Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
When I first read the steps, step six seemed to be the step that would cause me to go over the edge. On the surface this step appears to be pulled directly from a nineteenth century revivalist sermon. The language is extraordinarily troublesome for a guy like me.
It speaks directly an interventionist God who will remove our defects of character. How insulting?
Was I supposed to list my character defects in step four? It certainly didn’t sound like it.
Was my sponsor supposed to highlight my defects of character to me in step 5? That wouldn’t have ended well.
This step felt like a chigger under my skin.
Even so, I must admit that the idea of a deity that magically fixes me sounded appealing, but being a realist, I didn’t see that happening. If it really were that simple I could have asked a deity to make me sober. I could have asked a deity to make me thin. I can ask for all of those things, and none are just going to happen.
Every drunk is guilty of a foxhole prayer or two in which he or she asks God to make them sober. I’ve never seen that work. What works is when we make a decision to work at getting sober. Change takes work. There is no way around it.
And so, even with a few years under my belt, I saw this step and the next one as filler. Bill Wilson needed to have 12 steps to match the twelve apostles, or maybe it was the twelve months of the year — I wasn’t sure but I knew in my bones that these steps were meaningless.
Or so I thought.
Fortunately, this isn’t the first step, it’s the sixth step and eventually, after a lot of soul searching, therapy, and work to sort out the difference between spirituality and religion, I was willing to examine below the surface, beyond the words.
When I got past the poor grammar and the interventionist deity I came to understand that this step is about being willing to address our shortcomings.
The question step six asks us is, “Are you willing to make changes in your life that may be difficult so that you can have a better life?”
If we want to live happier and healthier lives, full with people who are our friends and who love us, then we must be willing to work on ourselves by changing our past patterns of behavior.
And let’s be clear, the work is often difficult and painful. And that’s precisely why we need to be willing to do the work. If we aren’t willing, then we’ll likely abandon the work. And when we abandon the work we are likely to go back to our old behaviors and patterns. And that means relapse.
The only words in this step that I didn’t bristle at were “entirely ready.” Even at a few months sober. Knew I could be entirely ready to work on myself. In fact, I’d been doing that from the first step.
I’ve written a lot about my struggles with the God Talk in the rooms. It took me a long time to make some semblance of peace with the very real trauma that gets triggered by that talk. I had to do the work around that trauma to be able to sit with the triggering language of this step. Once I’d done that I was willing to look past the words. I’d become entirely ready. I was willing to work on myself.