to God to remove our compulsive eating habits, we now look to God to remove those defects of character that stand in the way of the balanced, and successful day to day interactions that will build our new and fulfilling lives.
For all my U.S. fellows, this week is Thanksgiving . For many of us Thanksgiving has been a front for excessive eating under the guise of holiday tradition. Also, for many of us it involves interactions with family members that we donít get along with, and therefore more reason to comfort ourselves with excess food. Perhaps this year you can go to your Thanksgiving table in reflection of the relationships you have with the people in your life, and begin your prayer to God to help you improve these relationships so that you can enjoy these people, while dining abstinently, when you share a meal with them.
Questions for reflection:
What does step seven mean to me and my particular character challenges?
What is the very important difference between humility and humiliation?
How will step seven help me to live abstinently?
Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. fellows, in loving service,
The Twelve Steps