I used to think of Step 6 as the way-station, the place to rest and catch my breath for a few minutes before moving on to the next Step. It doesn't talk about actually *doing* something (i.e., making a decision); instead it reads like a passive, "OK, now what?" And I used to figure I could just kind of by-pass Step 6 and move directly to Step 7.
But thatís not it at all. In fact, I now think that Step 6 is one of the most spiritual and insightful steps of them all. No ≠ itís not all action, but letís look at it more closely, focusing on <> and <>.
What exactly *are* defects of character?
Some people define them as instincts run amok. I take comfort in knowing that all we humans have instincts for physical, emotional, mental and emotional survival. We all experience fear, we all have a sex drive, we all want recognition, we all want affection, we all want love and attention. These are absolutely normal *human* instincts. Without them, we would have disappeared as a species a long time ago.
What happens, however, is that for us compulsive eater/addict types, these instincts have gotten out of control. Our out of control instinctual needs demand more than our share. They take over our lives and cause us to believe and behave in ways that are out of sync with the rest of the world. My need for love and attention turns into desperate craving for love and attention, and I do all sorts of things to make sure I'm getting "mine," and this affects all my relationships. My need for recognition turns into an all consuming and desperate craving for way more than my rightful share of strokes and kudos, and I do all sorts of things to make sure I'm getting "mine," and this affects all my relationships. My instinct for affection turns into a desperate and all consuming craving for social contact ... my instinct for physical shelter becomes craving for more and more physical/ material possessions ... you get the point.
In our 4th and 5th steps we probably figured out that most of the time our difficulties with people, places and things were caused by our demanding more than we really needed, wanted or deserved.
An example: We wanted friendship, so we put ourselves into positions of trying to hold hostages rather than being a true friend, and we might have tried to buy friends by doing favors.
When we look at our resentments and fears like this, we realize that our character defects ≠ that "exact nature of our wrongs" ≠ have a hold on us very similar to our compulsive eating. Just as our "moderator" button for food stopped working a long time ago, so did our "moderator" button for all human instincts.
We're supposed to eat for nourishment and fuel. We have instincts for survival. As compulsive eaters, our instinct for nourishment/fuel has blossomed into overdrive, and so have our instincts for survival. Those overdriven instincts are our character defects ≠ and itís up to God to remove them. Thatís where Step 6 comes in.
Step 6 says that God is going to remove the defects of character that we listed in Steps 4 and 5. That implies that I can't do it and that I don't have to do it. It means that we truly believe that our Higher Power is powerful enough and cares about us enough to be able to and want to do this.
It also assumes an attitude adjustment on our part. How often have we been told ≠ or said ourselves ≠ I can do this on my own if ... If I just read the best book on changing my life, if I just meditate some more, if I just pray some more ... then maybe I'll be able to stop procrastinating or stop lying or stop gossiping. The reality is that I can wish or pray all I want, but I cannot get rid of my character defect of selfishness by myself. God knows I've tried. "This time I won't feel resentful. This time I won't want to gossip. This time ..." And there I go again, lying, cheating, gossiping, holding resentments. And the more I try to let go, the harder they stick to me.
Step 6 suggests however that the real problem is not that I have character defects, but that we are as powerless over our character defects (more about character defects later) and our character flaws as we are over food or other people.
AHA! You might say ... since I can't do anything about my tendency to lie, cheat, steal, gossip, criticize, be selfish or self-seeking, hold resentments, be afraid (the list is endless) ... then I should just sit back and wait for the moment when my HP decides to take them away. This is cool ≠ itís not my fault, itís not my responsibility ... yippee!!
Not so fast L. We have work to do, too; and I think there are two aspects to that work. One is the prep work.
I believe that God and I are partners, with God acting as the majority shareholder. God can ≠ and will ≠ perform the miracle of removing my desire and my tendency to lie, cheat, steal, etc. PROVIDED that I get entirely ready for God to do these things. If I'm not ready ≠ if I don't want to let go ≠ God can't and won't take them away.
