Working the 12 Steps of Recovery: Step 7

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By Scott Brassart

Two weeks ago, we discussed how to work step 6 of the 12 steps, along with the benefits of working that step. This week, our focus logically moves to step 7.

Step 7 reads as follows:

Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

In step 6 you identified your character defects and became willing to live without them. Step 7 is the logical continuation of that effort. With step 7 you begin the process of actually getting rid of those shortcomings. In most respects, working step 7 is a relatively straightforward procedure. You simply incorporate into your daily routine (prayer, affirmations, or whatever else it is that seems to work for you in your recovery) a request for your Higher Power to remove your character defects. If there are shortcomings that are particularly irksome to you at a given time, it is helpful to specifically mention them.

Sometimes people get hung up on the “God” language of step 7, thinking their lack of religious or spiritual beliefs will hold them back. This is not, in fact, the case. As always in 12-step recovery, a belief in God is not necessary, though many recovering addicts do find a religious or spiritually based higher power helpful. If, however, you do not have a spiritual higher power at this point, just state aloud your request for help in reducing/eliminating your character defects as a mantra. If you’re like most people, the mere realization that these character defects exist, coupled with the contrary action of saying aloud that you would like to be rid of them, results in significant progress.

It must be noted that asking for your shortcomings to be removed will not automatically make them go away. It is up to you to be aware of your shortcomings on an ongoing basis, to pay attention when they crop up, and to quickly self-correct whenever this occurs. That said, many people believe that their Higher Power can and does remove their character shortcomings when asked. The problem is that their Higher Power will also return those defects, without charge, any time they want to re-engage with them. In this way, step 7 is a prime example of the much-used 12-step adage: progress not perfection. Sometimes that progress occurs in leaps and bounds; other times it is so incremental as to hardly be noticeable. Either way, the primary goal of step 7 is that your character defects will become less of a problem over time.

In many ways step 7 is about achieving humility. Humility is a word that is often misunderstood, and because of that, it is usually something that people think they don’t want. Essentially, the word is confused with humiliation, which is nearly always unpleasant to experience. And while humiliation sometimes does lead to humility, this is not necessarily or always the case. In reality, humility is simply seeing the truth of one’s life and one’s place in the world. It is the art of being “right-sized,” neither too big (self-entitled, grandiose, etc.) nor too small (ashamed, unworthy, defective, etc.)

For addicts entering recovery, developing a sense of humility (seeing and accepting reality) starts with step 1. The mere act of admitting that you are powerless over alcohol, drugs, or an addictive behavior is a giant leap toward humility in that you, perhaps for the first time, have finally begun to see and admit the reality of your addiction – the lack of control, the directly related negative life consequences, etc.

Interestingly, admitting powerlessness and unmanageability – that very first act toward humility – creates in nearly all recovering addicts a strong sense of peace (even if that sensation is only temporary). Working step 7, a much more comprehensive act toward humility, typically results in an even greater (and longer-lasting) sense of peace. It is at this point that recovering addicts realize humility is not a condition of groveling despair, but a state of peace, grace, and acceptance of life on life’s terms. For people who’ve heretofore known only depression, anxiety, and fear, this newfound sense of serenity is a priceless gift. It is also an incredibly powerful motivator for continued sobriety and further step-work.


In next week’s post to this site, we will continue our discussion of the 12 steps with an examination of step 8.