Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Principles : Hope vs. Despair
After listing the character defects in the sixth step, the addict now turns to their shortcomings. Is there a difference between them? Anecdotal history has it that Bill Wilson did not intend there to be any difference, and only used the phrase “shortcomings” in order to avoid redundancy. Regardless of his intentions, I contend that there is a substantial difference between them, and it is within this step that a turn-around takes place for the addicted individual. Contrary to the possible misconception that the 12-step programs focus primarily on the negative aspects of the individual’s past, in the seventh step the dis-eased person begins to look toward the future, and who they would like to be.
At this juncture in the addict’s recovery, they are still operating for the most part, out of their character defects. If they ask God to remove them, what will they be left with. If, on the other hand, their shortcomings are the character traits that they are short of, then to remove them is to ask God for more of them. This has three benefits. The first is that instead of focusing their attention on the negative traits that have resulted in their demise, the individual can focus on the assets (every person already has some measure of them) that they need to grow spiritually and recover. This gives the addicted individual hope for the future. It gives them a goal to work towards. The second benefit is that this method of explanation helps the addict put their past behaviors in proper perspective. It takes away the notion of their being “all bad,” and demonstrates the reality, and the duality, of the human personality in an easily identifiable way. It also makes it clear that they choose how they will be, that it is not a matter of fate, etc. Finally, by focusing on the shortcomings as something that is needed, and asking God to help them attain more of it, it implies that the character of the individual will grow larger, rather than diminish by taking away their character defects, since removal of all the character defects would, in essence, reduce most addicts to virtually no character what-so-ever. The addict need only exercise their positive assets, and cease exercising the negative defects, in order to produce a great change in character and the flexibility and balance necessary for emotional health.
Taking the list of defects created in the 6th step, the listener aids the client in identifying the opposite assets for each defect listed. For example, if one of the defects is anger, the opposite asset would be forgiveness. An individual may not be able to be less angry, but he or she can pray for the ability to be more forgiving. After completing both sides of the list, the addict prays each morning and evening for the following thirty days, to be given more of the assets, or shortcomings. While the individual is praying, they need to be instructed to imagine what it would feel like to be that way. In other words, if they were praying for more forgiveness, they might imagine what it would be like to have forgiven whomever they are angry at. They are also to be instructed to pull the list out throughout the day, especially when they are aware of practicing one of the character defects, and immediately asking for the opposite asset.
It is much easier to act my way into right feeling and thinking than it is to feel my way into right action.