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“The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” – Charles Dubois
Step Six of AA’s Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step program of recovery is all about the removal of what doesn’t work in our lives anymore. Since you have completed Step Four and Five you surely have plenty of things that were revealed to you about what you need to get rid of!
So now it’s time to allow a Higher Power to cut out these attitudes, beliefs and behaviors at the source. You get to partner up with your Higher Power and make a firm decision to let go of the character defects and flaws that have been ruling your life and seemed to have you hell bent on self destruction.
The sixth step can bring about significant and very noticeable change when it comes to the thought patterns and behavior that have been with us for a long time. It doesn’t happen overnight obviously, and there is nothing like perfection when working the twelve steps of AA. It’s about making a commitment and being content with patient improvement.
When breaking down Step Six I like to focus more on the word “ready” than entirely; nobody is ever entirely ready, especially for the unknown. However the word “ready” is a reminder that we are prepared, open and available. Now we can aim at the very best of all we know or can learn.
In previous steps we discovered how we harmed ourselves and other people by acting out on our character defects. We learned about patterns in behavior and that we are likely to act the same way with the same defects over and over. All of this knowledge helped us to become ready to have these defects of character removed.
So now, at Step Six, we’ve reached a spiritual state of mind where we are aware of our character defects, sick and tired of them and pretty confident that a higher power of our own understanding will remove what should go.
While working on Step Six we learn about the humility it takes to see ourselves more clearly. We see that character defects and instincts work hand-in-hand.
We were given instincts to help us stay alive. However, when our abundant instincts or desires far exceed their intended purpose, motivate us to act blindly, or make us willfully demand that we be supplied with more satisfactions than are possible or due, they then become character defects.
It’s important when looking at your character defects in Step Six to remember the basic nature of all human beings (which is the same for all of us). We all have needs and we try to get the met; how we go about getting them is where defects come into play.
To be clear, “defects of character” does not mean you are defective, or that you are a bad character. In fact, instead of seeing your faults and failings as defects, you should reframe it as “shortcomings” that can be address and worked on.
When we get to those issues deep down that caused the addictions and behaviors then real long-lasting change occurs. We can make a real effort to heal the underlying core mental and emotional issues that have caused limiting and/or destructive behavior.
When you’re ready to let go, some of the most popularly destructive character defects or shortcomings, usually include: fear, pride, dishonesty, gluttony, greed, lust, jealousy, grandiosity, willfulness and anger.
If we are completely honest with ourselves we have to admit that sometimes we exult in some of our defects- they feel good and we really kinda love some of them! But we have seen time and time again that changing addictive behavior no matter how difficult it seems is possible. The overwhelming task is much easier when broken down into tiny incremental steps.
In Step Six of AA we get to put the anvil down. For many of us recovering addicts carrying around the weight of some pretty heavy shortcomings not only slows us down in the progress of our recovery; it also puts us at risk for relapse.
We’ve had these defects we’re about to let go of for a long time so there’s probably a measure of fear about changing-because change means the unknown and the unknown is part of why we drank or used. It’s important to keep a sense of hope and trust in the program and the process of recovery that has worked on even the most deeply rooted character defects.
Here are some questions to help guide you through Step Six:
Here’s are two great Step Six activities that you can do alone or with your sponsor:
“When a person is capable of enough wiliness and honesty to try repeatedly Step Six on all his faults-without any reservations whatever- has indeed come a long way spiritually…” (12 &12)
While working on Step Six try not to beat yourself up if you can’t conquer every single one of your defects immediately (or even over a longer period of time). You’re a work in progress and you should be happy about your success so far. Celebrate each little victory; keep an open mind and a positive attitude through your journey.
Spirit meets us at our point of action, so remember, don’t try- DO!