This week’s HTYH is about Step Seven and is taken from Bill Wilson’s book 12 Steps and 12 Traditions: “Humbly asked Him to remove our short-comings.” Since this step so specifically concerns itself with humility, we should pause here to consider what humility is and what the practice of it can mean to us.
Indeed, the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of AA’s Twelve Steps. For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all. Nearly all AA’s have found, too, that unless they develop much more of this precious quality than may be required just for sobriety; they still haven’t much chance of becoming truly happy. Without it, they cannot live too much useful purpose, or, in adversity, to be able to summon the faith that can meet any emergency.
Humility is a word and as an ideal, has a very bad time of it in our world. Often the idea is misunderstood; the word itself is often intensely disliked. Many people haven’t even a nodding acquaintance with humility as a way of life. Much of the every day talk we hear, and a great deal of what we read, highlights man’s pride in his own achievements.
With great intelligence, men of science have been forcing nature to disclose her secrets. The immense resources now being harnessed promise such a quality of material blessings that many have come to believe that a man-made millennium lies just ahead. Poverty will disappear, and there will be such abundance that everybody can have all the security and personal satisfactions he desires. The theory seems to be that once everybody’s primary instincts are satisfied, there won’t be much left to quarrel about. The world will then turn happy and be free to concentrate on culture and character. Solely by their own intelligence and labor, men will have shaped their own destiny.
Certainly no alcoholic, and surely no member of AA, wants to depreciate material achievement. Nor do we enter into debate with the many who still so passionately cling to the belief that to satisfy our basic natural desires is the main object of life. But we are sure that no class of people in the world ever made a worse mess of trying to live by this formula than alcoholics. For thousands of years we have been demanding more than our share of security, prestige, and romance. When it seemed we were succeeding, we drank to dream still greater dreams. When we were frustrated, even in part, we drank for oblivion. Never was there enough of what we thought we wanted.
In all these strivings, so many of them well intentioned, our crippling handicap had been our lack of humility. We had lacked the perspective to see that character building and spiritual values had to come first, and that material satisfactions were not the sole purpose of living. Quite characteristically, we had gone all out in confusing the ends with the means. Instead of regarding the satisfaction of our material desires as the means by which we could live and function as human beings, we had taken these satisfactions to be the final end and aim of life. To be continued…
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