~ 2012 Form ~
How It Works: 12 StepsStep Seven "We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."
Many of us view ‘shortcomings’ as acting out on a defect of character. A defect in our character makes us fall short in some way in our lives. Another way to look at it is to look at defects as actions that are wrong and shortcomings as things we want to do but cannot. At first we pray after we act out. Later we can catch ourselves acting out and pray to our higher power to help us stop. It is when we catch ourselves before the defect becomes an action that we begin to realize the benefits of this Step. One of those benefits is the beginning of true self-acceptance. We ask the God of our understanding to help us not act in ways which are unacceptable to us. This Step begins to align our behavior to fit our values.
In the Sixth Step we became entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character. In the Seventh Step we stop feeding these defects. Just as we needed abstinence from drugs before we could begin to recover, in the Seventh we gain abstinence from acting on defects. As long as we feed the defect, it will never be removed. If we refrain from acting out, we notice the defects beginning to be removed.
This Step is the beginning of real change for us. We identify our defects in the Fourth Step and become willing to live without them in the Sixth Step. The Twelve Steps allow us to move on in life so these defects stop determining our behavior. We begin to experience life without the burden of defects. We experience a new level of freedom.
Some of us found the Sixth Step to be very difficult because as addicts we tend to associate change with trouble ahead. It is at this point in our recovery where we often come face-to-face with our self-centeredness. We have found that our defects of character no longer work and that they have no place in our new lives in recovery. We may realize and accept that these defects are no longer effective yet we struggle with gaining the willingness to have God remove our shortcomings. Some may write a daily journal; focusing on our defects and the pain they cause us. Others may seek the willingness they need through prayer and meditation. One thing is certain. In order to grow and change we must take this Step. We discover that our defects are nothing more than our reactions to fear. This can be the fear of rejection, the fear of abandonment, or the fear that you won't like us. Fears are a manifestation of our self-centeredness. We learn that we can no longer use our defects to avoid facing our fears. Now what do we do?
Defects are behaviors that we still do that cause us problems. We hit to the left or right of the target but just can't hit the mark we are aiming for. Shortcomings are behaviors that we do not do that cause us problems. We meant to pay the bill but just forgot to mail the check.
Some of us begin by listing our defects and their opposites. Lust versus satisfaction, dishonesty versus honesty, etc. We discover the personality traits that we could replace our defects with. We may meditate and imagine what our lives would be like uncontrolled by fear. We begin to see the difference between being God-centered and self-centered. Ultimately, we become willing to have God remove our shortcomings. The Seventh Step can feel like jumping off a cliff hoping God will catch us. Few of us will ever jump from an airplane but all of us know we could if we had to in some emergency. If our desire for a new life is as strong when we work Step Seven, as it was when we first came to the program, we will definitely feel excitement. Since we are clean, we know we can change. Just not using is a big change. Recovery is a fact, not a theory.
We need to think of all the times that we threw ourselves into our addiction with no idea what would happen. We throw ourselves into recovery the same way with a major difference. Improvement seems as scary to us now as getting worse did in our active addiction. Any change that risks pain is scary to addicts. We must bridge this gap in our thinking. Many of us believe that the Seventh Step is the drug addict’s dream since it allows us to become the people we want to be. Our defects have killed our dreams and denied us the relations with other people we long to enjoy. The Seventh Step is our chance to renew visions of bright, happy and enjoyable lives. This Step allows us to see that our pain has more association with our past than our present. Because of working the Seventh Step, we find specific dreams from our past that just didn’t happen. These dreams died when we started using. Furthermore, we come to believe that these dreams may return to us now. We can use these dreams to help motivate ourselves to make a lasting break with the past. We demonstrate the Seventh Step by stepping completely into the future. We do this by asking God, the God that has loved and taken care of us at our worst, to remove the obstacles to our happiness.
In addition to our willingness, we have the power of the God of our understanding to provide the strength and guidance we need to leave the things we do not care about and move on to those we do. It may help us remember that God works the Seventh Step only when we are willing enough to ask for help. While we know that recovery is real, we are often held back by our fantasies of what will happen. In fact, we don't have any idea what our lives will be like after we work this Step. How could we? That is why it takes real courage to go forward from this point. Life goes on and has for a long time. Our addiction set us apart from life and continues to try to cut us off from the feelings that God gives to all people. Addiction forces us to move in small circles. Recovery opens these circles up to ever-widening spheres of growth in all directions. If we were to work this Step earlier in the recovery process, we would probably flip out. The energy we are capable of using in our daily lives is enormous compared with what we have been wasting. For this energy to move through us we have to work the Seventh Step to remove obstacles that would block the flow of energy. When this debris is out of the way, we can feel the chains of the past slip away and we will experience an awesome wonder. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. We should feel embarrassment if we don't feel something like this. We deserve our sense of wonderment at the freedom from life-long slavery to the disease of addiction. We remember may overnight successes have worked toward a goal for years.
