Step 7 – “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
“My Humility Can Kick Your Humility’s Ass” — some silly little humor about humility. What makes the joke funny is that humility is a subject that one cannot obtain and then talk about obtaining, at least about talking in the first person. However, we do want to make progress on that goal, or to attain some level of humility. The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions states it is the founding principle of each of A.A.’s Twelve Steps. That’s right, all 12 steps. Without humility, not one of us can stay sober or obtain much happiness.
Humility is directly tied to our Spiritual connection. To use an illustration, think of a gauge such as a gas gauge or pressure gauge, with the sides indicating “humility” and “arrogance.” When our Spiritual connection is flowing in a healthy direction that is healthy, the indicator needle will move to the humility side or at least move to some degree away from the arrogant side of the gauge.
Is humility obtainable? Is it something you can practice? Are there levels of it? The 7th Step Prayer asks “Him” (capital H, so that is a reference to God) to remove our shortcomings. Are we to demand they be removed? Pray about it? Think them away? Worse yet, wish them away? Being humble is the first part, but how we start the process of obtaining some real, measurable degree of humility that will make a difference.
When asking God for anything, it is first based on a relationship, we know from our book page 53, that “God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t.” So, believing He is everything, we need not demand, beg or be arrogant when we ask for Him to remove our shortcomings. We are to approach God with respect, and that respect is a form of humility. In so doing, we are taking baby steps in humility. In every case, pain has been the price of admission to a new life.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 66 (Step 6 with amplification in parentheses):
“… Practically everybody wishes to be rid of his most glaring and destructive handicaps. (The Seven Sins) No one wants to be so proud (sin 1) that he is scorned as a braggart, nor so greedy (sin 2) that he is labeled a thief. No one wants to be angry (sin 3) enough to murder, lustful (sin 4) enough to rape, gluttonous (sin 5) enough to ruin his health. No one wants to be agonized by the chronic pain of envy (sin 6) or to be paralyzed by sloth (sin 7). Of course, most human beings don’t suffer these defects at these rock-bottom levels.”
We are asking God in Step 6 — “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character,” such as fear and resentments, that lead to our bad conduct. Step 7 is the beginning of the removal of our shortcomings or bad qualities and behaviors, such as resentments, greed, dishonesty, laziness, and criticism, and asking Him to replace those shortcomings with their opposites, namely kindness, humility, generosity, truthfulness, work, and praise. For example, if we tend to be self-serving, we pray to Him to be of service to others, and follow it up with action: go and be of service to others at your next meeting.
Moving backward to Step 5 we find the “Exact Nature” of our wrongs. It is not meant to be a long list of all our failings; rather, it is a list which sums up what was our part, or defect, like being selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, frightened, or prideful. Those are the defects “we are entirely ready to have God remove” in Step 6. Now, in step 7, we humbly ask Him to decrease our shortcomings by having Him increase the corresponding opposite attribute, both in prayer and action.
The Guide to Humility
In conclusion, it is ironic that the very quality that is the foundation principle of each of the Twelve Steps of A.A., humility, has the least ability to be taught or transmitted to others. It is a fragile state, such that, if we claim humility, it is automatically forfeit. Without it, however small the quantity, the The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions assures us that no alcoholic can stay sober at all. Nearly all AA.’s in my experience have found that without humility happiness, true happiness, is likewise unattainable. Humility hones our sense of purpose for our lives; makes us “right sized” and realistic in our self-assessments; what’s more, in adversity, our humility and faith will help us weather any storm.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 70:
“Indeed, the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of A.A.’s Twelve Steps. For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all. Nearly all A.A.’s have found, too, that unless they develop much more of this precious quality than may be required just for sobriety, they still haven’t much chance of becoming truly happy. Without it, they cannot live to much useful purpose, or, in adversity, be able to summon the faith that can meet any emergency.”
Three Levels (increases in the effort) of Humility
From the book, Sobriety and Beyond by Father Ralph Phau, He was the first Catholic Priest to recover from alcoholism through A.A.
- To speak as little of one’s own self or affairs as possible.
- To mind one’s own business.
- To avoid curiosity.
- Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
- To accept contradiction, or justice requiring and then only moderately with simplicity.
- To pass over the mistakes of others, to cover them up, even where prudent, to accept them.
- To yield to the will of others, where neither duty nor charity is involved.
- To hide one’s own ability or talent. (But to use it)
- To avoid ostentation. (pretentious display to impress others)
SECOND LEVEL (all of these powers are within us … But one can go further)
- To accept blame when innocent.
- To accept insult or injuries.
- To accept being disliked.
- Not to seek especially to be loved.
- Not to be put out in one’s own mistakes.
- To be kind and gentle, even under provocation.
- To accept. correction gladly.
- To yield discussion even when right.
- Not to be self-opinionated or self-assertive.
THIRD LEVEL (And if we fully understand that the perfection of humility is the perfection of loving God, we may even desire to still go further.}
- To rejoice when despised.
- To thank God when one is humiliated.
- To be glad of one’s lowliness.
- To be patient with one’s own failings.
- To meet failure-with a ready smile.
- To even glory in one’s own infirmities. (weaknesses)
Then it is that love is becoming ardent and true and constant…
(edited by JeanMarie M.)