Step Seven states that we humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings. Some people say, at this point, wait, a second ago we were talking about character defects and now we’re talking about shortcomings. What’s the difference? There’s no difference. The authors of the book were just trying to mix up their language a bit. Remember when your teacher told you not to reuse words in your essays. Same deal. Some people get hung up on that. So we think it’s worth nothing. Shortcomings and defects can be considered the same thing. Moving on.
So we humbly asked. Again we must humble ourselves to our Higher Power. And how do we ask? The most effective method is through prayer. There is even a Seventh Step prayer. It can be found in the Big Book. Here’s how it goes:
My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do your bidding. Amen.
The two most important words in that prayer might be the words: my usefulness. We have been learning throughout these steps how to be less self-centered and help others. Our character defects are the chief impediment to our ability to be of service to others. As the prayer states, they literally stand in the way of our usefulness. With God’s help they can be removed. But it will take some time. And it will also take some effort on our part.
Character defects are inherently selfish. They block us from helping others. And as we have learned throughout this program, the whole purpose of getting and staying sober is to become less self- involved and be of maximum service to others.
The second most important word in that prayer is humbly. We don’t say hey God get these defects out of here and step on it. I have things to do. We humbly ask knowing that our way of working on the defects hasn’t worked so well for us. So we’re willing to say to our Higher Power, I’m now ready to ask for your help to remove my shortcomings. And I’m also willing to put in the work.
So let’s talk about God removing these defects. For people who are pretty used to being in control and having black or white thinking this can be a scary concept. First of all, we need to understand that the removal is not going to be on our timetable. Second, we can’t expect God to remove our defects if we continue to act on them.
The removal of defects is often a slow and painful process that includes one step forward and two steps back. We might be doing well on some defects while sliding with other ones. If you’ve ever heard someone refer to the game Whack-a-mole this is what they’re referring to. We’re working on our temper and doing well, but all of a sudden we find that we’re being less responsible with our finances. Or the bank account is looking good but we’re getting into relationships we shouldn’t be getting into. The list goes on and on. And it’s a lifelong process. That’s why it’s so important to be humble. Remember it’s about progress not perfection. If we’re striving for perfection we are going to be consistently disappointed. Just don’t drink and keep working at it. You are not alone.