What is Step 7 of the 12 Steps Program?


Step Seven of the 12 Steps: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

The key word in Step Seven of the 12 Steps is “humbly”–no blame-shifting, no excuses, no attempts to dictate what else has to change before you can. No matter what your parents did or didn’t do, no matter what pressures you faced in your job, no matter who teased you about “being afraid to take one sip/puff/snort” … unless someone physically forced a chemical substance into you, the decision to start using was ultimately yours alone. And no matter when or how the use got out of control, you were to some degree a willing accomplice in bringing it to that point.

Step Seven of the 12 Steps: Humbly Ask God to Remove Your Shortcomings

Before you can “humbly ask God to remove [your] shortcomings” during Step Seven of the 12 Steps, you have to stop thinking of yourself as a victim. Any comment along the lines of “Now that I’m ready to change, I expect you to make it easier by getting me a better job/the right romantic partner/a more polite next-door neighbor” implies that your shortcomings aren’t really your fault, and takes much of the effectiveness out of the request. Much as we’d like it otherwise, the Higher Power tends to be more responsive to requests to “change me” than those to “change my circumstances.”

(That’s not to say it’s wrong to ask for our circumstances to change—just that change in ourselves comes first. Once that starts, we often realize that we could have done something to change the circumstances we feel “victimized” by, long ago—it just seemed like too much trouble to face an unpleasant confrontation, the uncertainty of being between jobs, or the giving up of the material support that came with the price of constant abuse. Were we held back entirely by fear and by lack of confidence in our ability to handle significant change—or was there a bit of pride even there, an inner assumption of “I deserve better than to be asked to sacrifice the security with the pain”?)

Regardless, a humble admission of shortcomings means accepting complete responsibility for what we did wrong. Don’t even mention anyone else’s name or any of your problems. Just reiterate your confession from Step Five (remembering to include details on the exact nature of your wrongs) and add, “I’m sorry for all this, and I want to become a better person, but I’m not strong enough to do it alone. If you’ll share your strength with me during the journey to sobriety, I promise to do everything I can to make up for what I’ve done and to replace my addiction with better habits.”

Change Doesn’t Happen Overnight

When you do this, remember that humble admission also means accepting that we can’t dictate exactly when or how the change will come—and that it is very unlikely that the worst of our inclinations will disappear instantly, or even by the end of the month. (Some people do use “Well, I prayed to be changed” as an excuse to keep right on in old harmful habits—and shift the blame to God for not immediately removing all inclination to continue.) In reality, it’s a virtual guarantee that change will be a long, hard road and require plenty of effort on your part. It’ll also mean stages of slow progress. “Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” and no one ever won a marathon by going the whole way at top speed.

Nor did any marathon runner ever see the finish line from the starting line. On level ground with an unobstructed view, we can see about three miles ahead—slightly more than one-ninth of marathon distance. And while actual marathon runners at least have a clearly marked route and a crowd to follow, much of real life tends to feel more like driving down a lonely country road with no street signs, no visible turns, no map or GPS, and no streetlights at midnight.

However well we planned in advance, even if nothing unexpected actually happens, it’s hard to completely shake the fear that we are lost and in imminent danger. There is no way we can be absolutely 100 percent certain that a reckless driver won’t hit us at the next intersection, a terrorist bomb won’t explode in our neighborhood tomorrow, or a stray asteroid won’t crash into the earth next year. Or—getting away from catastrophe and back to substance-abuse temptations—that someone won’t be passing out free beer samples next week along our route to the bus stop, or that the “I need a drink” trigger we thought we’d left behind won’t find its way back into our lives at the worst possible time.

Thus, the humility with which we request removal of our shortcomings requires being all right with not knowing exactly how the process will work, how long it will take, or how many temptations and relapses we may have to fight our way past. The right attitude is summed up in the statement, “I don’t know what’s going to happen or how I’ll cope, but I trust that I’ll be safe not knowing, because a Power greater than myself does know and is working things out for good.”

Humility may not be assured of an easy route, but it believes in a successful finish.

About 12 Step Recovery at Kemah Palms

Located in Galveston County, Texas, Kemah Palms Recovery® offers a comprehensive 12 step recovery program to ensure individuals stay on the path to lasting sobriety. To learn more about our addiction treatment options in South Houston, call 855-568-0218.