The Importance of Humility and Step 7

Photo by Johann Siemens on Unsplash

Step 7 as part of the 12 Steps reads: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. At first glance, this seems to be a simple statement about what to do to remove the shortcomings we all have in one form or another. Why? Because none of us is perfect. Right?

As I have been reflecting on this Step, all sorts of red flags began to strike me as I find each word of the Step is filled with multiple meanings. I find this Step, then, to be quite complex. I would like to share some of my reflections on humility, God, remove, and shortcomings.

The first reflection is about the word “humility.”

My sense is that humility is a most misunderstood virtue. Often, humility has come to mean not being proud of who are and what we have done. In a way, it has come to mean being careful not to become arrogant about who we are and what we have done. This can often lead into not acknowledging our strengths and contributions to others. I would like to suggest another starting point that comes from the Latin root of the word humility – from the Latin word, humus. Humus refers not to the earth, but the soil. This suggests that the humble person is someone who is grounded like a tree in the earth and the soul. The humble person is truly someone who is grounded in her or his life. From this perspective, the humble person is one who is rooted and grounded, able to own their gifts and talents as well as their shortcomings. In this view, I see humility is not being more than we are or less. From this perspective, it is akin to honesty – being honest about who we are.

The next word to reflect upon in this Step is “God.”

Addiction flourishes in isolation, while sobriety flourishes in communityWhen I look at the use of the word God in this Step as well as in other Steps, I have come to see that for some in recovery, the word God can be a stumbling block in both working the Steps and in their search for sobriety. This might be because of difficult experiences with a Church community or there are no lived experiences that resonate with a God. I prefer the words “Higher Power” or “Powers” which are often more open to the different experiences of people. I believe in God, and I see the wisdom of being able to look at others – the group, sponsors, friends, to mention a few – that might also open some to experiences that some refer to as God.

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Now, we come to look at the word “remove” in this Step.

From my experience, I have come to see that I need to be involved in making changes in my life. I can’t really expect others to do this for me. I see changing the ways we act as being more often a cooperative venture between myself and Higher Power or Powers. It is really a two-way street.

I would also add another dimension to the remove Step and that is the word “accept.” Before I can work at removing shortcomings, I need to acknowledge and accept my shortcomings. It is impossible to change what I don’t know I have! One of the things that helps me in acknowledging and accepting my shortcomings is the feedback that members of my 12 Step group give me. Valuable feedback can also come from friends as well as people who we might not feel all that connected to. Being attentive and open to the feedback of others can help us see blind spots in our own vision of how we see ourselves.

And now moving to the last word: Shortcomings.

From this perspective, it is akin to honesty – being honest about who we areWe all have them because we are all human beings and no one is, or will be, perfect. These shortcomings can often be some of the triggers that lead us into addictive thinking and behaving. I have learned from the feedback of others that I can be hard to be with when I am feeling impatient, when things are not moving in the direction that I think they should, or the speed that I think would be better.

I would also like to mention here that I believe each of us is more than all of our shortcomings, and this harkens back to what I said earlier about humility which is really an honest assessment of our gifts and talents as well as out shortcomings and defects. I have found that honoring our talents as well as the good things we have contributed to others and to society often enables us to accept our shortcomings as well as begin to let go of some of them.

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In conclusion, I have found upon further reflection that what appears as a simple statement in Step 7 is really a very challenging Step. Humility invites us — if not challenges us — to look at both sides of who we are and not just our shortcomings or defects. I would like to suggest the key to working this Step is really humility – an honest appraisal of who we are and who we aren’t, our gifts and talents as well as our shortcomings and limitations. I would also suggest not doing this Step on one’s own, looking and even asking for feedback from others, which I see opens us to God and the other Higher Powers of our lives. I close with a belief of mine: addiction flourishes in isolation, while sobriety flourishes in community.


Mark T. Scannell is a veteran 12 Stepper who believes that communities or Villages are essential in helping people recover from our addictions. His most recent book – The Village It Takes: The Power To Affirm – explores this theme.

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Last Updated on August 29, 2022

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