The Importance of Step Six
When I first read the steps I was very confused as to why the founders of A.A. wrote Step six in the way it is written as it seemed to me that Steps six and seven were both a one-off event, a marriage of two Steps, and were basically saying that if I made the decision to have all the negative emotions of my personality removed from me then after Step seven I would achieve sainthood. I knew that wasn't going to happen when the time came for me to do those steps with a sponsor. I was obviously missing the point as I was already experienced in meditation and prayer before joining A.A. and I knew from experience that the permanent removal of my negative emotions is a very slow and time-consuming process. So what was Step six all about?
It didn't take me long to understand what step six meant after reading the book "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions". I knew that I now had to have a new way of thinking and acting. I basically needed to have a change in thought and attitude. I could no longer carry on living my life the way I had. Step six was basically making the decision to be entirely ready to change the way I lived by thought – word and deed – with the help of God. I also realised that Step six is not just a one-off event but had to be worked on a conscious ongoing basis.
When it was time to do Step six with my sponsor I knew without a doubt that my defects of character had to be removed from my mind as they not only caused me a lot of trouble and pain but also made me behave in ways that would at times deeply hurt others. I knew that my worst defect of character was self-pity and as I hated feeling any kind of emotional pain I was entirely ready to have any self-pity removed from me, as it can be an incredibly crippling defect of character. But I didn't take a serious look at all of the defects of character that were also the cause of my alcoholism because it would have meant me being brutally honest with myself.
I then did my Step six and seven with my sponsor and thought I was growing spiritually, but I started looking more deeply at all my defects of character during my daily Step ten as I intuitively felt that I wasn't entirely ready to give up some of those defects of character as is required in Step six. I had to be brutally honest with myself and admit to myself that sometimes I actually enjoyed having some of those defects of character. I then started looking at the far-reaching consequences of my behaviour in using those defects of character to manipulate people and situations to fit my desires, and the end result was that I knew I had to be willing to give up these defects of character, to sacrifice my own desires in order to become a better person.
It can be very challenging for me at times to be willing to ask God to remove from me my worst defects of character as I often use some of them as a form of self-defence to protect me from emotional pain or to manipulate other people, which often harms them emotionally. This is the importance of Step six: that I have to meet God halfway and be willing to hold up my part of the bargain by being entirely ready to accept that I have to change in thought and attitude.
From my own experience it is quite remarkable that just having the willingness to change can bring the Grace to have a miraculous change occur, no matter how small, when I pray for my defects of character to be removed from me when I am entirely willing. Whilst holidaying in France I had an amazing experience of this Grace when I knew my behaviour of recent weeks was at times completely unacceptable because of my defects of character, and the day came when I said to myself that I had to change. God knew that I was entirely willing to have these defects of character removed from me and that my prayer wasn't half-hearted but instead sincere and heartfelt. The emotional charge surrounding those defects of character was greatly reduced.
I know that with each small change in thought and attitude that I have I must continue to be willing to grow beyond my selfish desires that create my defects of character and be entirely ready for God to help me to grow spiritually.