Leader's Share and Step Questions
STEP SIX: "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."
SusanB here and still a recovering COE, sugar addict and emotional eater.
Thank you for your hard work so far in this WTS. Keep trudging the road to happy destiny, where we can experience a life that is happy, joyous and free at last.
We'd all be better people without our shortcoming. We and our sponsors may have detected some of our bigger defects of character the past week in step five. So a lot of footwork for the remainder of the house-cleaning steps has been done already.
Even if you're not ready for Step Six yet, you still have time to finish the remaining steps of this WTS within the next six weeks. Keep moving! Together we can, because we are worthy of recovery. Thank you again for your honest, open and willing shares. You are indeed precious!
The very first sentence I read in AA 12 and 12 says:
“THIS is the Step that separates the men from the boys.” (page 63)
The OA 12 and 12 confirms:
"At first glance step six seems easy… ….In practice, step six turns out to be one of the most difficult of the twelve steps, because saying we're entire ready and being entirely ready are two very different things." (page 53)
This is not an easy step, Loopies!!! At least not as easy as it looks at first glance. Be warned…
We need readiness, as well as willingness. I learned this when I worked my first Step Six. I saw how my Character Defects (CDs) affected me (my health, my outward appearance, my emotions, my relationship with God, my sanity, my marriage), as well as children, parents, in-laws, colleagues, finances… this list goes on and on.
It was not easy to own my CDs, to see the truth about myself… I was a blame-shifter, projector, rationaliser, liar and cheat in DENIAL (Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying) by default. I changed and I'm still changing one day at a time side by side with all of you.
I've worked a few Step Six and Sevens the past four years and quit a number through my daily Step 10s and I learned that working Step Six and Seven is a lifelong “process”. I often hear it described in the rooms as the peeling of an onion. It is not as good as it gets – it gets better and better as we work the steps daily for the rest of our lives. For me the process certainly works this way. It is simple but not easy.
So, what is a defect? The Free Dictionary defines it as an "imperfection", a "flaw, or a deficiency” www.thefreedictionary.com/defect and the Merriam Webster dictionary says, it is “a physical problem that causes something to be less valuable, effective, healthy, etc.”
According to the Free Dictionary “character” is “the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.” www.thefreedictionary.com/character and The Merriam-Webster dictionary says it’s “the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves; someone's personality.”
The AA 12 and 12 describes CDs as natural desires that went wrong:
"Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn't strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth." (AA 12 and 12, page 65)
I was powerless over my faults! Just as powerless as I was of my addictive food behaviours.
My sister and I always made these New Years resolutions when we were children. On the last day of the year (summer in South Africa) we opened our curtains while waiting for midnight and the magic new year. It was dark and we stared out of our bedroom window, looking at the stars and talked, wished, and promised: “As of tomorrow We will never swear again. We will pray every day, not lie, steal or cheat… We will be perfect daughters to our parents, help in the house, be slim, smart and good.”
We tried REAL hard. WE JUST COULD NOT!!! ALL OUR PROMISES WERE BROKEN within days AND OUR BEST INTENTIONS IN VAIN!!! Until the following year when we were one year older… still dreaming and hoping. We did not give up.
In this fellowship we were as powerless over our character defects (CDs) as were over food. If the first three steps could be worked on our addictive food behaviours, wouldn't they also work on our CDs? I learned that they could… with mixed results. Some of my CDs were more stubborn than others, but God’s POWER was stronger than them all.
So I learned that Step Six is to a certain extent related to Step One, Two and Three, and may read “admitting that we were powerless over our CDs." Or name them one by one for example powerless over lying, jealousy, gossiping etc.
We need a Power greater than ourselves to overcome our CDs, we admit our powerlessness and we receive that power. What happens next? We receive the ideal character in exchange for a defective character. WE CANNOT WILL or white-knuckle ourselves to be rid of our shortcomings... WE CANNOT, GOD CAN!!!
All my Old Year wishes for the New Year with my sister were doomed to failure. We did not know better…
"Working the sixth step is a lot like working the first three steps with each of our defects. We remind ourselves: 'I'm powerless to rid myself of this trait. I can't, but God can, and I'll let God take it.'" (OA 12 and 12, page 56)
There is a way out… This is what Step Six is about.
The principle behind step six is WILLINGNESS.
Step Six Prayer:
Dear God, I am ready for Your help
in removing from me the defects of character
which I now realize are an obstacle to my recovery.
Help me to continue being honest with myself and
guide me toward mental and spiritual health.
"In Step Six we learned more about the necessity of willingness as we became entirely ready to let go of our shortcomings. We apply this principle in many ways now, learning through each day's experience the difference between self-will and a simple willingness to cooperate with the guidance of our Higher Power." (OA 12 and 12, page 104 and 105. Emphasis by myself.)
"We then look at step six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all - every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, We ask God to help us be willing." (AA Big Book, page 76. Emphasis by myself)
So we pray for the willingness to be willing and than ‘act as if’ we are willing ~ This is faith in action, because the Big Book says on page 88 that faith without works is dead!
In fellowship I also learned that willingness “is doing what needs to be done whether we feel like doing it or not.”
I want to refer back to the powerlessness I talked about in the beginning of my share today.
