Leader's Share and Step Questions
STEP Seven: "Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."
SusanB here, still trudging the road to happy destiny with each one of you participating in this WTS study.
I have a deadline to get all 12 Steps sent out in 12 weeks. On Mondays I send the step for the week and on Thursdays I resend that step. There is no pressure on you to keep up. Your pace of work and how you work each step belong to you and is something to discuss with your sponsor. So we can let go of all performance anxiety, let God be the Director and do the next right thing. But keep on keeping on! It has been an amazing journey so far!
I'm learning again that working steps Six and Seven is not up to us. It is something that our HP do FOR us. Our HP gives us the willingness to become ready in Step Six and then we come to God in humility in Step Seven. We cannot remove our shortcomings, but God can! In step Seven we allow God to do this for us.
I want to share my list of character defects (CDs) I made in August 2011 with you. As you can see this list was LONG!! I shared last week that I used a high lighter in my Step Four inventory to detect my grossest handicaps. I divided my CDs into those that were related to selfishness, dishonesty, self-seeking and fear:
done MY way.
prestige & money for hard work.
Want to be
competitors out of my life, because I don't want to be a loser.
& feeling used.
my frustrations on others.
& too busy with own things.
martyr than speak up.
things are OK when not.
under my breath but keep quiet.
myself look better.
truths or keeping quiet.
others faults & covering up.
Lie to get
away from difficult people.
true motives and feelings.
to be what I was not.
Doctor, position and prestige.
others to see me as an intellectual.
look-down by some.
was better because my father like her more – therefore I was
less and inferior.
no matter what.
less than when criticised.
love and attention.
others will be preferred above me.
of living and not having enough.
humiliation when attacked from the opposite side of the street.
husband will not love all his children equally.
faults in my children.
I had a huge sigh of relief as I realised that many of these CDs are gone today. As I revisited my list it was clear that I was trying to build a life where my ambitions and status seeking were gratified and fears were fueled by 'self':
“But whenever we had to choose between character and comfort, the character- building was lost in the dust of our chase after what we thought was happiness.” (AA 12 and 12, page 72)
As long as we placed self-reliance first, a genuine reliance upon a Higher Power was out of the question. That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God's will, was missing… …It was only by repeated humiliations that we were forced to learn something about humility. It was only at the end of a long road, marked by successive defeats and humiliations, and the final crushing of our selfsufficiency, that we began to feel humility as something more than a condition of groveling despair. (AA 12 and 12, page 72)
In a previous WTS (2012) SusanW shared: “An ‘ego-ectomy.’ :-) This is the ‘psychic change’ we addicts needs to make if we are to be free of our addiction. I want to be free of my addiction. I want to be free from the ‘bondage of self.’ I want to be free from food's ‘allure.’ I want to be free from my CD's. Don't you?”
Oh yes, I wanted to be FREE. And an “ego-ectomy” contributed to the transformation of some of my former faults into character assets. This is why Step Seven is my favourite step! I did not work one step seven without experiencing a ‘spiritual awakening’.
The AA 12 and 12 talks about “ego-puncturing”
“Our eyes begin to open to the immense values which have come straight out of painful ego-puncturing.” (AA 12 and 12, page 74)
My experience after working Steps Six and Seven is summed up in AA 12 and 12:
“By this time in all probability we have gained some measure of release from our more devastating handicaps. We enjoy moments in which there is something like real peace of mind. To those of us who have hitherto known only excitement, depression, or anxiety—in other words, to all of us—this newfound peace is a priceless gift.” (AA 12 and 12, page 74)
Am I a perfect person today? No. NO!!! But I’m much better. I’m not where I want to be (yet), I’m not where I used to be (thank goodness!) and I ACCEPT where I am today ~ making spiritual progress.
The principle of Step Seven is HUMILITY:
SEVENTH STEP PRAYER:
"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.
(AA Big Book, page 76)
THIRD STEP PRAYER:
God, I Offer myself to Thee-
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away My difficulties, that victory over them
may bear witness to those I would Help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always.”
