By Rick R.

Sometimes the wording used in the Big Book and in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions means something different based on how we evolved with respect to religion, agnosticism, atheism and other concepts. This may be confusing to many of us—especially Step Six in the 12 and 12, as it talks of God removing defects of character the way God removed the obsession to drink.

I try to word the Step Six process in simple terms anyone can understand. Almost about all of our actions and behaviors stem from our thinking. If our thinking is fearful, we are bound to make bad decisions in an effort to defend ourselves. The defects we identify in the Step Four inventory, disclose in Step Five, and address in Step Six are by-products of our fears and insecurities residing in our inner, spiritual self. The shortcomings we address in Step Seven are of a material nature (actions and behaviors) that result from those fears and insecurities. If, in the program, we discover a defect of character and address it properly, the shortcoming diminishes and becomes irrelevant.

Addressing character defects diminishes shortcomings

A simpler way I try to describe this process is as follows: Suppose you purchased a new car and drove off the lot. As you reached the first stop sign you hit the brakes—the car slowed down but did not stop as it should, then drifted out into the intersection. When you returned to the car lot and explained what happened, they checked it out and discovered that the wrong brakes were installed at the factory. They agreed to correct the mistake. This time when you drove away and approached the stop sign the car stopped as it was supposed to, and it also stopped at every other stop sign or red light. In a similar way, once a defect is identified and corrected, the shortcoming goes away. I look at defects as the unseen part of our makeup: Thoughts, motives, fears, feelings, ego, conscience and so on. I look at shortcomings as the results of those inner thoughts and feelings such as: Gossip, lying, verbal abuse, cheating, theft and neglect.

Credibility leads to integrity

In Step Four we identified our defects of character (fear and insecurity). In Step Five we owned and exposed them. In Steps Six and Seven we start to replace our selfish, shameful thoughts and motives with unselfish habits and deeds. There’s no need to overcomplicate the process. As we begin to stay on the unselfish side of the behavioral ledger, we begin to establish a new track record. If all our motives are of an unselfish spirit, we start to establish some credibility which, in time, leads to integrity.

If an individual employs the dynamics I describe in Step Six and Seven, they will be a different person, in spirit, when they reach Step Nine. It is much easier to make amends backed up by a mountain of integrity. The steps of the program are numbered in order for a reason. If a person is struggling with one of these steps, it might be wise to back up and be sure that they didn’t skimp on an earlier step or leave out something important. If an alcoholic has a desire to live a happy and useful life, the steps of the program are a pathway to achieve that goal, provided they stick with the plan. Not everything will go our way in the beginning but, if we persist, in time things will go exceptionally well. In the words of Preacher Roe: “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.” I say, “Perseverance will always eat the bear!”

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