“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” This step is listed in Chapter 5, How it Works, from the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous” (affectionately known as the Big Book) (see p. 59). There’s more in Chapter 6 (Into Action), starting about page 75. And there’s even more about it in the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions which we call the the ’12 and 12.’ My reference today is the 12 and 12.
Step 6 continues the focus of our recovery from perfection to progress. Step One, our stopping the use of alcohol, is the only Step we need to get perfect.
At Step 6 progress towards perfection is in full swing. From the outside, adhering to Step One would seem to be the hardest step to take. It is then amusing how strong our resistance is to Step 6. The only loophole in Step 6 is that we be ‘entirely ready’ rather than achieving perfection first time out. It requires daily progress and commits us to a lifetime of attention to our character defects. We may have a rather magical interpretation of Step 6 at first. I got excited at the thought of having my character defects taken away with no effort on my part. WOW. Doesn’t work that way!
I am going to repeat myself, but I continue to be so in awe of our founders who knew us so well. Step 6 from the reference I’m using is fun to read, as difficult as the ideas presented there are. We are busted! They knew how we would think when we first heard this Step. It is important to see that we must be willing. That is all that is asked of us. We know that our Higher Power lifted our obsession to drink. Surely our Higher Power will help us here too.
It has always been my belief that alcoholics are smart, good people. We are not bad, but sick. But Step 6 addresses the fact we abandoned all good sense when we drank. We rationalized our misdeeds away. If the phrase ‘art of the deal’ wasn’t already coined, we would have taken credit for it. We wanted to negotiate away the underlying real causes of our actions. But they were really ‘character defects.’ We got upset at our sponsors, at our Higher Power, and at AA when we heard those words. I did–didn’t you?
Our Higher Power gave us our basic instincts for self-preservation. It is our misuse of them that gets us into trouble. There is no such thing as 25% perfection, a little perfection, occasional perfection. That just isn’t the deal. Nothing by half measures we hear. Our Higher Power created alcohol. He did not intend for us to destroy ourselves. None of us has perfect readiness either. That is a relief, I’d say.
Flipping through my playbook of character defects, there are many I can recall. ‘I don’t see why I can’t take a few of those really great gel pens from work–I work hard and they don’t pay me enough.’ ‘I only slept with him once and his wife didn’t know.’ ‘Sure I gossiped, but I didn’t tell ‘that’ many people. ‘My thesis was only 2 days late–give me a break: it’s a graduate program!’ ‘He was making a problem for the neighborhood: I am going out there and set him straight. I’m a good neighbor.’ ‘I don’t get it. How could just one new outfit affect our credit rating?’ ‘I acknowledged my Higher Power. I don’t want to become some sort of fanatic. He knows what I’m thinking anyway, doesn’t He?’ ‘Yeah, I cursed her out. She cut me off. I’m going to get in front of her and slow down.’
We seem to strive, in our human way, for only enough perfection to get us by. We draw up a list of ‘milder defects’ to show our sponsor which we hope will relieve the pressure of this Step. We want to continue to enjoy our character defects. On the face of that, it is really comical to say that we enjoy our character defects–but we do! We don’t want to give them up. I am sure you could edit my paragraph of defects to a point where they could be considered mild. While it is another addition, overeating brings home to me the best negotiations: my plan is not to eat sweets. But, this cookie has all natural ingredients and I am ‘only’ going to eat one. Sugar is natural after all. How bad could it be?
We only need to start work on our character defects, even if our feet slip from time to time. And for the perfectionists among us (me?), we will lose our way from time to time. That is why it is progress toward perfection. Our Higher Power has promised us forgiveness…if only we ask for it. And at the bottom of it all, Never say Never. Just keep on keeping on.
Thank you for letting me share. Enjoy this first month of Summer 2019.
hgz, b. dos 9/21/83