| print this
asked Him to remove our shortcomings."
Since this Step so specifically concerns itself with humility,
we should pause here to consider what humility is and what
the practice of it can mean to us.
the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle
of each of A.A.'s Twelve Steps. For without some degree
of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all. Nearly
all A.A.'s have found, too, that unless they develop much
more of this precious quality than may be required just
for sobriety, they still haven't much chance of becoming
truly happy. Without it, they cannot live to much useful
purpose, or, in adversity, be able to summon the faith that
can meet any emergency.
as a word and as an ideal, has a very bad time of it in
our world. Not only is the idea misunderstood; the word
itself is often intensely disliked. Many people haven't
even a nodding acquaintance with humility as a way of life.
Much of the everyday talk we hear, and a great deal of what
we read, highlights man's pride in his own achievements.
great intelligence, men of science have been forcing nature
to disclose her secrets. The immense resources now being
harnessed promise such a quantity of material blessings
that many have come to believe that a man-made millennium
lies just ahead. Poverty will disappear, and there will
be such abundance that everybody can have all the security
and personal satisfactions he desires. The theory seems
to be that once everybody's primary instincts are satisfied,
there won't be much left to quarrel about. The world will
then turn happy and be free to concentrate on culture and
character. Solely by their own intelligence and labor, men
will have shaped their own destiny.
no alcoholic, and surely no member of A.A., wants to deprecate
material achievement. Nor do we enter into debate with the
many who still so passionately cling to the belief that
to satisfy our basic natural desires is the main object
of life. But we are sure that no class of people in the
world ever made a worse mess of trying to live by this formula
than alcoholics. For thousands of years we have been demanding
more than our share of security, prestige, and romance.
When we seemed to be succeeding, we drank to dream still
greater dreams. When we were frustrated, even in part, we
drank for oblivion. Never was there enough of what we thought
all these strivings, so many of them well-intentioned, our
crippling handicap had been our lack of humility. We had
lacked the perspective to see that character-building and
spiritual values had to come first, and that material satisfactions
were not the purpose of living. Quite characteristically,
we had gone all out in confusing the ends with the means.
Instead of regarding the satisfaction of our material desires
as the means by which we could live and function as human
beings, we had taken these satisfactions to be the final
end and aim of life.
most of us thought good character was desirable, but obviously
good character was something one needed to get on with the
business of being self-satisfied. With a proper display
of honesty and morality, we'd stand a better chance of getting
what we really wanted. But whenever we had to choose between
character and comfort, the character-building was lost in
the dust of our chase after what we thought was happiness.
Seldom did we look at character-building as something desirable
in itself, something we would like to strive for whether
our instinctual needs were met or not. We never thought
of making honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God
the daily basis of living.
lack of anchorage to any permanent values, this blindness
to the true purpose of our lives, produced another bad result.
For just so long as we were convinced that we could live
exclusively by our own individual strength and intelligence,
for just that long was a working faith in a Higher Power
impossible. This was true even when we believed that God
existed. We could actually have earnest religious beliefs
which remained barren because we were still trying to play
God ourselves. As long as we placed self reliance first,
a genuine reliance upon a Higher Power was out of the question.
That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek
and do God's will, was missing.
us, the process of gaining a new perspective was unbelievably
painful. It was only by repeated humiliations that we were
forced to learn something about humility. It was only at
the end of a long road, marked by successive defeats and
humiliations, and the final crushing of our self sufficiency,
that we began to feel humility as something more than a
condition of groveling despair. Every newcomer in Alcoholics
Anonymous is told, and soon realizes for himself, that his
humble admission of powerlessness over alcohol is his first
step toward liberation from its paralyzing grip.
it is that we first see humility as a necessity. But this
is the barest beginning. To get completely away from our
aversion to the idea of being humble, to gain a vision of
humility as the avenue to true freedom of the human spirit,
to be willing to work for humility as something to be desired
for itself, takes most of us a long, long time. A whole
lifetime geared to self-centeredness cannot be set in reverse
all at once. Rebellion dogs our every step at first.
we have finally admitted without reservation that we are
powerless over alcohol, we are apt to breathe a great sigh
of relief, saying, "Well, thank God that's over! I'll
never have to go through that again!" Then we learn,
often to our consternation, that this is only the first
milestone on the new road we are walking. Still goaded by
sheer necessity, we reluctantly come to grips with those
serious character flaws that made problem drinkers of us
in the first place, flaws which must be dealt with to prevent
a retreat into alcoholism once again. We will want to be
rid of some of these defects, but in some instances this
will appear to be an impossible job from which we recoil.
