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Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

If you’ve been along for this ride with me, you probably know it was a foregone conclusion that I rejected the notion of a deity removing my shortcomings when I got to this step.

Much has been written about the word Humbly in this step and, in fact, this is often what people focus on in step 7. I won’t discount humility. I will admit that it’s a requirement for step 7, but to leave the discussion solely to humility misses the mark.

If step 6 asks us if we are ready to address our shortcomings, then step 7 is about getting to the work. What exactly does this mean?

There are many paths up the proverbial mountain. For me step 7 is about getting to work on the things that I know I need to change about myself so that I can live in better harmony with others in my life. It’s about working to live life on life’s terms. Both of these require humility and acceptance.

We have to be humble enough to admit that there are things that we don’t do well. We must be humble enough to accept that others may see things differently. We must accept that life isn’t always fair — that we don’t control the outcome. We don’t always win. And that sometimes we need to give a bit in order to win. Surrender to win.

Clearly steps 8 and 9 provide some guidance with the call to list out people we have harmed and work to make amends. Step 10 talks about a daily inventory, step 11, prayer and meditation, and step 12 talks of carrying the message. These are all important parts of the work to improve ourselves but when I looked at myself I found there was more to the story.

For me, a big part of the work to change myself has involved “external help.” It has involved medical professionals as well as therapists. There is no magic pill out there that makes me less of an asshole, but I am less of an asshole when I’m not caught in the depths of depression. Medication and therapy help me with that.

In my therapy I’ve learned a lot about myself, about how I react rather than respond. About how I carry trauma with me that informs my response. I’ve learned that my primary trauma response is to stand and fight rather than to flee. I’ve also learned that if I take a moment to pause, the triggering event usually fades and I can respond more skillfully. I don’t do this by nature. I don’t always do it well. But I practice this.

I’ve learned that meditation is a part of the work. When I meditate I am able to train my brain to respond differently to triggers. I am able to become mindful of the very real physiological sensations that come along with my emotions and feelings. And with practice I can notice these sensations and identify the feelings when I’m being triggered. And noticing them gives me the opportunity to respond differently.

So step 7 may be about humility, but that’s just the surface in my opinion. The rest of the steps are all examples of the work that we commit to doing in step 7 and that work is all about improving ourselves so that we can live fuller and richer lives.

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