(AA Big Book, page 63)
I want ask you to pray both these prayers out loud in a quiet place before you commence your reading.
Both these prayers have an important role in working Step Seven:
- In the third step prayer we are not yet aware of our liabilities and how they affect our lives. That is why we ask God to RELIEVE us of the bondage of self. This is in general.
- In the seventh step prayer we become aware of our liabilities, and can ask God to REMOVE them. This is specific.
Can you see the progress from Step Three to Step Seven? In Step Three we are relieved and in Step Seven these CDs are removed.
The word "AMEN" appears at the end of the seventh step prayer not at the end of the third step prayer.
Shlomo said in the WTS study earlier this year: “The word AMEN is used to close a prayer. We can look at those two prayers as two parts of one prayer. The first part is said at the beginning of the process when we are not yet completely aware of what we are asking, and the second part completes the process of turning to God since now we have done some work and are more aware of what to ask for.”
When I read through my list of 2011, the majority of these defects were removed, but some of them still crop up. Will I always have them? I have no idea. I know that the Big Book says:
"Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them." (AA Big Book, page 84)
Back to the principle of humility:
"The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God. The whole emphasis of Step Seven is on humility.” (AA 12 and 12, page 76)
In the AA 12 and 12 we see that a definition of humility is:
"a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere Attempt to become what we could be." (AA 12 and 12, page 58)
"a desire to seek and do God's will." (AA 12 and 12, page 72)
The AA Big Book, on the other hand, tells us what humility is NOT:
"We should be sensible, tactful, considerate and humble without being servile or scraping. As God's people we stand on our feet; we don't crawl before anyone." (AA Big Book, page 83)
We do not become doormats for others to step on. It means we are not pretending to be what we are not, but we become honest with ourselves and with others. I am what I am. I have both good and bad characteristics and I seek God’s will to become the best Susan I can be.
When we become humble we are on equal footing with the rest of the people of this world, neither above nor below anyone else. I become part of the human race and I learn a new way of living.
What this means, is that we have to place principles before personalities as stated in the twelfth tradition:
“12. ~ And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility” (AA Big Book, page 565 - 566).
Humility in this program means actions that express humility. Can you see that every step contains some humility?
- The admission of powerlessness in step one.
- Believing that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
- Deciding to turn our will and our life to the care of God.
- Making an inventory in step four and admitting our part.
- Sharing in step five.
- Being willing to have God remove our defects of character.
- Turning to God to remove our shortcomings.
- Making a list of people we have harmed.
- Making amends to the people we have harmed.
- Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting our wrongs promptly.
- Improving our contact with God and becoming willing to carry out HP’s will for us.
- Carrying the message and applying the principles in all our affairs.
- Sometimes my defects come back in different forms and by staying spiritually fit I can pick them up faster and deal with them in a daily Step Ten and clean up on my side of the street.
This is where honesty, open-mindedness and willingness come into play.
“We accept that each defect, as painful to us it may be, is a part of who we are. With humble acceptance we can quietly say to our Higher Power, ‘I am this way, and only with your help can I change.’” (OA 12 and 12, page 60)
God decides when and how to remove our CDs so that we can become more useful to God and to this world. The removal of shortcomings is not something that happens overnight. This is a process (not an event) of spiritual progress for the rest of our lives.
The Director of the show is in control:
“In Step Seven we began to understand the meaning of humility. We practice this principle today by continuing to let go of status seeking and of thoughts and actions by which we belittled ourselves and others, and to humbly trust God for the removal of our shortcomings. (OA 12 and 12, page 105)
“To those who have made progress in A.A., it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be." (AA 12 and 12, page 58)
"Though now recognized, our defects were still there. Something had to be done about them. And we soon found that we could not wish or will them away by ourselves." (AA 12 and 12, page 59)
We have to stop telling God what to do and how to do it. God is God, He is the Director and HE will remove our shortcomings in His time and His way.
