12 Steps of Recovery | Step 7 - The Value of Humility
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."
In the prior blog I discussed Step 6 and the transitioning from a self-determined attitude to, as the Big Book says, "the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job." The probability of your existing as you, today, is about 1 in 400 trillion. Wrapping our heads around such a figure is difficult, however, the fact that you are alive at all is quite impressive. Carrying envy, harboring resentments, or any other defective attitude toward others and the world marginalizes your unique presence today. Having the disposition that only God can remove all our defects of character gives us the opportunity to be present. Taking on the "best possible attitude" prepares us for Step 7, we are now ready to "humbly ask God to remove these character defects."
Talented comedians have the ability to take everyday situations, even serious situations, and make us laugh. Their comedic skits remind us, in many ways, not to take life to seriously. In fact, laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Laughter lightens our daily burdens, inspires, and connects us with others. All of which increases our mental health states by distressing emotions, relaxing us, and allowing us to shift perspectives by seeing situations in less threatening ways. The benefits of laughter are abounding.
Where humor asks us to not take life so seriously, humility asks us to not taker ourselves so seriously. When we first admitted our powerlessness over drugs and alcohol and came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity in Step 1 and Step 2 we were exemplifying humility. In fact, there is not a step within the 12-Steps where we are not practicing humility. Step 7 simply asks us to finally recognize this truth and, also, make it a point, everyday, to be humble. Humility within recovery is, according to NA basic text, as much a part of staying clean as food and water are to staying alive. There are numerous benefits to being humble in nature.
For example, humbled individuals have been shown to be better leaders, more effective employees, perform better in school, are more helpful and generous in general, and less prejudice toward others. It is no wonder, then, that humble people are more likely to build stronger bonds between other individuals resulting in better relationships between partners, friends, classmates, and colleagues due to their tolerance and acceptance of others. These traits have positive chemical effects within the brain too. When people perform positive acts such as helping others, the good feeling that follows is a result of the brain producing dopamine. The body also produces oxytocin, the bonding hormone, which binds to blood vessels causing dilation of blood vessels leading to reduced blood pressure. A natural high is also produced by endogenous opioids within the brain, such as endorphins when acts of kindness are performed.
Humbleness has also been shown to provide individuals with a higher sense of self-control which is absolutely crucial to people who struggle with addiction. The reason for removing self from Step 2 forward is, although empirically unknown to the original writers of the Big Book, that the obsession with self leads to lower self control. Humble people tend to know their limits in comparison to those who rely on self.
Also, and I think it's worth noting, that humility can be seen as a paradoxical virtue. For example, although it might be worthy for someone steeped in honor to moderate their view of self, someone involved in an unhealthy relationship needs to bolster their sense of self-worth. Thus defining humility around two main characteristics may be more beneficial than the generic definition. On the intrapersonal level, humility involves an accurate view of the self. On the interpersonal level, humility involves a stance that is other-oriented rather than self-focused. This dual definition of humility appears to resolve the paradoxical view as it it forces us to see ourselves as we actually are.
In the end, humility is something that people both within and outside of recovery could use more of. The state of being humble has numerous, positive effects in store for every person that practices this virtue. At Triple Peaks and Serenity Peaks we believe that practicing Step 7 is an important supplement to our clinical setting and long-term sobriety.
Continue reading our series on a 12 Step Recovery | Step 8