Step 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
My dad always said, “A job worth doing is worth doing well”. Recovery teaches the same principle. If you have made the decision to experience the steps, then do them well. This is what the phrase “were entirely ready” in the beginning of step 6 means. In sobriety we learn that half-measures do not bring partial results -“half-measures avail us nothing” -– zero, nada. Failure to comprehend this principle is the major contributor to relapse.
I tried for decades to pick and choose when I drank or used. I planned how much I would allow myself to consume in the upcoming episode. The insanity of thinking that as an addict I could actually control my actions after I took the first drink or snorted the first line was proven wrong a thousand times. Still, my ego insisted that I was in charge.
Step 6 was and still is my most difficult step to accomplish because my ego always has some input into my thoughts. My ego still tells me that God’s will isn’t always truth and that my self-serving plan is really better for me than what my Higher Self tells me to do.
Today I start each day with the thought; “How do I really want to see this day unfold – my way or God’s way?” I then visualize the upcoming events of the day and look for ways to be of service to others. On days where certain events can be stressful I think of what I can do to avoid conflict and chaos. By completing steps 4 and 5, I am aware of what defects of characters could be triggered in the day ahead.
My ego wants me to believe that I am attached to my defects such as anger, self-centeredness and my need to micro-manage every tiny detail of my plan for the day. On those days I carry the long version of the Serenity Prayer with me to remind me of what I actually have control over. I might be attached to my defects, but my defects are not attached to me. I can resist selfish acts by listening to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit.
I tried to exchange my inheritance from God for the world I see. I focused on pain, illness, loss, age and death. Yet with eternity we are promised perfect security and complete fulfillment.
When we are ready to remove our human defects of character and become willing to accept our true inheritance, we will be free of the illusions of fear and ego. This allows us to smoothly transform through time into eternity.
With step 6, atonement is the principle and healing is the result. Healing comes from the release of fear and the separation from the ego.
Completing steps 4 and 5 is usually a huge relief for the recovering person. Most human beings never complete a moral inventory of their entire lives, let alone openly share all their defects of character with another person.
Initially, I thought steps 6 and 7 would be a cinch compared with the hard work and courage required to complete steps 4 and 5. I was wrong. I found that admitting my defects was far easier than actually wanting to eliminate them entirely. While step 6 is not a time-consuming or an external step, it requires an internal willingness to change and to create a personal connection with God. Step 6 is literally a reality-check of our state of willingness and readiness. It is helpful to remember that God knows all and is on our side when addressing step 6.
We listed and confessed our known defects in steps 4 and 5. Now we must identify and rectify these defects and any other defects not mentioned in steps 4 and 5.
The best way to identify defects is to review a list of common human flaws, then ask ourselves which apply to us.
Anger, Impatience and Projecting
Many times the defects that we wish to gloss over are the very defects on which we should most work. The traits that resonate with many recovering people and their codependent loved ones have to do with anger, impatience and resentfulness.
It is no mystery that the hardest defects to have God remove are the ones most ingrained in our personalities. We are attached to these defects, though – remember – they are not attached to us. We may subconsciously (or consciously) fear that without these traits, we would not be able to cope or even survive.
Attachment to anger makes us believe in a perverse way we can control other people: “If I get angry enough or vulgar enough, I can intimidate people to listen to my demands”.
Humans strongly oppose being bullied. That is precisely why initially we may try to wield our clever charms before resorting to force to impose our way. If we get what we want, our victory is shallow and meaningless. We feel guilty when awareness of our tactics surfaces into our consciousness. Guilt, over time becomes toxic shame. Shame is the ego’s favorite tool to destroy our self worth. Shame is also the total opposite of what God wants for us.
Impatience comes from projecting into the future. It separates us from the joy of the moment. We miss the beauty around us and dull our senses by rushing through life. We rush to work, school and to pick up the kids and many times fail to cease an opportunity to stop and smell the coffee or the roses. We need to seize opportunities to take five minutes of quiet time during the day. We can also focus on enjoying the moment by choosing to be 100 percent in that moment.
Eckhart Tolle talks about taking a long time to wash our hands. Feeling the gentle massage of our fingers, hands and wrists. Feeling the warm water as it touches our skin. Smelling the fragrance of the soap and listening to the running water. Washing our hands can be an opportunity to quiet the mind, relax the jaw and take a series of deep belly breaths.
Obsessing about and exclusively focusing on what bad might happen next totally separates us from the present. I learned the art of worrying during childhood and I thought it served me well for many years. My logic was, “If you plan for the worst, you will never be disappointed”. Now I recognize this as a form of self-sabotaging.
My mother, God rest her soul, was a consummate worrier. She projected far in advance of the impending snowstorm, tornado or, her favorite, the well running dry. For years she mentioned that the underground well that provided all our delicious water was shallow and that it may run dry soon. Lo and behold one summer day – the well ran dry. It cost a fair amount of money to dig a deeper well, nevertheless it was accomplished quickly and our family survived on our neighbor’s water supply for a few days. This is known as self-fulfilling prophecy: what you think about you bring about.
