The Sixth Step In The Program Of Recovery
6. Were Entirely Ready to Have God Remove All These Defects of Character
In The Big Book, Step Six is one small paragraph between our completion of Step Five, when we return home, and our readiness to approach God in step 7 and humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
“If we can answer to our satisfaction, 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.”
In my first pass through the steps, Step Six came and went rather quickly and abruptly — it was difficult for me to differentiate Step Six from Step Seven. Looking back, it seems as if I took both steps simultaneously. My sponsor asked, “Are you willing?” and I answered, “Yes.” He then instructed me to review the list of broad and general defects which became apparent during my fifth step. The list included selfishness, dishonesty, jealousy, envy, and inconsideration. Since I was willing, I asked God to remove them in Step Seven and we moved on to Step Eight. Don’t misunderstand me, it was exactly how I was supposed to work the step but since then Step Six has proven to be so much deeper than my initial experience with it.
For the next 18 months when I heard other members say, “These are the steps (6 & 7) which separate the men from the boys,” I discounted the statement and directed those people to get off their asses and go help someone work the steps. Why did I exhibit so much hostility? I believe it was due to my lack of experience with Step Six.
Around the same time, I was introduced to the concept of revisiting the step work process, mainly the first nine steps. Since I was suffering a great deal, I found myself very open to the idea. My suffering was: Easily annoyed by most, often uneasy, and dissatisfied with my life. When I reflect, it’s evident to me in the beginning: The only thing which truly changed was my willingness to do whatever I had to do to recover from addiction. At the outset, little else about my character changed because I was not entirely ready. This is the departure point for me. Step Six is not only about willingness, although it’s crucial — it’s about asking myself, am I entirely ready?
Over the last 7 years, I’ve discovered the vitality and necessity of reworking the first 9 steps on an annual basis. In that work, I uncovered the difference between willingness and being entirely ready. I’ve been willing to have many defects and shortcomings removed but entire readiness only emerged when they became objectionable. The defect’s last flicker of value must be snuffed out before it becomes objectionable; otherwise, it will remain. I also discovered defects are usually removed while causing a great deal of pain and suffering.
As long as we are getting something of value from the defects and/or shortcomings, they will continue to show up. We will not be entirely ready and will be unable to ask God, with humility and authenticity, to remove them. We will continue to believe we can do something to change ourselves. We become ready when we experience our utter powerlessness to remedy the situation and change ourselves.
Let me end with this: My attitude has changed regarding defects and shortcomings. These personal struggles are now blessings and I thank God for them because it is He who is refining my character by blessing me with the pain caused by my defects and shortcomings. In short, it is these very things which bring me back to the table with God. Without the struggles, we would not know where the growth needs to take place. Without the darkness of struggle, we would not know the light of victory.