Spiritual principles behind Step Seven: Humility

What are the spiritual principles behind Step Seven?

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

The operative spiritual principle behind Step Seven is humility; other applicable spiritual principles include willingness and open-mindedness. It’s not hard to see that these principles are prerequisites to the change necessary to become our authentic selves.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of humility: Freedom from pride or arrogance : the quality or state of being humble accepted the honor with humility The ordeal taught her humility.

You can’t see your shortcomings without stripping yourself of your ego and pride. This unfiltered look into yourself allows you to develop a humble attitude and correct your character defects and shortcomings.

Humility is defined as self-restraint from excessive vanity, and can possess moral and/or ethical dimensions.
Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, often in contrast to narcissism, hubris and other forms of pride. In a religious context, humility can mean a recognition of self in relation to God or deities, and submission to said deity as a member of that religion.

It isn’t long before newcomers start to hear the common AA catchphrase that “everything” must change. How can one change everything? Obviously, one cannot. The idea that everything has to change is about as clear as mud to the new man. Soon we come to realize that we look at the world and the people around us from a completely different perspective – and from this new vantage point, everything has changed! It’s a wonderful shift in attitude.

Willing and ready to make real changes

We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view.

Big Book, We Agnostics, p.52

Though you are providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will REQUIRE a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery over everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business.
Big Book, To Employers, p.143

We can’t be a changed person unless we are willing to make changes. Step Seven actually involves us in personal change from a place of humility. As we use this step, we go further than becoming willing to risk change. Accept risk and experience change. We risk, we try, we fail, we start again. We act and our actions change our lives. In Steps Four and Five we discover our assets and our liabilities. In Step 6 we become psychologically prepared to deal with our negative traits. Those truly ready to work Step 7 are ready to act!

Related: 103 “Musts” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (Barefoot’s World)

One cannot overcome character flaws or defects without humility. Too often, alcoholics are caught up in ego, playing the role of victim awash in pride and selfishness. During Step Seven, we begin to practice modesty and welcome a change of attitude, which will set us on the path to inner peace, contentedness, and happiness.

It’s time for us to give up self-reliance for reliance on a higher power, whatever that may look like to each of us as individuals. (Remember, your concept of a higher power should make sense to you.) We learn to practice humility and we strive to put character-building ahead of comfort on a daily basis. We purposefully practice honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God as our daily basis of living. We have now accepted the fact that humility is entirely necessary in achieving a sober and fulfilled life. Over time, with persistent practice of spiritual principles in all areas of our lives, we come to see that our perspective has evolved into a less self-centered life to a much more humble, selfless one.

It can be valuable to create and participate in a formal ritual, and this is essentially what we are doing when we say the Seventh Step prayer (the Third Step prayer is another one). Like the other rituals in AA, it clearly shows our intention and commitment to change – in this case, letting go of our undesirable traits and tendencies. What Step Seven really requires of us is to fully commit to an ongoing, unrelenting process of change.

The steps require real work

The steps of Alcoholics Anonymous require real work. While we’re at it let’s take a look at exactly what we mean by work in the context of the steps.

Anyone can identify a particular action as work: Action that is physically demanding is work; deliberate action such as cleaning one’s room is work; action performed in return for payment is work. But work in the course of improving ourselves spiritually includes remaining mum or walking away when others are gossiping. It’s work to consciously gather the courage to turn down the request of a friend as our people-pleasing egos steer us towards saying yes. It’s work to allow ourselves to fail. Though it’s often hard to see, “peeling the onion” of our psyche and of our past – and thus opening our minds to new ways of thinking – is definitely work. It’s work to stand up for ourselves. It’s work to be tolerant and patient. It’s work to put up with the emotional discomfort of doing things we don’t want to do at first. Walking through fear is real work.

We can’t judge whether a particular action would constitute work solely by how it feels to us. We can’t determine that this deed or that encouragement results in the outcome we desire. To work simply means to use our energy to be disciplined and committed in pursuit of our goal.

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