Step Six

Were entirely ready to have God remove
all these defects of character.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 6

The essence of step 6 is the willingness to change.

Steps 4 and 5 invite us to practice courage and integrity. It takes courage to face the truth of myself. Not the version of myself I believed in my disease (“It’s not my fault! I didn’t do anything wrong!”) but the true self that was revealed to me as a result of abstaining and working the steps. And it takes integrity for me to tell someone what I am really like, as I am invited to do in step 5. When I do get the courage to see the truth of myself and then have the integrity to admit it to another person, I get enormous relief.

But that is not the end of the healing and recovery journey. What do I DO about all those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad character defects that I discover when doing my inventory? Do I just let them sit there? I knew I had a problem with food for decades but it was only when I became honestly willing to change – and to put the food DOWN – that my HP removed the obsession from me. It didn’t happen in a white light experience just a slow, gradual realization that I was no longer thinking about sugar every day and night. A true miracle!

And so it is with the rest of our defects of character or shortcomings. I was terribly prickly and “over” sensitive to some of the language in 12-step recovery when I came into the rooms. I could not bear to think of myself as being defective any more than I already did! Over time, it became clear in listening to other people shares and reading our literature, that my character defects are really my survival mechanisms that have outlived their usefulness and no longer serve me.

As a child I did not have many tools for dealing with life. I had a very limited repertoire of emotional and spiritual coping skills. Food, isolation, control, anxiety were about the only responses I had to the challenges of daily living. These were survival mechanisms that helped me at an extremely difficult time in my life. But when those became the only responses I had to life – even when the external conditions had changed – my problems began to soar and I was crushed under the weight of my spiritual problem. I was genuinely convinced that food and my body were the big problems in my life. Today I know that obsessing about those culturally and socially-accepted issues help me avoid the real work of looking at my character, and how I respond to life. As they say in the rooms, “It isn’t what happened or happens to me: it is about what I do with what happens.”

So what does all of this mean about my willingness to change? Well. For one thing, my experience has been that I only become genuinely willing to change when I am really, really, really tired of the results of doing it MY way. My way was to eat whatever and whenever I wanted and to hate the results. But it was only when I got really, really, really tired of the results of doing it MY way, that I was willing to take the Good Orderly Direction offered in the program and to begin to get different results.

There are a many things about myself that I would love to be different. I wish I were willing to be more disciplined and organized with my finances, to give up eating meat (and all alcohol), to be less fearful regarding family members who are in active addiction, to be more self-confident, to be less fearful in general, to be more forgiving and less apt to hold onto resentments, to get paid to write and teach, to floss my teeth regularly, to be less controlling around my partner, to be willing to take more action steps to thrive professionally, to train for and run a marathon, and so many more.

So how do I demonstrate willingness to change? By admitting what the current situation is like and becoming aware, accepting it and myself, and taking teeny, tiny little actions in the direction of change as my HP would like it.

For example, for the longest time, I refused to weigh and measure my food. AT ALL! I just didn’t want to have any part of it. But by admitting and accepting my resistance, talking about it and taking teeny tiny little action steps in the direction where I believe I was being led, over time I have been increasingly granted greater willingness to change (and like these results much more than the results I had of doing it MY WAY). I started by weighing my oatmeal in the morning and counting out my almonds with breakfast. I still don’t perfectly weigh and measure every meal. But by taking small, incremental actions over time, real change does happen. This whole process took a couple of years for me, by the way. So our character defects aren’t removed immediately. But by becoming willing to take some action, however small, I demonstrate willingness to change. For my list above, this might look like getting an online website financial planning tool, not eating meat at every meal, acting as if I had no fear with family members, praying for those who have wronged me, flossing sometimes (ugh!), working on my writing for 5 minutes a day, etc.

Here are some questions and assignments for you this week.