Definition of humility: Modest or low view of one’s own importance.
Humility in recovery is a little bit tricky, as one might see from reading the Step 7 Chapter in the OA 12 and 12. It’s tricky for compulsive overeaters because we often already struggle with a low view of ourselves, or low self-esteem, so how can true humility be a good thing for us? Won’t we just feel even worse about ourselves? Can I really think less of myself than I already do? Is that really what this step is telling me I need to do?
I don’t think so. First of all, the step is really simply suggesting we ask our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings. The word “humbly” is the suggestion of the attitude we have when we make this request.
Hey, God, take away my shortcomings, right now!!! Not humble. Hey, Higher Power, I want to be perfect now. I’m ready. Do your thing! Again, not humble. I want to be better than my brother, so, Universe, take away my character defects! Um, no.
Okay, how about this? Dear Lord, I am a horrible, awful, no-good person, and I would really appreciate it if you would now fix everything that is wrong with me so I don’t have to feel so horrible all the time. Now, we’ve gone off the deep end the other way!
Here are some things I picked up in the reading. Humility is not low self-esteem. Humility is an awareness of who we really are, and a willingness to become all that we can be. Humility puts us on equal footing with our fellow human beings, and in harmony with God. I want my defects removed so that I can be a more useful instrument of my Higher Power. Humility is a gift, a miracle of healing.
I believe that humility is not something I can work up, or demand, or even strive for. Trying to be humble never works for me. When I am trying to be humble, It usually ends up being a false humility, designed to make me seem more pious or together or Godly. The attempt to “play” the part of humility is actually done so that people will think better of me. Almost feels like a vicious circle to me.
So I can’t pretend I am humble, and I can’t make myself be humble. What can I do? I can desire humility, and I can ask my Higher Power to grant me the gift of humility. And, as it pertains to this step, I can ask for my shortcomings to be removed while also approaching God with a sense of being right-sized. That is what humility truly means to me at this point in my journey: I don’t think too much of myself, but I also don’t think too little of myself.
How do I know if I am truly humble? The OA 12 and 12 mentions a couple of specific things. One is that when we see a character defect reappear after it has been removed for a time, we do not become discouraged or shocked. I have to admit that I am not there yet. I do feel surprised when one of my defects rears its head after being gone for a while. Just the other day, I had an experience like one spoken of on page 64. I had a bad day with food, and I wanted to tell my sponsor that I was a terrible human being who was completely failing at life. I told her that I was feeling really bad, but I was going to get back up and move forward. The OA 12 and 12 says that in that situation we “repeatedly affirm to ourselves the truth about ourselves – that we are becoming honest, caring, nurturing, wise, and effective human beings as we practice our new behaviors day by day.” Wish I had read that earlier this week, because I do believe this is true about me, but my first reaction was not to say this at all. The good news is that I did not beat myself up for very long, and I did, indeed, get right back on track.
This chapter uses the word “humble” or “humility” 29 times, which I found interesting considering that the actual principles in the previous steps were really hardly mentioned at all. And I also found interesting the fact that the AA Big Book again devotes only one, single paragraph to this step. It simply gives us the 7th Step prayer, and says that once we say it, we have completed Step 7. Won’t you say it with me right now? Out loud, if at all possible.
Lord, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you would remove every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellow man. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do your bidding. Amen.
1. Do you find Step 7 an “easy” step or a “difficult” one personally?
2. Has your understanding of the character of humility changed since you have started working the Steps? If so, in what way(s)?
3. How do you feel about humility being a gift versus something you can try to achieve?
4. Please share with us anything in the reading of Step 7 in the OA 12 and 12 that spoke to you personally.
5. How do you treat yourself when one of your character defects presents itself in your daily walk?
6. Do you think too little of yourself, too much of yourself, or do you feel balanced in this regard?
I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and participating in this Step Study. The study this week has taught me that while I may not feel qualified to lead the study in this way, I am actually on even footing with my fellows in recovery, and in harmony with my Higher Power, as I work these Steps, one day at a time, with a sponsor, to the best of my ability.
May you all be blessed with strong recovery and a sense of who you truly are this week.
The Twelve Steps
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