Let us use an analogy: I went into dry cleaners and humbly asked them to clean my wool jacket, but I decided to go to their working area, took the jacket from their hands, and started to clean it myself, because I trusted myself better to do a proper job. In the end I did not ask them humbly to do anything, but took control and did it myself.
Step seven allows us to see that the responsibility for removing our CDs is God's job, not ours.
"We are obliged to choose between the pains of trying and the certain penalties of failing to do so. These initial steps along the road are taken grudgingly, yet we do take them. We may still have no very high opinion of humility as a desirable personal virtue, but we do recognize it as a necessary aid to our survival. But when we have taken a square look at some of these defects, have discussed them with another, and have become willing to have them removed, our thinking about humility commences to have a wider meaning. By this time in all probability we have gained some measure of release from our more devastating handicaps. We enjoy moments in which there is something like real peace of mind. To those of us who have hitherto known only excitement, depression, or anxiety--in other words, to all of us--this newfound peace is a priceless gift. Something new indeed has been added. Where humility had formerly stood for a forced feeding on humble pie, it now begins to mean the nourishing ingredient which can give us serenity." (AA 12 and 12, page 74)
After completion of our inventory we share it with our sponsor. We turn to God in prayer to remove our resentments and change our attitude towards the people we resent to an attitude of tolerance and patience and helpfulness. The actions we take after praying are to practice restraint. We avoid retaliation and argument.
Two true stories in the AA Big Book helps us to practice restraint and avoid retaliation:
- I the story ‘Acceptance Was The Answer’ (page 407), I learn make an effort to discover the good qualities of the person I resent. Then I write them down. It is very rare not to find any positive qualities in another person.
- In the story Freedom From Bondage (page 544) we pray for the person we resent and wish him/her all the good things we wish for ourselves (see page 552).
When I begin to accept and live in acceptance the problem goes away.
“The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God.” (AA 12 and 12, page 75).
“Great individuals are in a state of complete freedom from themselves; their character defects do not control them… Humility is trying to do God’s will as I see it, to the best of my ability, at all times, in all places.” (For Today, page 119)
(i) Reading for this week
- Read step Seven in the OA 12 and 12 and in the AA 12 and 12. The latter can be found online at: http://www.aa.org/twelveandtwelve/en_tableofcnt.cfm
- Read Chapter 6, "Into Action the seventh step prayer one page 76. Also read the third paragraph on page 83. Now read the third step prayer on page 63. Read pages 64-67 in the Big Book to see how this chapter deals with resentments. Then read page 67-68 to see what we do to handle fears and lastly read page 68-70 to understand our sex conduct and what we are expected to do here. The AA Big Book is available at: http://www.aa.org/twelveandtwelve/en_tableofcnt.cfm
- Read tradition 12 in the AA 12 and12. Pay special attention to the connection between anonymity and humility. Read it online at: http://www.aa.org/twelveandtwelve/en_tableofcnt.cfm
(ii) How did you define humility before OA? And now?
(iii) Listen to the following video (approximately eight minutes) and answer the following questions:
- What can we do about character defects that are stubborn?
- Can you suppress them, will them away or deny that they are there? So what now?
(iv) “A whole lifetime geared to self-centeredness cannot be set in reverse all at once.” (AA 12 and 12, page 73) Reflect on this quote.
(v) Read the seventh step prayer out loud to your sponsor (if it is possible). You may use words of your own but try to stay within the core meaning of the original Step Seven Prayer. That is the way to begin working step seven according to the Big Book.
(vi) Now take your list of CDs humbly to your HP. (When I worked Step Seven the first time, I sat in a comfortable chair with my laptop on my lap in my living room. My family were asleep and it was only God and I. I read through each item on my list and gave them to my HP to do as He willed. In August, 2011 I was alone in Saudi Arabia and gave these CDs to God on my knees.) I’ve read about how some burned their list after they shared them with their HP. Other individuals placed the list in a bottle and threw the bottle into the ocean, a lake, or a river.
- How did you give your CDs away to your HP?
- What were your feelings before, during and afterwards?
In loving fellowship
The Twelve Steps
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