The 12 Steps of Humility

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

 

THE LADDER IS OUR LIFE ON EARTH, IF WE HUMBLE OUR HEART GOD WILL RAISE IT TO HEAVEN. ~ ST. BENEDICT 

 

 

 THE TWELFTH STEP OF HUMILITY
A monk always manifests humility to those around [her]. ~ The Rule of Benedict

I am bowed down and humbled in every way. ~ Psalm 38:6

 

Whatever our influences are they will show themselves in our attitudes and actions toward others. If we are careful to keep our hearts and minds on God’s way that will come through to those in our path.

Humility connects us to the world… calms us and it calms others. It inspires and it assures; it enriches and it enables. Humility gifts us with happiness and graces the world with peace. ~Joan Chittister*


Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility are a difficult list of expectations. Certainly they are demands that one cannot attain without consistent help from the Divine. 

Thankfully God knows our heart and gifts us with the strength and abilities we need to press into His presence and begin the transformation process. 

But it’s up to us to take the first step with intention. By recognizing God’s presence, accepting His will and the spiritual leadership He puts before us, we can persevereacknowledge our faults, live contently and honestly, restrain our mouth and laughter so we can listen and learn from others

Hopefully at some point we will be centered and serene enough that others will see in us the humility that we are trying to achieve.

 

RESOURCES:
The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chitister*
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Benedicts’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry


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12 Principles of Recovery :: MEANING

MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS. WE’RE ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP US LEARN THESE CORE VALUES SO WE CAN PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE. 

life purpose

STEP ELEVEN
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

PRINCIPLE ELEVEN
Meaning

KEY QUESTION
What is the purpose of my life?

These days life seems to be so complicated and stressful. One day I think I have my purpose and meaning figured out, then something happens and I’m confused all over again. 

Life is full of loose ends, uncertainty, confusion and frustration. Yet nothing is wasted or random or pointless. Everything that happens is nourishing compost for our spiritual and emotional growth. It is in the midst of the messiness of life that we often find meaning or, sometimes, that meaning finds us. ~ Patrick Carnes* 

In a life of recovery we must learn to accept the bad with the good.  If we can find our anchor in God and the beautiful things in life, we will find it easier to be less reactive when struggles come.

We can find meaning in our life by reflecting on times when we felt most affirmed and valued. The challenge here is recognizing these feelings and their situations. There may have been times when we were being affirmed but were unaware.

A daily spiritual practice is vitally important.  By starting or ending our day with a meditative/prayerful time of reflection. In the morning we can start by setting our intentions for the day. In the evening we examine how caring, loving or supportive we were this particular day.

When we find an activity or person that brought us special meaning this will show us where we may want to devote more time in the future. In doing this we will discover what gives us value and purpose in our life. 

What gives our life meaning today may not give us meaning tomorrow. But when we look at the core values of some activities or situations we may find a common denominator that can bring more clarity.

When life seems to be going at lightning speed and we covered in stress dust that’s the time to stop and notice what made us happy yesterday.  When we do, we can see God balances our life messes and challenges with sweetness and beauty. 

In those sweet beautiful times we’ll find our life purpose and meaning. 


RESOURCES: 
A Gentle Path through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps by Patrick Carnes*


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RECOVERY REDEFINED

In the addiction community RECOVERY is related to our ability to obtain or maintain sobriety from our drug of choice.  Today I want to talk about recovery as a human being not just about struggles with substance addiction.

recovery:   

1. the regaining of something lost or taken away.

2. return to any former and better state or condition.

 

Let’s begin by stating that everyone is addicted to something. Whether or not we are aware of it or are willing to admit it, we all have something on which we lean in times of loneliness, stress or crisis. 

Socially acceptable addictions: TV, Internet, work, shopping, games…

Not socially acceptable addictions: drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, food…

No matter which category we fall in we are all seeking a pain killer, something that will take us out of this painful reality in which we live day to day.
 
When we’re born our spirit comes to this human form where God allows us to learn the lessons that will prepare us for our eternal life with Him. I believe our spirit is on a continual search for that heavenly realm away from this painful earthly life. Because we are in this human form with its physical desires, that so often get us in trouble, when we do find our pleasure centers we often decide to live there.
Looking at the definition for recovery above, I believe when we are seeking various pain relievers, our personal pleasures or “drugs of choice” we are in essence trying to return to our former and better state of life: heaven.
It’s not so much about removing the negative as it is about putting in more of the positive. When we focus on the negative it sometimes draws us there. It’s important that we not focus on pushing out the bad but rather focus on filling in with positive things; keeping the good front and center. 
 
The filling and refilling starts the process of recovery. Notice I said the process of recovery. RECOVERY isn’t a state that we will attain on this earth. It will only come when we are freed of this human form and in the heavenly realm with our Holy Father. 

Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! ~ Romans 7:24-25

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12 Principes of Recovery :: TRUST

MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS. WE’RE ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP US LEARN THESE CORE VALUES SO WE CAN PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE. 


STEP TEN
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

PRINCIPLE TEN
TRUST

KEY QUESTION:
How do I live not knowing outcomes?


As I write this column my husband’s youngest brother is fighting for his life in ICU. My husband is in job transition and we are looking for a new place to live.

If there was ever a season of uncertain outcomes it is now. 

Recovering addicts don’t like the unknown. We want to have a plan or at least something that resembles a plan. But most of life is handed to us on a blank sheet of paper. 

Seemingly we are left to find our own direction.

Without the help of God it would be very easy to curl up and stop caring. It takes determination to get out of bed, put each foot in front of the other and try to do the next right thing.

Principle Ten asks us to Trust. 

Can we trust ourselves to do the next right thing? 
Can we trust others to accept us even if we don’t?

Change has gotten easier with age. But today I’m struggling through the uncertainty. 





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The 12 Principles :: RESPONSIVENESS


MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS; ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP LEARN THESE CORE VALUES AND PUTTING THEM INTO PRACTICE. 






STEP NINE

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 


PRINCIPLE NINE
Responsiveness


KEY QUESTION: 
What is integrity?








“As our recovery deepens, responsibility grows into responsiveness. Spiritual intelligence unfolds into spiritual integrity.  Making amends expands into mending the world.” ~Patrick Carnes


Most addicts have a history of being reactive rather than responsive especially to situations of change. Thankfully at this stage of our recovery we are aware of the effects our decisions and actions have on those around us. We have taken the focus off ourselves and are more interested in helping others.

The one thing in life we can be certain of is change. When we are responsive we adjust quickly, and easily to changing external conditions. Being responsive prevents regret and that starts by doing today what we will be happy with tomorrow.

No matter how bad things may look the outcome may end up being for our good. In the reverse, circumstances may be seemingly be great then the winds of change sweep through with a dramatic change that spins our head around.

The challenge here is to not hold on too tight, being adaptive and spiritually flexible while staying true to our greater life purpose. Rather than leaning in to the situation with an emotional reaction, we can lean back, watch and wait; checking for any positive action needed on our part. If none is necessary we surrender to the moment and wait for change to come again. And it certainly will. 

KEY QUESTION: What is integrity?

in-te-gri-ty:  an undivided or unbroken completeness; moral soundness

When walking in our addictions our moral soundness was severely lacking. This is one thing that is most important to me as I continue the recovery journey. I don’t ever want to hurt the ones I love again. 


A life that exhibits integrity is crucial. There’s no turning back now!


RESOURCES: 
A Gentle Path through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps by Patrick Carnes ** 

12 Principles of Recovery :: COMMITMENT

MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS; ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP TO LEARN THESE CORE VALUES AND PUTTING THEM INTO PRACTICE. 




STEP EIGHT:

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

PRINCIPLE EIGHT:
Commitment

KEY QUESTION:
How am I responsible?






Searching the Internet for images that convey the word “commitment” brought multiple pics of marriage proposals. Strangely enough I had much difficulty finding images which displayed the concept of commitment…

So I went to the dictionary and found the words: Pledge, Promise and Obligation. All of these words are hard to put into a visual image. They must be lived out.
As addicts living in addiction we knew about commitment. We were committed to finding our next fix. We would go to great lengths to get it, pushing others aside and often leaving destruction in our wake.
Now the recovery life challenge is to take that same determined commitment and turn it around for the purpose of our health and personal relationships.
If we break down the dictionary definition words from above: pledge, promise and obligation, we see words that imply a personal decision, thought processes, words spoken, documents signed, physical actions taken. 
The idea of commitment isn’t to be taken lightly. Though as addicts it’s sometimes difficult to grasp and maintain the seriousness of it within ourselves.

The key question asks: How am I responsible?


Am I responsible to keep boundaries in place so my triggers don’t snap?

Am I responsible to be honest with myself, friends and partners when I am weak and struggling?


Am I response-able?
My recovery-abled response: Pause and then do the next right thing!



RESOURCES: 
A Gentle Path through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps by Patrick Carnes ** 

12 Principles of Recovery :: COURAGE

MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS; ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP TO LEARN THESE CORE VALUES AND PUTTING THEM INTO PRACTICE. 

The 12 Steps are rules to memorize The 12 Principles are ingredients to a healthy life.**


STEP 7

Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.


PRINCIPLE 7

Courage


KEY QUESTION

What risks must I take?






Addicts are not strangers to risk. When living in my addiction I do many risky things; often putting others at risk. 



