There is much writing in the world of recovery about ‘humility’, but there are few definitions. Unless a definition is presented, any discussion is worthless.
In British English, the definition (per the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary—the most reliable source, being the only comprehensive catalogue of all words in use from Shakespeare onwards, with definitions reflecting actual usage) is as follows (with parts that are irrelevant for our purposes removed):
‘Having or showing a low estimate of one’s own importance; (of an action, thought, etc.) offered with or affected by such an estimate.’
It is often asserted that humility is not about ‘lowliness’. One is perfectly welcome to assert that a word has the meaning one wants it to have, but that does not make it so. I can assert that the word duck means the farmyard animal that moos and produces milk, but any self-respecting duck will continue to quack. There is no room for wishful thinking when discussing language.
Patently, humility is about recognising one’s relative insignificance. Relative to what or whom? God.
Why is this relevant?
I cannot click my fingers and change. Yet change is possible. God is the power that lies beyond my own conscious resources. In taking Step Seven, therefore, and asking for God to remove my defects, I am recognising my relative insignificance and the magnificent power of God.
There is a helpful motto, however, which is that ‘without, God I can’t; without me, he won’t’.
My character defects essentially are my attitudes, thinking, and behaviour that are not to the greater good.
As with everything in recovery, the only two commodities I need are direction and strength (satellite navigation system plus fuel). With the removal of defects, I need to ask God for revised attitudes, thinking, and behaviour, and then I need to ask God for the strength to put these into practice. It is Steps Eight–Twelve that provide the practical framework for this to happen.
The direction and strength thus come from God, although I must bring all of my resources to bear, also. If my defect is that I get up too late in the morning, I need to get up earlier; if my defect is that I am unpleasant towards others, I need to keep my mouth shut or pray for kind words and comportment.
The result is only ever progress, not perfection, and I am not responsible for God not yet removing a defect, although I am responsible for bringing all existing resources to bear to the problem by practising Steps Eight–Twelve as the basic structure of my life.
Lastly: the instruction is to ask God. Once God has been asked, Step Seven is complete. It is the remaining five Steps that represent the implementation.
One of course repeats the Steps as a cycle, which is implied in Step Twelve. The devisers of the Steps did not intend, however, for Step Seven to be taken daily (any more than they intended for Step Three to be taken daily). The words ‘daily’ and ‘repeatedly’ were available in 1939, and their omission is as much of an instruction as any explicit direction towards daily action on pages 85–88.
Step Seven—rather—is a simple commitment, like marriage vows of the signing of an employment contract. Take it, and move on.