So just how do I get ready?
One OA suggested that I make a list of all my defects of character and list all the good things that my defects have done for me and then an equal and opposite list of all the negative things they have done *to* me. Chances are really good that the bad well outweighs the good by a very big margin. We see the relationships we have messed up, the jobs we have lost, the opportunities we have missed, the lives we have screwed up (our own included). We see the repetition of behaviors over and over again as we do the same thing expecting different results. We see that our character defects have made our lives miserable and completely unmanageable. We see that we need to learn a new way of living, and we become ready for God to remove those defects of character.
Oh, dear, you may say, but if I'm not going to gossip, I'll be boring. That may be true (although I doubt it). But we'll see in Step 7 that we can ask God to replace the defects of character ≠ the out of control instincts ≠ with perspective and sanity and a new way of thinking and acting.
Speaking of acting, hereís the second aspect of prep work.
Mountains, shovels and watermarks
At the very beginning of the step study I told you I would tell you a story; here it is.
There has been a lot of rain and a really bad flood is expected with the entire town in danger. This guy lives in a nice two-story home in the center of town. When the rains start, emergency workers drive through the town urging everyone to evacuate. The guy responds from his front door, "No problem ≠ God will provide;" and he refuses to move. The rains get worse, the flooding gets worse, the guy moves to his second story bedroom. As emergency workers now row through the town urging everyone to evacuate, the guy ≠ full of faith ≠ responds from his upstairs window door, "No problem ≠ God will provide." The rains get worse, the river completely overflows, the flooding is getting higher and higher and the guy moves to his rooftop. As emergency workers now helicopter through the town urging everyone to evacuate, the guy ≠ still full of faith ≠ responds from his upstairs window door, "No problem ≠ God will provide."
The guy drowns and finds himself at the gates of heaven, where he demands to see God. He screams at God: "Where were You??? I prayed!!! I was full of faith!!! I believed!!! And now I'm drowned and dead??? What is this all about??? What happened????"
God quietly replies, "My child, who do you think sent the warnings, the emergency workers and the helicopter?"
In other words, God may move mountains, but sometimes you need to bring a shovel.
In OA recovery terms: Godís going to do the heavy moving and lifting here; our job is to prepare ourselves so that God can actually get to the heavy stuff.
We need to believe that Godís going to remove our defects of character once we get sick and tired of being sick and tired ... once we are "entirely ready."
But that doesn't mean we get to sit back and let it happen. No ≠ it means that while we are preparing to get ready to have God do Godís thing, we are becoming more and more aware of when we are *acting out* those character defects. We may not be able to control the actual instinct ≠ after all, itís part of our character makeup ≠ but we can certainly control our behavior. We may WANT to gossip, but we don't HAVE to gossip. We may WANT to lie, but we don't HAVE to lie. We may WANT more than our share of the kudos and stroke, but we don't HAVE to behave rudely or arrogantly or shove or push our way into the center of attention.
And while we are becoming more and more aware of our actions, we are getting "entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character." Once we can say ENOUGH ALREADY ≠ itís time to let them go, we move directly into Step 7.
STEP SIX QUESTIONS:
1. Why do we have to be totally bankrupt (i.e., "entirely ready') before we are willing to let go of our character defects?
2. What are some of your character defects?
3. Talk about your attempts to control your defects of character.
4. Have you ever successfully removed a character defect on your own?
5. What do you see as your role(s) in working Step 6?
6. What's the difference between "getting ready" and behaving differently (in other words, what's the difference between attitude/thought and action)?
7. How have your character defects messed up your life?
8. How do you see the difference between a character defect and an instinct? Please give examples.
9. Are there any character defects you'd like to hang on to for a while?
10. Are you "entirely ready?"
Yours in recovery ≠
Penny (compulsive eater/food addict)