In recovery, our approach to risk changes completely. We learn to consider our risks instead of following our impulses. We consult our inner observer, then consciously choose which risks to take. One day at a time, we become both more courageous and more discerning. ~ Patrick Carnes**

It takes courage to:

  • Get out of bed and face reality each day.
  • Be open and vulnerable in our relationships. 
  • Make amends for our wrong doings. 
  • Have faith for an unknown future. 
  • Process our internal pain and fears.
  • Name and feel the feelings so long numbed.
  • Keep boundaries in place.
  • Do the next right thing.

 What am I risking with my courage?   Pain. Rejection. Uncertainty.

Bottom line: There is no courage without risk.


RESOURCES: 
A Gentle Path through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps by Patrick Carnes ** 

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12 Steps of Humility :: RADICAL SELF-EXAMINATION

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.


The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 

THE SEVENTH STEP OF HUMILITY:
A monk not only admits with [her] tongue but believes in [her] heart that others are better than she is.



It is good for me that I was humbled so that I might learn your statutes. ~ Psalm 119:71

Again the ancient language of Saint Benedict goes against our grain and everything we are taught today. But without a doubt the Rule is Biblical!


This radical self-examination, seeing ourselves as inferior to others is not to be done in a self-deprecating, undervalued way. 

When we can find joy in seeing the value of others over ourselves we allow ourselves to be teachable.

“Once we stop pretending to be what we know we are not, we are free to except ourselves and except others as well…  In this acceptance of our own meager virtues and our own massive failures, we have a chance to understand the failures of others.  We have the opportunity to become kind.” ~ Joan Chittister*


The seventh step on Benedict’s ladder of humility is asking us to make room for personal growth. 



RESOURCES:
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister*
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry

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12 Principles of Recovery :: HONESTY

MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS; ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP TO LEARN THESE CORE VALUES AND PUTTING THEM INTO PRACTICE. 




STEP 6
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these character defects.

PRINCIPLE SIX: Honesty

KEY QUESTION:
What must improve?




“When our addiction was the center of our world, we lived a double (or triple or quadruple) life. We said one thing and did another. We told different people different stories. We told ourselves contradictory stories. And we tried to keep track of it all. But of course we couldn’t. No one could. And eventually our world of lies and contradictions imploded.”  ~Dr. Patrick Carnes**


As a recovering addict, honesty is one of the most difficult yet critical things I must practice. After 10 years of recovery I’m still learning how to be honest.


To walk out Principle Six I have made a deal with myself. If I slip or struggle in my area of weakness I must be willing to admit it. Admitting it is far easier and less painful than the potential fall out that might come if it is discovered.

Our confession must not be used against us. We have to feel safe when sharing the weaknesses we have with others. It can’t be used as ammunition later.

The beauty of honesty is its simplicity. Life is much less complicated when we are able to be honest with ourselves and others.

Keeping a check on my self-talk is key. If I am tempted to, or actually do slip, I must ask:

What story am I creating in my mind around my behavior? 

Am I willing to accept the consequences that may come with the honesty that is needed?



RESOURCES: 
A Gentle Path through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps by Patrick Carnes **

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The 12 Principles of Recovery :: OPENNESS

MY RECOVERY WORK THIS YEAR IS FOCUSED ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE 12 STEPS, ASKING KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP TO LEARN THESE CORE VALUES AND PUTTING THEM INTO PRACTICE. 



STEP FIVE
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of or wrongs.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: 
Openness

KEY QUESTION
How do I trust?




Addicts have a sordid history with trust issues. We’ve trusted people we shouldn’t have. We didn’t trust people we should have. We violated our own values. We invaded other people’s space. We didn’t do what we said we would. We weren’t faithful to our partner. We kept secrets. We didn’t trust ourselves. We weren’t trustworthy. 


Most of us were deprived of bonding with our parents as young children causing us to feel unworthy. The ability to trust is closely linked to feeling wanted and having a sense of belonging. 

Even after nine years in recovery I still struggle. Maybe not every day or even every week, but when the struggles come they sometimes hit hard. One thing that has made the biggest difference over these years is having a trusted friend with whom I can share my challenges. 

It’s most important to find a friend or mentor with whom we can share our pain. We must seek out a fellowship community or recovery group where we can make trusted friends. There we can begin to bond, open up and heal. 

Learning how to trust others isn’t a quick process. We’ve had bad examples most of our lives so we will need to walk this path slowly. When sharing our story we must not over share but yet not hide things God is trying to bring into the light where the healing can start.

When we honestly ask ourselves which [people] in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness that is a friend who cares. ~ Henri Nouwen **



RESOURCES:

A Gentle Path through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps by Patrick Carnes **

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