By Steve K.
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
These two Steps involve willingness, humility and practice. Step Six requires a natural willingness to be free of the character defects discovered in Steps Four and Five. The painful awareness of our defects of character and an understanding of the self-centeredness that produces them, will hopefully motivate the alcoholic to become willing to let go and have them removed.
“Entirely ready” and “all these defects of character” are ideals to work towards. In my experience, as I’ve engaged with the group and Twelve Steps, the awareness of my character defects and the harm they cause to myself and others has increased and therefore I’ve become more willing to be free of them.
The willingness found in Step Six is essential to the practice of Step Seven. The humility required for Step Seven will have come about from our experience of powerlessness in relation to addiction and an understanding of the imperfection of being human identified in Steps Four and Five.
Asking God, or a higher power to remove our shortcomings can be a barrier to this Step for some in recovery. It suggests prayer or some form of communication with a power greater and this is left up to the individual; although the Big Book is suggesting prayer to a spiritual power. It is important to remember that we are free to believe in our own concept of a Higher Power when practising this Step, and many within AA relate to the group and the Steps as the power that removes our shortcomings. Relating to others with an attitude of love and kindness, and a commitment to the virtues inherent within the Steps, is practising spirituality in my view and can certainly reduce our self-centredness. Non-theistic prayer can also be practised as a way of affirming the values we aspire to live by.
The humility to surrender control and rely upon a power greater than oneself to remove our shortcomings is essential to Step Seven, but this needs to be combined with a willingness to take action in order to allow the process to happen.
This action takes the form of a persistent effort to practice the opposite of our defects of character. For example: in relation to our dishonesty we practice honesty, when feeling resentful we practice forgiveness, in the case of fear we practice courage and faith, in terms of our pride, ego, and self-centredness we practice humility, and instead of being selfish we practice love.
Practising these virtues with the help and encouragement of the group and the Twelve Steps, over time, brings about change and a moving towards one’s true-self. This is a lifetime’s process and I’ve not met anyone yet who’s magically had all their defects of character removed.
The practice within AA of moral and spiritual principles in order to grow into emotional sobriety translates well into ‘Person-Centred’ psychology and its ‘Core Conditions’. The therapeutic conditions which facilitate personal growth are empathy, unconditional positive regard (UPR) and congruence. Receiving these virtues from others enables the recipient to relate them to themselves and practice them in relation to others. This process happens within Twelve Step fellowships as members practice moral and spiritual principles in relation to each other; offering support and compassion for a common problem.
Compassion and empathy are offered by members of AA to each other born of identification with suffering. These virtues enable the recipient to be understanding and empathetic towards themselves, instead of feeling self-hatred. The same process applies to the practice of non-judgemental acceptance (UPR), which is generally given within the fellowships. Congruence or being genuine is also modelled within AA. It is shown by members practising honesty and humility with each other; which is particularly demonstrated by the practice of sharing.
My belief and experience within AA, is that the practice of moral and spiritual principles are fundamental to personal growth and change. Twelve-Step groups and their program of recovery encourage and facilitate the practice of all the above principles.
The need to practice moral and spiritual principles in order to recover from addiction is essential due to the selfish nature of the condition. Addiction generally corrupts the sufferer both morally and spiritually. As a result the alcoholic will usually have a long list of people who they’ve selfishly harmed. This now brings us to Step 8…