Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
In steps four, five, and six we identified our characters defects and became willing to live without them. Step seven is the logical continuation of that effort, where we begin the process of actually ridding ourselves of these shortcomings.
If you believe in a Higher Power, step seven is a relatively straightforward endeavor. You simply incorporate into your daily routine (prayer, affirmations, and whatever else it is that seems to work for you in your recovery) a request that your Higher Power remove your character defects. If there are shortcomings that are particularly irksome or problematic, it is helpful to specifically mention them. When you do this, your character defects tend to become less burdensome over time.
If, however, you struggle with the concepts of God and Higher Power, step seven, like step three, might seem a bit daunting. You might even worry that your lack of belief will prevent you from working step seven. If so, you can set those fears aside. As always in twelve-step recovery, a belief in God or a Higher Power is not necessary. If you don’t have a Higher Power at this point in your recovery, just state your desire to eliminate your character defects as a mantra. If you’re like most recovering addicts, the realization that these character defects exist, coupled with the contrary action of saying aloud that you would like to be rid of them, leads to significant progress.
With or without a belief in a Higher Power, asking for your shortcomings to be removed will not automatically make them go away. It is up to you to be aware of your character defects on an ongoing basis, to pay attention when they crop up, and to self-correct when they do.
That said, many recovering addicts 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 any time they want to re-engage with them. In this way, step seven is a good example of the much used twelve-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 seven is that your character defects become less of a problem over time.
If, after reading the above, you still are worried about the Higher Power portion of step seven, I will remind you that twelve-step recovery programs do not espouse any specific version of God or Higher Power. The final four words of step three, as we understood Him, make that perfectly clear. If you need to, you can create your own conception of a Higher Power. For instance, many people turn the word God into an acronym, short for Good Orderly Direction, with that direction typically provided by fellow recovering addicts, twelve-step sponsors, therapists, and supportive family members.
This conception can be especially helpful when working step seven. After all, who better to help us work on our character defects than the people we see in our daily lives. If we tell them what we’re working on and ask for their assistance, they will almost certainly provide it. And they will usually do so in a loving, empathetic, and powerfully supportive way.
At the end of the day, your version of a Higher Power can be anything outside of yourself that helps you stay sober. You are not tied to any specific definition of God or set of beliefs. Instead, you are free to choose a Higher Power that works for you, regardless of how anyone else may feel about things. If you open yourself up to this idea, you will quickly realize that accepting help from a power greater than yourself, including your twelve-step fellowship, is a very good idea, because doing so makes staying sober much, much easier – with or without a traditional version of God and religion.
In future postings to this site, I will present suggestions for how to effectively work steps eight through twelve. For general information about healing from addiction, check out my website. For treatment referrals, click here, here, and here.