Step Seven: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

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This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  My specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out my introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Seven: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

Through the last three steps of the 12 Step program, you’ve looked candidly not only at the destruction your addiction has caused, but also at the character defects that drove your addiction and caused dysfunction in other areas.  As you ready yourself to hand over your shortcomings to God in Step Six, you come to terms with the origins of these patterns and how they have served you.

What does it mean to ask God to remove your shortcomings in Step Seven?  First and foremost, it is an act of surrender.  You must acknowledge the reality that you cannot make yourself perfect or improve your character flaws and defects on your own.  You begin to see that change comes from the work of God and the Holy Spirit in you (Galatians 5:19-25).

Step Seven also fosters a healthy dependence on God.  The most significant action of this step is praying and asking God to remove your flaws, but the true work of this step is done by God.  Similar to Step One, you are humbly admitting that you aren’t able to overcome your moral shortcomings on your own.  It is an interesting and challenging reminder of surrender in trust: you have to ask God to do this step for you.

Asking God to remove these shortcomings also creates greater intimacy in relationship with God.  Rather than a grueling taskmaster or dictator who tells you what to do and then punishes you when you don’t do it, this step requires you to step into a greater knowledge of God as personal, desiring a relationship with His people, and at work in transforming hearts to align with His will.  He promises in His word that He will give us the power and the desire to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13).

How to Work Step Seven

Write a personalized prayer to God asking Him to remove your shortcomings and align your heart with His will for your life.

Create a prayer customized to your specific character flaws and defects.  Write down a simple prayer that acknowledges each of the defects outlined in the earlier steps and ask God to remove them.  An example might look like this:

God, I acknowledge that I have fallen short in these areas.  I desire that you would renew my heart and change my thoughts and behaviors so that I can live in greater alignment with Your Will for my life.  I entrust myself to you.  Amen.

Set up a daily ritual of prayer and surrender.

Praying and asking God to remove our shortcomings is not a one-time step.  It is a commitment to continually turn to God when you see your flaws and ask Him to help.  In light of this, you can remind yourself of His presence through a daily ritual of prayer or self-care that helps you connect to God as the instrument of change in your heart.

You might repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer each morning upon waking.  You could plan a self-care practice such as journaling or taking a prayer walk to help you process the changes beginning to happen in your character.  Self-reflective meditation such as journaling can help you explore what is underlying some of your shortcomings and then clearly submit those to God.  All these practices are meant to help build a consistent, committed relationship to God.

Identify a few main areas that feel impossible to overcome.

When you created your moral inventory over the past several steps, it is likely that you stumbled across some areas of your life you’ve been avoiding for a long time.  You may feel discouraged and hopeless about seeing those areas change.  For these particular flaws, Step Seven is like a breath of fresh air: you are not required to eliminate these behaviors or thoughts on your own.  You have the help of God.

Choose a few character defects that are the most troubling to you currently.  Create a reminder to pray about each of those areas consistently.  Ask God to impress on your heart ways that you can take one small step at a time into change.

Be gentle with yourself.

Asking for removal of your character flaws is certainly a significant step toward transformation, but it isn’t a magic bullet.  You will continue to have slips, make mistakes, and fall into old patterns.  When this happens, don’t beat yourself up over it.  Heaping more shame onto yourself simply drives your addictive behavior back into the forefront and does not align with the compassion Jesus displays toward sinners.

Connect with the truth about Jesus’ love for the sinner through reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible, or check out The Ragamuffin Gospel* by Brennan Manning.  Accept your failures as avenues to grow closer to God and learn more about your struggles.  See them as gifts to be grateful for as they remind you of the fact that you are in progress.

Wait.

One of the hardest steps for an instant-gratification seeker like an addict is patience.  As mentioned earlier, God does not immediately eliminate your character flaws.  You will still be dealing with these flaws in your daily life.  Rest in God’s timing and continually turn back to submitting your shortcomings to him.  This is the picture of humility and trust.

Connect with others.

The constant chorus through these steps is to connect with others: your sponsor, your 12 Step group, your spiritual guide, your support individuals.  Step Seven offers the unique opportunity to receive the grace and love of God through relationships with others.  As you share about your personal struggles with character flaws, those who have experienced transformation in those same areas can give insight and compassion.  And once you have achieved some level of freedom from these flaws and alignment with God’s will, you have a unique understanding with which to help others who are dealing with the same issues. 

Are you realizing the damage your character defects have caused to yourself and your relationships?  Do you have a hard time believing that God could change your heart?  Are you struggling to be patient within the process of change?  At Restored Hope, I believe that you can experience freedom from addiction through using the principles of the Twelve Steps.  I’d love to be a support to you on your journey to a more wholehearted and fulfilled life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment.

 

 

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