Step Six: The Principle of Willingness

by Kathy L.

If you are in a 12 step recovery program and have done a thorough, honest Step 5, leaving no stone unturned, then Step 6 seems like a walk in the park. Step 6 – “were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character” – is much more involved than it seems and is one of those steps I call a “process step” because it seems we, or should I say, I am always in the process of being ready. Ready does not mean willingness, which is the principle of this step.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous only gives Step 6 two paragraphs which tell us to reflect on the first five steps and make absolutely sure we have done everything possible to build a strong foundation before moving on. I would be relatively sure that few balk at moving ahead with Step 6, for the simple reason that there is relief after admitting all of our wrongs to another person.

I have to be perfectly honest and say that I do not believe I did a very good Step 6. My mind said, “Okay, God, remove my defects.” Done! Move on to Step 7 so that I can get through Eight and Nine. That is exactly what I thought and what I did. It was not until much later that I grasped the meaning of being ready to have these defects removed. Up until the day I entered recovery, I was as powerless against my defects as I was alcohol. When I could examine my defects and see the pattern they wove through my life, my first inclination was to wonder why I wouldn’t be ready. I was ready to begin recovery, so how hard should it be to get rid of the defects that I hated anyway?

The key word is “hated.” Since the principle of the step is willingness, I had to not only be ready but willing. Well, I was ready but somewhere along the line decided that maybe I didn’t hate all of my defects. Maybe some of them should stay with me because they served a purpose. I could totally get rid of being dishonest, but it wouldn’t hurt to hold on to control, would it? There are defects that cause problems and there are defects that are pleasurable. We get something out of them. They may even be admired by others.

Everyone has defects, but our defects as addicts go beyond the norm. We are grateful that we have been able to identify them, but being entirely ready to have God remove these defects seems like a fairly large order. Who will we be? Will we change? Will we appear weak to others? Will we appear too righteous? I don’t think that we have to worry too much because we will always have some defects. Having no defects would mean perfection and believe I can say with 100% accuracy that that will not happen!

Defects don’t just disappear because we are ready. We have to be willing to have them removed, and only praying to our Higher Power is going to make that happen. We cannot wish them away. True, some will be easy but the ones most engrained in our person, the ones that protected us from the real world, the ones that encouraged our addictions, are the difficult ones. These are the demons which could lead us right back to the insane existence from which we finally emerged.

So how would I suggest someone do Step 6? I would follow the Big Book first and examine the first five steps. I would then review my defects in private to God and name them. “God, I am ready for you to remove the defect of ______.” I wouldn’t throw all of my defects into a pile and try to hand them over. Be aware of the defects you have asked God to remove and when one of them rears its ugly little head (and some definitely will), you can recognize that as something that you need to work on and/or maybe realize you are holding on to it.

Today I recognize my defects and am more willing to have them removed even though I know I hold on to a few of them like best friends. I have to continue to pray for willingness. One of the things that work for me is that instead of focusing on a defect, I try to focus on a positive. For example, instead of thinking about how not to be selfish, I try to think about how to be more giving or of more service. This is strong, positive reinforcement for me and it is coming from within with the help of my Higher Power.

Like any of the steps in recovery, this one cannot be done alone. You don’t need another person but you do need your Higher Power and remember it is a process. It is a life-long process that requires willingness. The end result will certainly not be perfection, but I have to believe that there will be a reward of inner peace and happiness. And isn’t that all we’ve ever really wanted?

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

Copyright © Kathy L. Reprinted by permission of the author. Kathy L. is the editor of Bella Online 12 Step Recovery, where more of her writings on recovery can be found. She also hosts the Grateful Recovery page on Facebook.

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Contributors to Renascent’s Blog share their stories of addiction and recovery and/or their professional expertise.