Contributor: W. Travis Stewart, LPC, NCC writer for Addiction Hope
Steps Six and Seven of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous state that you:
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Regarding Step 7, Robert Hemfelt and Richard Fowler write,
Although Step 7 is the shortest step in terms of wording and is perhaps the least discussed in recovery groups, it is probably the most potent of the twelve. It embodies the miracle of transformation as we turn over to God our broken, defective personalities in order that He might mold them into healthy, effective instruments of His will.
In Step Six of the 12 Steps you came to the point of being ready and willing to have God remove your defects of character. In Step Seven you are moving to actually ask God to do this work.
Why does this sometimes seem difficult? If you are truly ready, what obstacles might you face in asking God to do the work of removing your shortcomings? Consider the following options:
- You may be still relying on self-effort
- You may be fearful about God removing the defects
- You may doubt God’s ability to remove your shortcomings
- You may feel too much shame or unworthy of God’s help
- You may still lack humility
Let’s look at each one more closely.
Self Effort and Step 7
Having your shortcomings removed is one thing. Asking God to do it is entirely different. It’s difficult to come face to face with your own flaws. It can be humiliating, frustrating and feel exposing. Because of this, the process can create a disruptive sense of being powerless. Often, when faced with our defects, we turn quickly to our own self-effort to get our act together, to “work on” our character flaws and make changes for the better. This renewed effort and focus can inject us with a sense of energy and desperately needed self-confidence. Unfortunately, it is a trap and a path to remaining stuck. To ask God to remove our defects keeps us in a place of humility. It requires a continuing awareness of our inability and need for rescue.
Fear and Step 7
What if God does remove these defects? What then? Fear can creep in because you can’t predict the results of God’s work in your life. Personal defects don’t develop in a vacuum. These defects have developed in your life in part because of how you handled pain. Each weakness, act of selfishness, or critical comment was somehow tied to your self-protection. If God removes these, will He protect you? Can you trust God to care for you as effectively as you think you have cared for yourself up to this point?
Doubt and Step 7
Can God really remove your flaws? Will God truly change you? You have prayed before. You have begged God to change the addictive behaviors and it seemed no one was listening. You may feel doubtful that God really answers prayer. You may doubt that God actually hears your prayers. There may be some trembling and uncertainty as the words pass over your lips that God cares enough to change you. That’s why Step 7 will be an act of faith.
Shame and Step 7
Many people resort to self-hatred to deal with their shame. They begin to believe they are beyond help. You may be in this group that feels you are unworthy of God’s help. This lie keeps you stuck. It keeps you from asking for help. Worthiness has nothing to do with it. If you were “worthy” you wouldn’t need God. Jesus said he didn’t come for the “healthy” but for those who are “sick.” What he likely meant is that we are all sick but he will only help those who realize they need help. Don’t let shame and self-hatred keep you from asking God to change you. In fact, start by asking him to change those characteristics first.
Humility and Step 7
Richard Rohr, in his book Everything Belongs, writes,
Alcoholics say that without humility and honesty, nothing new happens. These virtues, humility and honesty, are the foundation of all spirituality, but they are hard won. Most of us have to crawl our way back to them. Usually we don’t go unless the pain of circumstance force us…” 
The first word in Step 7 is “humbly.” You must humbly ask God. It’s easy to ask God to change you but asking to be changed requires an admission of powerlessness. Humbly asking God to change you is like asking to be rescued. You have to admit you can’t do it yourself.
This is actually very good news. Why? Because you can’t do it yourself. Ephesians 2:5 states that we are “dead in our sins”. Dead men and women can’t help themselves. The statement “God only helps them who help themselves” simply isn’t true. God helps those who admit they can’t help themselves. Admitting we need God is the beginning of hope.
So what does it mean to humbly ask God to remove your shortcomings? It’s not simply reading a list of shortcomings to God. It is honestly bringing your admission of self-effort, your trembling fear, your shackles of doubt, your debilitating shame, and admitting these things to God. God is pleased with your honesty. God is drawn to your vulnerability. God moves mountains for the broken-hearted. Humility means admitting all of these things and, like the man who came to Jesus asking for his son to be healed in Mark 9, you say, “I believe; Help my unbelief!”
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What has been your experience with Step 7 in your recovery from addiction? Was there a process to your understanding of humility, and its importance, or did understanding of humility come right away for you?
About the Author
Travis Stewart has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future.
Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help. This includes special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety and perfectionism.
Travis graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1991 with a degree in advertising and immediately began working with the international ministry of The Navigators, mentoring students. After 8 years, his desire to better understand how people change, and through his own experience of receiving help from a professional counselor, Travis decided to return to school. He earned a Master of Arts in Counseling (2001) and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2003), both from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Travis is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Missouri.
- Hemfelt, R. (1990). Serenity: A companion for twelve step recovery, complete with New Testament, Psalms & Proverbs (pp. 54-55). Nashville [Tenn.: T. Nelson.
- Rohr, R. (2003). Everything belongs: The gift of contemplative prayer (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: Crossroad Pub.
Christian Track: Addiction Hope is proud to announce the initiation of a special Christian Track of blogs and articles to commemorate our 10th year of being blessed with such a special community of those in or searching for addiction recovery. Watch for further special blogs noted as “Christian Track”.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals. We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 4, 2015. Published on AddictionHope.com