Let’s read the following section from the AA 12 and 12. I want to illustrate our powerlessness over our addictive food behaviours, as well as our CD’s. Give special attention to my additions [between brackets] to help you understand:
“Sure, I was beaten, absolutely licked. My own willpower just wouldn't work on alcohol [my shortcomings]. Change of scene, the best efforts of family, friends, doctors, and clergymen got no place with my alcoholism [defects of character]. I simply couldn't stop drinking [using my coping mechanisms and defects of character], and no human being could seem to do the job for me. But when I became willing to clean house and then asked a Higher Power, God as I understood Him, to give me release, my obsession to drink [use compulsive food behaviours/character defects] vanished. It was lifted right out of me.” (AA 12 and 12, page 63, additions my own)
The OA 12 and 12 says:
"Some of us misunderstand this step and act as if it's up to us to remove our own shortcomings. In our attempts to be rid of dishonesty, for instance, we may try to reform and become honest. Or we see we've been selfish, so we try to be generous. Anger is one of our problems, so we try never to get angry. Or we've heard that fear is incompatible with faith, so we try not to feel any fear." (OA 12 and 12, page 54)
Our best efforts were in vain.
"Entirely ready" is an ideal we work towards while we work Step Six. I reasoned I was very ready to be rid of my CDs (Character Defects), because I wanted to recover. As time went I learned what I really wanted was to be rid of the consequences of my actions.
AND THEN I received the Gift Of Desperation (GOD) again.
In a previous WTS study I read that “COE is very much like a cancer that sometimes moves so slowly we barely know it's happening. By the time we get to the stage where we are literally on our knees praying to a greater power than ourselves to free us from this suffering, we are no longer the loving, free, all together spirit we were intended to be.” (WTS 2009, Mari)
"In honestly facing Step Six, we confront the fear that our defects are like threads woven into the very fabric of our being; if God removes them we feel we'll surely come unraveled." (page 53)
We are so used to being the way we are, that it’s hard to imagine being different. We also enjoy some of our CDs. For example:
Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness. (AA 12 and 12, page 67)
Some of our CDs are a manifestation of assets twisted to extremes. So returning to balance will turn our defects into assets. Examples of how defects can be changed into assets by our HP are:
- Stubbornness to be turned to perseverance.
- Stinginess to be transformed to wise spending of resources.
- Procrastination to be changed into doing tasks on time.
The above-mentioned assets reflect God's Will, while the CDs are attributes of self will run riot. The moment we align our wills with the will of our HP, our CDs change into assets.
How will we do all this work? HOW? With Honestly, with Open-mindedness and especially with WILLINGNESS.
In the AA Big Book it says:
"What an order! I can't go through with it. Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to those principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection" (AA Big Book, page 60)
“This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink (our addictive food behaviours) was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement. The key words “entirely ready” underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn.” (AA 12 and 12, page 65, addition by myself)
"Perhaps we shall be obliged in some cases still to say, ‘This I cannot give up yet...,’ but we should not say to ourselves, ‘This I will never give up!’" (AA 12 and 12, page 69)
At the very least, we shall have to come to grips with some of our worst character defects and take action toward their removal as quickly as we can. The moment we say, "No, never!" our minds close against the grace of God. Delay is dangerous, and rebellion may be fatal. This is the exact point at which we abandon limited objectives, and move toward God's will for us." (AA 12 and 12, page 69)
Why do I need my HP to remove my defects? Why can I not work on them by myself? LOL. Remember my sister and my New Years resolutions? It did not work. I cannot WILL my CDs away. I work them away with footwork and the POWER of my HP and the results are up to GOD.
"If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism (addictive food behaviours), many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried ..... Our human resources as marshaled by will, were not sufficient; they failed us utterly. Lack of power was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live and it had to be a Power Greater than ourselves." (AA Big Book, page 44 and 45)
We have to cooperate with our HP in the removal of our CDS:
But in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation. That is something we are supposed to be willing to work toward ourselves. He asks only that we try as best we know how to make progress in the building of character. (AA 12 and 12, page 65)
“Only Step One, where we made the 100 percent admission we were powerless over alcohol [addictive food behaviours], can be practiced with absolute perfection. The remaining eleven Steps state perfect ideals. They are goals toward which we look, and the measuring sticks by which we estimate our progress. Seen in this light, Step Six is still difficult, but not at all impossible.” (AA 12 and 12, page 68, additions between brackets mine)
“…we shall need to make a brand new venture into open-mindedness. We shall need to raise our eyes toward perfection, and be ready to walk in that direction.”(AA 12 and 12, page 68)
It’s becoming clear that we don’t sit back and do nothing! Our CDs will be removed at the right time and when we're in the right place, but there is footwork to be done. We started with a lot of footwork in Steps Four and Five. There is a reason why the Steps are to be worked in order. By the time we work Step Six, we are ready and a lot of footwork has already been done.
So let’s get busy! Are you ready?
(i) Reading for this week
(ii) Look through your Step Four inventory and see if some of your character defects jump right off the page to you. List your most serious character defects. (Tip: I quickly and prayerfully scanned my Step Four moral inventory with a highlighter to find the most serious CDs)
(iii) What does each one of these defects do for you? In other words, what are their benefits for you?
(iv) What does each one of these defect do to you? What harm do they cause you?
(v) Make a two column table. In the first column list your CDs and in the second column list the assets (opposites of these CDs) that should replace them. Here is an example you can use:
for what I have
(vi) What is your definition of willingness? How do you find the willingness needed to let go of your defects?
(vii) Read in the AA 12 and 12 from page 65 to 67 how our instinctive drives can morph into faults or CDs? An example is “taking our comfort” (an instinctive drive to comfort ourselves with food) to the extreme of “gluttony” on page 67. Please list a few more examples you see in this selection. Can you relate? Tell us about it.
(viii) Take some quiet time and ponder on each of your CDs. Were they coping mechanisms you used during a difficult time? Or were they created from self-centred and selfish motives? Discuss one or two examples with us if you wish.
In loving fellowship,
The Twelve Steps
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