We only need a little power to help us concentrate and keep our part of the bargain with life. We can usually earn our way with comparative ease. Other forms of hunger make us think it will take a lot to satisfy our needs. We are hungry for companions, financial security, peace of mind, appreciation and all the human needs. Spiritual hunger sometimes makes us forget the resources we have to work with at practically any point in recovery. Addiction wants us to forget our joy and miracles. Being grateful today - consciously thankful - is part of what readies us for the good things tomorrow. Shear force of habit make us focus more often on what we lack rather than be thankful of what we already have at present. Some of us can remember when we first started pulling back from life. Addiction is necrotic and eats away at our lives: our minds, our bodies and our spirit. We knew on some level that if we were to continue, we would seriously hurt someone or permanently injure ourselves. We have all sustained some form of permanent injury, therefore we believe that our limitations keep us within safe bounds. Clean, we can expand our lives to find new and larger boundaries of our 'safe zone’. Many of our former limitations no longer apply to us. They served a purpose at some point in time but have become a hindrance. It’s just like someone who has broken a bone and has had to wear a cast to allow the bone to heal. Now after healing, we can take off the cast because it becomes uncomfortable. The cast becomes a block to our healing. It may feel funny at first so we have to take it easy during the big changes. Soon though, we will have our balance and look back on our confinement with a sense of sadness mixed with incredible joy now that we are free.
Without self-examination we are basing our lives in part on snap judgments made at a time in our lives when we weren't able to see or think clearly. We often jumped to rash conclusions about who and what and why things were happening. We carry the judgments with us now. Some of these judgments may be accurate but the ones that are wrong hurt us by basin our lives on incorrect information. Corporations spend huge amounts of time and resources to acquire accurate information upon which to base their positions and plans for the future. Even so, they are wrong sometimes and go out of business.
Expressing our willingness relaxes our willpower and prevents conflicts between wanting to be free of defects and wanting to hang on to them. Character may simply be how we deal with life on life's terms. Life on life's terms makes demands on us that we can meet or that we cannot meet. Defects are "holes" or flaws in our character. Where there should be a planned reaction, a learning from someone who loves us or a successful way of responding that we have worked out ourselves, there is a resentment, a bad idea or an unworkable habitual response. If so, it is a logical conclusion that as our character improves; the rest of our life improves. Flawed, scarred, broken, misshapen, and damaged all describe the parts of us that do not work. Defects are defective. They aren’t fun, interesting, enjoyable or effective. They don't help us make money, get along with the opposite sex or cope with the world effectively. If they did, they wouldn't be defective. With God’s help we begin to remove the defects to free the energy we have been forcing into them that will be available to us as we heal. Pain from the past creates ripples that continue even now. 12 Step recovery stops the ripples from creating trouble in our present and so frees our future. The light within each of our hearts was so dim that only a little light could come through. We didn't want to do too well too quickly.
Thoughts, memories, habits and everything that makes us 'us', are carried in tiny bio-electrical charges within our bodies. A computer engineer stated in an article that they could make magnetic images stronger but it would make them hard to over-write. In recovery, we change what is written in our hearts and minds to produce changes in the way we feel and live. Our surrender to the fact of our addiction and our belief in a willingness to align ourselves under the care of a loving and caring Higher Power allow this to happen. Suiting up, showing up and doing what we can while God does all the rest is all we have to do.
We didn't want to change what other people would expect and then demand from us until we were sure we could live up to our new capacities. As the blockage clears, we give ourselves permission to follow up on a good idea or impulse. We gain the ability to communicate that idea to others around us. The most amazing thing is having some of these ideas become realities without the negativity we have come to expect. These emanations may come from deep within us and be in fact the will of our Higher Power coming out through us. Much of our pain results when these deep dreams cannot manifest themselves in reality. Working the Seventh Step is a leap of faith because we don't know exactly what will happen when we take it. It is opening ourselves to the possibilities of what will happen when God removes our defects. It does more than allow us to move beyond our former boundaries of competence and ability. It allows us to set our sights on things that we really care about and stick to it until we reach our goals. It also lets us be happy where we are. If happiness and attainment is perpetually in the future, how will we ever attain happiness in the present? The leap of faith of the Seventh Step may first be stepping into the here and now.
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Copyright © December 1998
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.
NA Foundation Group
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