I always believed that she willed that well to run dry and that it would of have provided water for several more decades had she not brought it up so often. My point is that if we constantly focus on what might happen next we provide that event with energy and may actually make it happen.
This form of quantum thinking can work for us in a constructive way too, and is precisely the reason that positive affirmations are so effective. Since I mentioned my mother who I think about every day, I wish to share the story of her passing into the next life.
I was scheduled to fly a Sydney trip on July 9, 2006. My son Lucas called me in California from Ohio the day before the trip. He had just visited my mother in the nursing home and told me she was failing, as he had many times before. My initial response was that this has happened before and she always bounces back. But this time there was something persistent in Lucas’s voice.
I used vacation days and dropped my trip. My fiancé, Lori, and I jumped on the first flight out of Los Angeles that would get us to Ohio. My sister, Linda, Lori, my niece Jill, her husband, Lance, and Lucas went to the nursing home on the day mom left us for eternity. There was something quite different about her that day. She was totally at peace and kept looking at the picture she had of herself and my dad that sat on her bedside table. She didn’t complain of the pain she was in, nor did she seem to have a worry in the world. He face was absent of fear for the first time in years.
Mom looked me directly in the eye and patted the bed beside her. The others instinctively left the room as I laid down and wrapped my arms around her. She cracked a few one-liners that got us both laughing through our tears. This was the epitome of extreme happiness and deep sorrow in the same moment. We declared our immense love for each other, but it was more than that. It was the gift of being able to feel, to be in the present, to experience what we all have to experience in life – the transformation into the next.
Had I not been a sober man that day, Mom and I would have both missed that meaningful life event. I was her only son and I had brought her much joy and profound sadness in this life. But no matter what had happened, in the end it was all about love.
What Does the Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions Say About Step 6?
“This step is the step that separates the men from the boys… Any person capable of enough willingness and honesty to try repeatedly step 6 on all his faults – without any reservations whatever – has indeed come a long way spiritually.”15
A few pages later it states, “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”. And the last paragraph in this chapter states, “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”.
Step 6 does not say, “We made ourselves entirely ready”. It says, “Were ready to have God remove all these defects of character”. The mystical part of this step is that God removes our defects as He did with our obsessions when we admitted powerlessness in step 1. Our part was surrendering, then creating hope and then deciding to have faith (steps 1, 2 and 3).
The components of step 6 – “entirely ready”, “have God remove”, “all these defects” – are three distinct and very meaningful phrases. I find that dissecting each step helps us deepen the spiritual meaning of each one.
Preparing to Let Go
A good book about letting go is You are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey M. Swartz, M.D. and Rebecca Gladding, M.D. It describes the cognitive distortions created by deceptive brain messages. Addiction creates these messages to deliver inaccurate thoughts to our minds.
My definition of a deceptive brain message is a thought, urge or desire that leads to an uncomfortable sensation (negative emotion or craving) that leads to a habitual response (drinking, using, negative self-talk, self pity, co-dependent behavior, acting on a character defect).
Like our addictions, our defects are repeated so frequently that we start to believe that we can’t change. Nothing is farther from the truth. However, it does require awareness of our defects, courage and faith to let go, a willingness to take action to change and the patience and persistence to repeatedly correct our thinking to prevent sliding back into old behaviors.
Here are some tools to help process those repeated negative thoughts and instincts as they pop-up in our daily lives. Using the Six Rs repeatedly is essential to reprograming our mind to the negativity and or cravings that will continue to haunt us.
The Six Rs
Recognize: There I go again. I am not defined by my thoughts!
Re-label: Is this message true or false? (If it’s false, rename it.)
Reframe: Review the content of the thought. Is it I can’t or I won’t?
Refocus: Focus on truth and the big picture, then find gratitude.
Revalue: Is there a better course of action? What are the consequences and long-term effects? What is the best, worst or more likely to happen?
Repetition: Make self-enhancing thoughts and actions familiar.
Step 6 Opens the Door to a New Life
Remember with step 6, atonement is the principle and healing is the result. Healing is the release of fear and separation from the ego. The process of experiencing steps 6 and 7 provides clarity about our purpose on this planet. We become aware that we are worthy and always have been worthy of happiness. These steps are miraculous and play a major part in transformation.
Once we complete step 6…
We start to find balance in our lives.
Authentically healthy people begin to populate our world.
The low self-esteem derived from our overinflated egos is replaced with a new sense of humility that delivers the gift of high self-esteem.
With a new understanding of tolerance and acceptance, we start to bring out the best in the people around us.
As our struggles with daily living are put into perspective, we will replace fear with joy.
We remove the barriers that block us from acceptance, love and peace.