And we cling with a passionate persistence to others which
are just as disturbing to our equilibrium, because we still
enjoy them too much. How can we possibly summon the resolution
and the willingness to get rid of such overwhelming compulsions
again we are driven on by the inescapable conclusion which
we draw from A.A. experience, that we surely must try with
a will, or else fall by the wayside. At this stage of our
progress we are under heavy pressure and coercion to do
the right thing. We are obliged to choose between the pains
of trying and the certain penalties of failing to do so.
These initial steps along the road are taken grudgingly,
yet we do take them. We may still have no very high opinion
of humility as a desirable personal virtue, but we do recognize
it as a necessary aid to our survival.
when we have taken a square look at some of these defects,
have discussed them with another, and have become willing
to have them removed, our thinking about humility commences
to have a wider meaning. By this time in all probability
we have gained some measure of release from our more devastating
handicaps. We enjoy moments in which there is something
like real peace of mind. To those of us who have hitherto
known only excitement, depression, or anxiety--in other
words, to all of us--this newfound peace is a priceless
gift. Something new indeed has been added. Where humility
had formerly stood for a forced feeding on humble pie, it
now begins to mean the nourishing ingredient which can give
improved perception of humility starts another revolutionary
change in our outlook. Our eyes begin to open to the immense
values which have come straight out of painful ego-puncturing.
Until now, our lives have been largely devoted to running
from pain and problems. We fled from them as from a plague.
We never wanted to deal with the fact of suffering. Escape
via the bottle was always our solution. Character-building
through suffering might be all right for saints, but it
certainly didn't appeal to us.
in A.A., we looked and listened. Everywhere we saw failure
and misery transformed by humility into priceless assets.
We heard story after story of how humility had brought strength
out of weakness. In every case, pain had been the price
of admission into a new life. But this admission price had
purchased more than we expected. It brought a measure of
humility, which we soon discovered to be a healer of pain.
We began to fear pain less, and desire humility more than
this process of learning more about humility, the most profound
result of all was the change in our attitude toward God.
And this was true whether we had been believers or unbelievers.
We began to get over the idea that the Higher Power was
a sort of bush-league pinch hitter, to be called upon only
in an emergency. The notion that we would still live our
own lives, God helping a little now and then, began to evaporate.
Many of us who had thought ourselves religious awoke to
the limitations of this attitude. Refusing to place God
first, we had deprived ourselves of His help. But now the
words "Of myself I am nothing, the Father doeth the
works" began to carry bright promise and meaning.
saw we needn't always be bludgeoned and beaten into humility.
It could come quite as much from our voluntary reaching
for it as it could from unremitting suffering. A great turning
point in our lives came when we sought for humility as something
we really wanted, rather than as something we must have.
It marked the time when we could commence to see the full
implication of Step Seven: "Humbly asked Him to remove
we approach the actual taking of Step Seven, it might be
well if we A.A.'s inquire once more just what our deeper
objectives are. Each of us would like to live at peace with
himself and with his fellows. We would like to be assured
that the grace of God can do for us what we cannot do for
ourselves. We have seen that character defects based upon
shortsighted or unworthy desires are the obstacles that
block our path toward these objectives. We now clearly see
that we have been making unreasonable demands upon ourselves,
upon others, and upon God.
chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear--primarily
fear that we would lose something we already possessed or
would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis
of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual
disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to
be had unless we could find a means of reducing these demands.
The difference between a demand and a simple request is
plain to anyone.
Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude
which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out
from ourselves toward others and toward God. The whole emphasis
of Step Seven is on humility. It is really saying to us
that we now ought to be willing to try humility in seeking
the removal of our other shortcomings just as we did when
we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, and came
to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore
us to sanity. If that degree of humility could enable us
to find the grace by which such a deadly obsession could
be banished, then there must be hope of the same result
respecting any other problem we could possibly have.
© AAWS Services