The following is my sixth entry in a series about the 12-step spiritual program of recovery.
Step 6 is found in Chapter 6 (Into Action), first paragraph on page 76 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. “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 God 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 step 4 we exposed and listed those things within ourselves that were causing our problems and admitted them to another person in Step 5. These ‘defects of character” are the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, life, the world, which cause us to react in harmful ways to life’s events. They are causing us to experience life and people as a threat, filling us with resentment, anger, fear, jealousy, envy, anxiety, and desperation. In other words, life is experienced and felt as mostly pain which is what drives our addictions. To be free, we must let go of these old beliefs and attitudes.
Step 6 is about becoming willing to let go of our “defects of character” which is preparatory to actually doing so in Step 7. We have used our resentments, anger, fear, depression, failure, and such, to justify much of our actions or inactions in life. We have become deeply attached to them and found comfort in the justification they provide. The cynic needs to see life cynically. Our fear, anger, and resentments need to see life as a threat and trust nothing and no one. Our failure needs to know that life is unfair because we aren’t willing to do what it takes to have what we want. Letting go of who we were so that we can become something new takes a lot of courage. It can feel like walking into the dark unknown. Are we willing to trust that God (as we found in Step 3) will take care of us and lead us true? Are we really ready to become a child of God instead of the child of fear that we had become?
The literature suggest doing this step directly after Step 5 when we have experienced what it feels like to live in the nearness of our creator. This is a taste of what it is like to be free of our “defects of character”. After getting honest with another person in Step 5, sit quietly and feel what it is like to be free of fear and shame. Connect with God as you understand God from Step 3. Affirm your personal relationship with God from Step 3 (maybe by saying your Truth Statement from Step 3). Then, ask yourself if you are, at least, willing to have all this fear, anger, shame, resentment, and cynicism removed. Are you willing to become The New Person? If you find you cannot become willing just keep seeking help from God. Once you can get to a point where you are willing to, at least, test the waters then you are ready to move on.
How do I know if I did step 6?
You answered “YES”, that you are, at least, willing to have all your “Defects of Character” removed. You can say “Yes” that you are, at least, willing to test what it is like to live with them removed.
How should I feel after doing step 6?
Many will feel joyous and hopeful at being willing to become the new person with God as their foundation. Some may be a little fearful and doubtful because they feel they are being asked to move into the unknown. No matter how you feel, it is time to go to the next step.
Next we will do Step 7.
David Saffold is a Professional Life Coach and student at the Estuary. He has been helping people use the 12 step spiritual program to recover from alcohol and drug addiction for over 25 years.