The Seventh Step In The Program Of Recovery
7. Humbly Asked Him to Remove Our Shortcomings
For years, our greatest character defect and shortcoming was our addiction, and it has now been suppressed. It’s been arrested and we no longer suffer from two of addiction’s symptoms: Loss of control after we start (physical) and an inability to stay away from the first one no matter how great the necessity or the wish (mental). Our desire to seek a deeper relationship with our Creator through practical application of The Twelve Steps treats the third symptom: Restlessness, irritability, and discontentment (spiritual). But recovery from the spiritual malady is an on-going evolution. We live in a recovered state because we no longer suffer from the seemingly hopeless condition of body and mind. If we stop taking the actions required to live life on a spiritual basis, the diseased internal condition will return. If it festers long enough, the mind will begin to tell us that a drink or drug will make things better. Consequently, our addiction to drugs and alcohol will come out of remission, and we will begin to act out in our worst defect of character.
Using this logic, it stands to reason the same principle should apply to all of our defects of character. They can be suppressed by living a spiritual program of action but like our addiction, if we steer away from the program they will return and begin to run the show. The Big Book states that selfishness and self-centeredness are at the root of our problem and they are two of our worst shortcomings. The book also states that we can’t reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We must have God’s help. So, we can’t remove our character defects or practice the opposite of our defects, but what we can do is live the way of life described in The Big Book. This basis of life, or foundation, creates an existence in which being selfish, indignant, self-absorbed, narcissistic, and judgmental is not conducive to the new way of life, sobriety, or freedom. All we can do is humbly offer myself to our Creator and ask him to remove what we find objectionable about our character. Refinement of our character is left up to Him and how He lives through us.
In my first pass through the steps, Step Six came and went rather quickly and abruptly — it was difficult for me to differentiate Step Six from Step Seven. Looking back, it seems as if I took both steps simultaneously. My sponsor asked, “Are you willing?” and I answered, “Yes.” He then instructed me to review the list of broad and general defects which became apparent during my fifth step. The list included selfishness, dishonesty, jealousy, envy, and inconsideration. Since I was willing, I asked God to remove them in Step Seven and we moved on to Step Eight. Don’t misunderstand me, it was exactly how I was supposed to work the step but since then Step Six has proven to be so much deeper than my initial experience with it.
Step Seven is Step Three with teeth. Not only are we abandoning ourselves to Him and agreeing to be a testimony of His Power in our lives, but we are conceding that God can and will change or remove anything that stands in the way of us being useful to Him. The reality is, some of our most glaring defects make us attractive and useful to others. So, they may or may not be removed, especially if we do not find them objectionable. In the end, our defects bring us full circle and sit us back down at the table with God. What immense grace and mercy, our very struggles keep us seeking God.
Around the same time, I was introduced to the concept of revisiting the step work process, mainly the first nine steps. Since I was suffering a great deal, I found myself very open to the idea. My suffering was: Easily annoyed by most, often uneasy, and dissatisfied with my life. When I reflect, it’s evident to me in the beginning: The only thing which truly changed was my willingness to do whatever I had to do to recover from addiction. At the outset, little else about my character changed because I was not entirely ready. This is the departure point for me. Step Six is not only about willingness, although it’s crucial — it’s about asking myself, am I entirely ready?
Over the last 7 years, I’ve discovered the vitality and necessity of reworking the first 9 steps on an annual basis. In that work, I uncovered the difference between willingness and being entirely ready. I’ve been willing to have many defects and shortcomings removed but entire readiness only emerged when they became objectionable. The defect’s last flicker of value must be snuffed out before it becomes objectionable; otherwise, it will remain. I also discovered defects are usually removed while causing a great deal of pain and suffering.