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Step Six… Defined!

11922165_sThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Amy Margolis, MA, MSW.

Step Six of twelve step programs states we “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of characters.” What exactly does this mean? For starters, I always like to break down a step by defining the words used in the step. I am not going to define God here. By the time you get to step Six, you will have found a personal God of your understanding.

Let’s start with “entirely ready.” The definition of entirely is “completely” and the definition of ready is “prepared mentally or physically for some experience or action.” Now let’s look at “character defects.” Character is defined as “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of a person. Defect is defined as “an imperfection that impairs worth or utility, a shortcoming.” So simply put Step 6 means you are “completely mentally prepared to experience God remove all the shortcomings in your personality.” Wow. Sounds great. Sit back, be ready and God will make me perfect. Not so fast.

With respect to some of your defects that have outlived their usefulness, this kind of miracle does occur. You write about them in Step 4, share them with God and your sponsor in Step 5, and you realize they have been lifted. Say you are a woman who has shoplifted all your life, but you really want to quit. Yet when you go shopping, the compulsion hits and you don’t see any reason not to, because you never get caught. Then you complete your fifth step and feel so relieved of the burden of this secret. Then next time you go shopping you realize the compulsion is gone and you have a “knowing that you will never steal again.”

Then there are the more stubborn defects. Some in program refer to character defects as character defenses. Defense is defined as “the action of defending from or resisting attack.” We all choose defense mechanisms in childhood to get us through growing up with our caregivers in the environment they have created for us. Imagine you are a little boy, growing up with an alcoholic dad and a checked out mother. You are lonely and nobody seems to care about your feelings. You learn to cope using the most accessible resource, food. As a grown up, when life gets tough, you may continue to find solace in food. You may be overweight and want to lose weight, but this coping is too entrenched. In this case you may have to do further writing, sharing, and praying to be in Step 6 with this character defect.

Some defects will lift like magic, some may take a few months, and others might pop up every now and then for the next ten years. “There is no perfect.” If we could be washed clean of every defect of character, we would no longer need God, We would be God! I always like to remind people living in the 12 Steps is a lifelong journey and the Big Book of Alcoholics says it best: “No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these 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.”

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