An audio recording of the whole service:
Asking for Help? One Day at a Time
Step Seven – We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
Trevor Hudson tells the following story:
A man sat across the desk from his doctor and complained, ‘Doctor, I have an awful headache. Can you help me to get rid of it?’
Certainly,’ answered the doctor. ‘But I need to ask you a few questions first to help diagnose the problem.’
‘Tell me, do you drink at all?’
‘Alcohol!?’ said the man, ‘I don’t touch the filthy stuff.’
‘Do you smoke at all?’
‘Tobacco is disgusting! I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.’
‘I'm a bit embarrassed to ask you this, but its important. Do you run around with other women besides your wife?’
‘Of course I don’t Doctor. Who do you think I am? I’m in bed every night by ten at the latest.’
‘Tell me,’ asked the doctor, ‘that pain in your head, it is a sharp shooting pain?’
‘Yes’ said the man, ‘It’s a sharp shooting pain.’
‘Well, I know what is causing it. Your trouble is that you have your halo on too tight. You need to loosen it a bit.’
It is very easy to think of others when we hear that story… are there people you can think of who wear their halo just a little too tightly? Hopefully however we can see ourselves in that story. Like Trevor Hudson, I certainly can see myself in that story.
Examining the story, it is not so much the answers that the man gives that suggest his halo is too tight, but rather the emotion and the defensiveness that are the problem.
Reflecting on that story, Trevor Hudson asks: ‘How often do we not give the impression that we a more honest, more caring, more virtuous than we really are? While in theory, we may be willing to admit to our faults, we often become very defensive when anyone reminds us of them. A quick test: How did you respond that last time someone pointed out one of your character flaws?
He suggests that true humility involves loosening our halos. That doesn’t mean necessarily loosening our behaviour and our conduct (although for some of us who may have grown up in a particularly constricted and repressed environment that may be the case). What it does mean is being less defensive in our responses to others and being more willing and open to see and admit our weaknesses and character flaws.
This is requires a certain humility. True humility says Trevor Hudson involves loosening our halos. About being honest in acknowledging both our strengths and weaknesses, accepting that we can be both saint and sinner, angel and monster. It’s about seeing ourselves as we really are. Humility neither exaggerates nor plays down the truth of who we are. It simply accepts the reality that we are fragile, flawed and fallible human beings. This is one of the key parts of the 12 Step Programme. In some ways the 12 Step Program seems a little repetitive, but in a way that is important because each step builds on the next and sometimes requires us to revisit steps we have already been through. A key element of the 12 Step Program is in helping participants to humbly and honestly look at themselves. Without nurturing this quality of humility it will be very difficult for anyone to find healing from addiction and from our dysfunctional thinking and behaviour. Humility is a key quality needed for anyone who wishes to be made well or whole. In the Zen tradition, humility is also known as the beginners mind. The mind that thinks it is an expert already will never be open to learning anything new. The beginners mind is a humble mind that is open to learn new things.
Step 7 explicitly invites us to practice humility. There is nothing like asking for help in helping us to practice humility. To ask for help is to recognise that we don’t have all the answers. To ask for help is a recognition of our need for the other or others. It is a recognition that we are not completely independent being, that we are not completely self-sufficient… we are part of a network of interdependence. Those who are humble are ready and willing to call out for help.
Les Brown writes: Ask for help, not because you are weak but because you want to remain strong.
And Louise Hay writes: Its ok to ask for help. I give help to others when they need it. I ask help from others when I need it.
And Katrina Meyer writes: I am courageous enough to know that I can accomplish great things. I am humble enough to know when I need to ask for help.
In Step 7 we are invited to call out to God (the God of our understanding) or our Higher Power or perhaps even our Higher Self if we may struggle with conventional God-language. Some might choose to ask Love with a capital L to help them. Asking humbly for help to remove our shortcomings.
Richard Rohr, the American Franciscan priest who has written extensively on the value of the 12 step program writes the following:
“We can never engineer or guide our own transformation or conversion. If we try, our so-called conversion will be self-centred with most of our preferences and addictions still fully in place but now well disguised. And so Step 7 says that we must “humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.”
As Trevor Hudson indicates, this is a water-shed moment in the 12 steps as we actually humble ourselves enough to ask for help and indicate our desire in no -uncertain terms to the journey towards well-ness and wholeness.
Again, we are reminded by Trevor that this does not mean we will wake up with all our problems solves and all our character defects removed, but now we are truly on a path in which change can take place. It is a step in which we now become active partners with God or our Higher Power towards a journey into a new future.
We have a heightened awareness now of what a strengths and weaknesses are. By sharing our wrongs with ourselves, God and one other human being, but indicating our entire willingness to change and now in humbling ourselves enough to ask for help, change can truly take place, even if the journey ahead is uneven, up-and-down and a long term process, all the ground work for change is now in place.
Trevor Hudson share one final thought on this Step. He says that when we ask God (or our Higher Power) to remove our character flaws from us, we also now need to become active participants in replacing them with their opposite qualities. If we battle with selfishness, we can begin to do kind or helpful things for others. If we procrastinate a lot, we can get down to doing something that we have been avoiding. If we are continually on the defensive we can discipline ourselves to not always have the last word. As we take action to build positive habits like these into our lives our journey towards healing, with the help of God will become more effective.
I end with a prayer that Trevor Hudson refers to at the end of the chapter. The prayer goes like this:
O God, I ain’t what I could be, and I ain’t what I should be, but thanks to you, I ain’t what I used to be.
Those words summarise what we can expect to happen when we apply step 7 on a regular basis. We may always be flawed, imperfect, in progress, on the way. But when we become humble enough to ask for help from God (or our Higher Power), and sometimes even from other people, God, or the Greater Wisdom that sustains us can start changing us One Day at a Time. Amen.
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