Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1952, p. 58) describes humility as “a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.” Having humility means you are teachable, and that you are prone neither to toot your own horn nor to put yourself down.

If honesty is the cornerstone of recovery, humility is the mortar that holds it in place. Bill Wilson said thousands of times that alcoholics are all-or-nothing people. Humility means accepting that all people are both beast and angel, that being a human being is good enough. Without this acceptance, without humility, it is all too easy to slip into playing God.


There are some myths and misconceptions about humility, in the general population as well as in addiction recovery.

The appearance of humility that is not genuine is called false humility. Suppose you have good public speaking skills. You give a talk at a Twelve-Step meeting and someone says, “That was great. I got a lot out of it.” You reply, “It was nothing, really.” Not only have you put yourself down, you have also rejected the compliment, the gift, that the other person wanted to give.

Low self-esteem Often, addicts miss the mark of humility, not by being arrogant and overconfident, but by failing to recognize their strengths. Ironically, arrogant people are often people who also have low self-esteem, but try to cover up for it with their audacity.

Real Humility

Real humility includes gratitude for your strengths and honesty about your weaknesses. The truth is that everyone has strengths and gifts, weaknesses and shortcomings. Those that cause you trouble can be overcome using the Program, one day at a time. In the last analysis, you and every other human being will remain imperfect, limited, both beast and angel.

Humility, see also: Acceptance, Anonymity, Attitudes, Character defects, Grace, Gratitude, Honesty, Humor & fun, Inventory, Love & caring, Openmindedness, Prayer & meditation, Self-image, Service & giving, Slogans, Spirituality, Step Ten, Step Eleven, Surrender, Unity, Willingness.

Updated 11 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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