Step 6: Ready and Willing

Step 6: Ready and Willing

A 12-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. I will share my experiences with each step as a resource for newcomers to the program. It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE that you work through the steps with a sponsor! Step 6 reads:

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

My Defects of Character

As I have worked the 12 steps, it has become abundantly clear to me that most of the Steps are concerned with defects of character. Before I talk about being ready for God to remove these defects, I want to take a second to remember some personal flaws that I identified in Step 4:

  1. Impatiencemental
  2. Arrogance/Self-righteousness
  3. Defiance/Hubris
  4. Dishonesty
  5. Selfishness/Egotism
  6. Self-seeking/Ambitious
  7. Lack of consideration for others
  8. Need for control
  9. Self-pity
  10. Self consciousness
  11. Slothful
  12. Gluttonous
  13. Irreverent

I created this list in doing a thorough inventory. Step 4 helped me identify and dissect the “nature of my wrongs” which I then I shared with my sponsor in Step 5. These are some nasty personality issues and they are part of my default, unchecked behavior.

Step 6 asks us the question, “Are you REALLY ready to have these defects removed ?” Why can’t the 12 steps proceed directly to Step 7, whereby we ask our Higher Power to remove our defects, thereby making it only 11 steps?

One answer is that we are often not ready to let go of our faults. We actually tend to like some our defects of character: righteous anger, control, fear of everything, etc. The Founders of the 12 steps carefully thought about this. They deemed it appropriate to take a pause to consider and think deeply about what is happening before moving forward.

Am I REALLY ready?

It turns out it is necessary to stop and ask yourself, “Am I REALLY ready to do this?” If we don’t ask this question, we might not recognize that we are still attached to our defects, which we may have been using as tools. We have to become ready to disengage, to fully understand that it’s possible to not want to get rid of character defects. 

Consider a scenario where somebody hurts our feelings by saying something unfair and inconsiderate. We tend to feel a sense of justified frustration and anger. This person was being a jerk. We want others to know that we were unjustly accused and to join in our stubborn resentment. We are entitled to feel mad, aren’t we? Many times our defects are simply unhealthy expressions of natural human emotions. In many cases, maybe we are making a mountain out a molehill to justify something on our hidden agenda. Perhaps we were looking for a reason to get mad at someone.

Step 6 asks you to consider whether you might have a fault in this situation. When we are disturbed by the actions of others, there is frequently something wrong with us. In doing an inventory, we tend to find resentments and fears. Using alcohol, we fueled our resentments and fears, and neglected to find faults in ourselves. 

Time To Stop Fighting

Now we are at the turning point, and it demands honesty, openness and willingness. Step 6 is all about being honest, open and willing. It seems that we are taking a good long look at our defects before we take another giant step. In doing so, I think we are trying to humble ourselves and open our eyes before we walk forward. The phrase ‘entirely ready’ means to me ‘as ready as you can possibly be’. We are not saints, as they say. We are aiming for progress, not perfection. This step is asking for you be willing to let go of these defects and to be ready to take a spiritual step forward.

In my opinion, the bottom line here is that we are not defiant, as we alcoholics tend to be. One aspect of this might be the spiritual part. Remember that God, in the context of AA, is not necessarily a Christian God. It is a God of our own understanding. For me, I prefer to think of it as a higher power. 

Step 6 forced me to consider the possibility that I might be holding on to some defects of character as tools, or even weapons, that I use in my daily life. This is not to say that I should be ashamed. It is time to recognize defects, and make changes so that we have a more mature and healthy emotional life. My tendency was to shield myself from the world with my defects of character and it has weighed me down for long enough.

What To Strive For

It is time for me to let go, relax and be free. For this to happen, I first need to be entirely ready and willing to be accepting of my nature and that of others. It is important to remember that other people have character defects. An attitude of empathy and sympathy is much more productive than resentment and frustration. 

At the beginning of this post, I listed some character defects. Here is a list of character traits I’d like to strive for instead:

  1. Patience
  2. Humility
  3. Flexibility
  4. Honesty
  5. Kindness
  6. Selfless
  7. Consideration
  8. Helpfulness
  9. Gratitude
  10. Contentedness
  11. Vivaciousness
  12. Moderation
  13. Spirituality

I’m ready for a better life and I want to feel better again. I have made myself more aware of the nature of my wrongs. Now, humbly on my knees, I move on to Step 7…

All artwork by John Hain