In the opening paragraphs of the chapter devoted to step seven in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill Wilson emphatically states, “the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of AA’s twelve steps.” The legendary alcoholic goes on to claim that, “…without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all.” This can be a daunting task in modern day culture, where humility is often associated with weakness, or an almost passive mode of existence. Society puts so much emphasis on external accomplishments, appearance, and arrogance that even a small display of humility can make one feel like a drowning man coming up for air. Like many alcoholics, I struggled to define this quiet virtue. How can I begin to live by these principles if I can’t interpret them myself? At the suggestion of Bill W. and my sponsor, I set out to find my own meaning.
All too often, alcoholics set out to seek humility by thinking less about themselves when in reality they should be thinking about themselves less. By following these guidelines, I have determined that humility means that you are secure enough not to need to be reassured by others. It means that you don’t feel you have to prove yourself by showing that you are more cleaver, smarter, more gifted or more successful than others. You are secure because you live in God’s love. For he has faith in you even if you do not. You do not need to compare yourself to others. You have your task, they have theirs, and that leads you to co-operate, not compete.
This means you can see other people and value them for what they are. They are not just a series of mirrors at which you look only to see your own reflection. Secure in yourself, you can see value in others. Confident in your identity, you can value the people not like you. Humility is the self turned outward. It is the understanding that it is not about you.
If you set yourself on human approval, you’re controlled by the people you want to please. I was a walking example of this and this is why I drank. You become overly concerned with what people think of you and begin to shape your behavior around gaining their approval. The result is that you lose your sense of who you really are and you start compromising your principles.
So I challenge you, free yourself of the stronghold of society and find your own definition of humility. Let’s walk this road together!