Step 7 gets nearly the same treatment in the BB as Step 6—a single paragraph of sixty-nine words instructing us to pray to our higher power to “remove every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you [God] and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.” It then declares we have completed Step 7. Cool!
Well, it would be if I believed in an interventionist god, and if it really worked that way. I don’t, and more importantly, it doesn’t. Note what Bill W. wrote in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, in the Chapter on Step 6 [emphasis mine]: “If we ask, God will certainly forgive our derelictions. But in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation. That is something we are supposed to work toward ourselves.” A short while later he writes: “So, Step Six…is AA’s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement.” [again, emphasis mine]
So I didn’t “do” Step 7.
The chapter in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions devoted to Step 7 is basically an essay on humility. It begins with “Since this Step so specifically concerns itself with humility…” and in the final paragraph states “The whole emphasis of Step Seven is on humility.” True enough, when an instructional step starts with ‘Humbly’ [did something], the need for humility is fairly explicit. But it’s not just Step 7. The entire program of the 12 Steps is concerned with humility–humbling ourselves (not others, that’s ‘humiliation’) enough to understand, accept, and apply the principles of those steps in our lives.
By the time I got to the seventh Step, I had been humbled enough to admit I needed help; to walk into that first AA meeting; to admit I was alcoholic; to take an honest look at my shortcomings; to talk about those shortcomings with another person (or persons). I honestly didn’t need to cement the newfound humility by humbly asking a god I didn’t believe in to do something that most (honest) religious folks will say He doesn’t do anyway. If cement is needed, after Step 7 our humility is tested when we make our amends, continue looking at ourselves, and while being of service to others.
Anyone who does believe in petitionary prayer and an interventionist God would do well to heed this step. The rest of us can safely pass over this one.
The last page of that chapter does give us one suggestion concerning the seventh step. It advises we might do well at this point to take another look at just what our deepest objectives are. That’s worth considering—often and in-depth–and will be the topic of a separate post here at Spirit of Recovery. Next up will be a look at how I go about the “work” of defect removal.
What are your thoughts about Step 7? Is it a necessary step? a non-step? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Differing opinions, offered with respect, will always be welcome, encouraged and respected here. Thanks for being here!