In Loving Memory of Vic

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Step Seven

Step Seven

“We humbly ask him to remove our shortcomings.”

In Step Four, we uncovered the basic defects of our character. In Step Five, we admitted their existence. In Step Six, we became entirely ready to have them removed so that we could experience continued spiritual growth and recovery. Now, in Step Seven, we humbly ask our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings. When we ask our Higher Power to remove these shortcomings, we ask for freedom from anything which limits our recovery. We ask for help because we cannot do it alone.

Through working the previous steps, we see that attaining humility is necessary if we are going to live a clean life and walk a spiritual path. An attitude of humility is not the same as humiliation, nor is it a denial of our good qualities. On the contrary, an attitude of humility means that we have a realistic view of ourselves and our place in the world. In the Seventh Step, humility means understanding our role in our own recovery, appreciating our strengths and limitations, and having faith in a Power greater than ourselves. To work the Seventh Step, we must get out of the way so that God can do God’s work. Humbly asking for the removal of our shortcomings means we are giving complete license to that loving Power to work in our lives, believing that God’s wisdom far exceeds our own.

Even though we now possess some measure of humility, many of us may be somewhat confused by the word “humbly.” We may have taken it for granted that God would remove our shortcomings immediately upon request. Those of us with this attitude may have been surprised when our Higher Power didn’t comply with our request. On the other hand, some of us tried pleading with God to remove our shortcomings, guessing that would be a demonstration of humility.

We tried so hard to get it right. We were tired of our shortcomings. We were worn out from trying to manage and control them, and we wanted some relief. Oddly enough, this is precisely the attitude we hope to demonstrate in Step Seven, the attitude of humility. We admit defeat, recognize our limitations, and ask for help from the God of our understanding.

Asking our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings requires a surrender of a more pronounced nature than our initial surrender. That surrender, born of sheer despair over our powerlessness and inability to manage our lives, moves into an entirely new realm in the Seventh Step. In this new level of surrender, we accept not only our addiction but also the shortcomings related to our addiction. Accepting our addiction was the first move in the direction of accepting ourselves. We know something about ourselves because of our work in the previous steps, and our illusions of uniqueness have been overcome in the process. We know that we are neither more nor less important from anyone else. Understanding that we are not unique is a good indication of humility.

Patience is an essential ingredient of working this step. We may have difficulty with the notion of patience because our addiction accustomed us to instant gratification. But we’ve already been practicing the principles that make it possible for us to be patient. We simply need to expand on our Third Step decision to trust that God of our understanding with our will and our lives. If we only trusted that Power to a certain extent in Step Three, it’s time to increase our trust.

Because our view of what we can hope for may be limited, many of us can’t even begin to imagine what our Higher Power has in store for us. If this is the case for us, we must rely on faith. As in the previous steps, we simply have to believe that God’s will for us is good. Our faith gives us reason to hope for the best.

In working this step, we move away from intellectualizing the recovery process. Our concern is not to determine exactly how or when our shortcomings will be removed. It’s not our job to analyze this step. This step is a spiritual choice, a choice that goes beyond any emotional reaction or conscious act of will. To choose to bypass it would leave us with only a heightened awareness of our character defects and no hope for relief from those shortcomings. The resulting pain might well be unbearable.

We’ve seen our character defects, our faulty belief systems, and our unhealthy pattens of behavior. We’ve seen that we need to change but may not be aware that we’ve been changing since we first came to Narcotics Anonymous for help. We walked into our first meeting with a spiritual void. Some essential ray of spiritual light had been cut off. We had lost the ability to love, to laugh, and to feel. For so long people had looked into our eyes and had trouble seeing the human being behind the blank gaze. From our very first meeting, we sensed the love and acceptance of other NA members. We began to come back to life. What we are experiencing is a n awakening of the spirit-no less dramatic than it sounds. This awakening has been evident to those around us for quite some time, but the change is now so obvious that we can see it as well.

One of the changes we see is in our relationship with the God of our understanding. Previously, we may have felt that God was far removed and did not have much to do with ou on a personal level. We may have had trouble grasping the fact that each one of us could have a God of our understanding always available to us. Prayer may have felt artificial for quite a while, but we may now sense that we are being listened to and loved when we pray.

Developing a relationship with the God of our understanding goes a long way toward increasing our level of comfort when we ask to have our shortcomings removed. The work we’ve done in the previous steps has enriched that relationship. We’ve asked our Higher Power for honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, and we have been provided with the ability to develop those attributes that are so vital to our recovery.

Each time we come up short on any of the qualities we are trying to attain or when we have difficulty practicing spiritual principles, we turn to the God of our understanding. In this step, we ask a loving God to remove our impatience, our intolerance, our dishonesty, or whatever shortcoming is cur4rently in the way. We find that our Higher Power always provides us with what we need, and our faith grows as a result. When we ask our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings, we may see little bits of some of them removed. Other defects may simply be shoved out of the way for a time so that we can move forward on the path of recovery. We may even attain complete freedom form having to act on those defects. The point is that we have come to believe that only the God of our understanding has the power to remove our shortcomings. We can actually ask our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings in good faith, knowing that it will happen in God’s time. This faith can transcended our own ideas of what we need or think we should have.

Regardless of how secure we feel in our relationship with the God of our understanding, we need our sponsor to guide us through the Seventh Step. Our sponsor helps us with our understanding of humility and in finding a comfortable way of communicating with our Higher Power.

We need to remember that we are praying to a Power greater than ourselves. We ask humbly, knowing that we are powerless. Some of us will recite a formal prayer that demonstrates humility when we ask our Higher Power to help us. Some of us will pray in a more casual manner, just as humbly, but using our own words. Any communications with our Higher Power is prayer. However we choose to communicate with the God of our understanding, we feel a certain comfort come over us as we pray. We know that we are being cared for.

With this knowledge comes freedom. Though not a cure by any means, working the Seventh Step gives us the freedom to choose. We know that if we live by the spiritual principles of recovery, we no longer need to wear ourselves out trying to ar4range situations and outcomes. We trust that God of our understanding with our lives. We may still be fearful from time to time, but we no longer have to react to fear in destructive ways. We have the freedom to choose to act constructively or, when appropriate, do nothing at all. Believing that we are being cared for is a result of developing a relationship with a Power greater than ourselves. We are in the process of developing a conscious contact with a Higher Power. We will strive to improve that contact throughout our lives. We are conscious of that God of our understanding and feel that Power’s presence.

The process of the Seventh Step brings about a peace of mind that we never dreamed possible. We sense that what is present throughout our search for spiritual growth is our ability to feel our Higher Power’s love for us. We glimpse a vision of complete freedom from our shortcomings. It doesn’t matter that we will not attain a state of perfection or complete humility in our lifetime. The ability to contemplate this grand vision and meditate upon it are rare and priceless gifts in their own right.

We are being changed. We’ve not only heard about the miracle of recovery; we are becoming living, breathing examples of what the power of the NA program can do. The spiritual life has ceased to be a theory we hear bout in meetings; it is now becoming a tangible reality. We can see a miracle simply by looking in the mirror. The God of our understanding has taken us from spiritually unconscious, hopeless addicts to spiritually aware, recovering addicts eager to live. Although we’ve reached this point, the damage caused by our shortcomings needs to be addressed. Desiring continued recovery and freedom, we go on to the Step Eight and begin to make amends for the damage we’ve caused.

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