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

We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all, everyone? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.

A.A. Big Book, p. 76

Comments from Websites and Publications

Step 6 is a step of preparation and reflection. I have been preparing for a significant change in my life and now I need to make sure that I am ready. I need to make sure in my own heart and mind that I am truly willing for God to remove these defects of character that have enabled my addictive behaviors. It might mean letting go of other things in my life in order to allow God to do the work that needs to be done. I need to determine if I am truly ready.

From 12Step.org

So Step Six - "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character" - is A.A.'s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement. The words "entirely ready" underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 65

When we tried to clean ourselves up with our own power and "discipline" we kept ourselves agitated, confused, in denial, and worn out, and we were in almost constant emotional pain. We were like the man who tore the scab off his arm every morning to see if his wound had healed.

But it was in doing the sixth Step that I saw why I had become so exhausted. I'd been trying to do God's part in the spiritual growth and healing process. In the program I was told that my part was "being entirely ready", being ready to let God be the controller and life-changer of myself and others. When I did that, my sponsor said, I would see how God's power is released to flow through our lives to clean them only when we quit trying to control the how and when he is to use that power... At first this sounded like a call to complacency - until I got into Step Seven. This attitude of readiness to let God reach into our lives and uncover and remove the things that make us spiritually and emotionally sick is paradoxically the doorway to active and effective change of specific lifelong habits and sins. But it means turning loose of our control-even of our healing.

A Hunger for Healing, p. 112-113

When we are working Step Six, it is important to remember that we are human and should not place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. This is a step of willingness. That is the spiritual principle of Step Six. It is as if to say that we are now willing to move in a spiritual direction. Being human we will, of course, wander.

Rebellion is a character defect that spoils us here. We need not lose faith when we become rebellious. The indifference or intolerance that rebellion can bring out in us has to be overcome by persistent effort. We keep asking for willingness. We may be doubtful still that God will see fit to relieve us or that something will go wrong. We ask another member who says, "You're right where you're supposed to be". We renew our readiness to have our defects removed. We surrender to the simple suggestions that the Program offers us. Even though we are not entirely ready, we are headed in that direction.

Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 6

We must be specific in our identification of individual defects of character, and we must be specific about the changes required to recover from them. One cure does not fit all! The approach for addressing one addiction may not work at all for another. For instance, the rageaholic may need to reduce anger expression. Conversely, the anger phobic person, who has no permission to feel or experience anger, may need to mobilize anger expression and assertiveness. The treatment has to be very specifically tailored to the defect and to the person.

As a rule, most defects of character involve some imbalance in the expression of and the experience of our most basic human needs. For example, sexuality and ambition are not bad unless our experiences of those drives are imbalanced or codependent. If we are addicted to sex or driven by ambition to the point of workaholism, these expressions have become defects we must address. Our sixth step prayers would not be "Make me asexual" or "Take away my ambition." Rather, we might pray, "Grant me a healthy expression of my sexuality" or "Channel ambition into enhancing my private life as well as my work life."

As we hold known defects of character up to God, we must avoid self-shaming and self-condemnation. The goal here is spiritual release, not spiritual self-punishment. For most of us, this process is ongoing. We will not be healed and sent forward immediately; rather, recovery will be a daily effort to evaluate, balance, and adjust the healthy expression of all of our God-given needs.

Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 50-51

Our character defects are indicators of our basic nature. We are likely to find that we have the same basic nature as anyone else. We have needs, and we try to get them met. For instance, we need love. How we go about getting love is where our defects come into play. If we lie, cheat, or harm others and degrade ourselves to get love, we are acting on defects. As defined in It Works: How and Why, our defects are basic human traits that have been distorted by our self-centeredness. With our sponsor's help, we need to list each defect we have, describe the ways in which we act on it, look at how it affects our lives, and, very importantly, find out what we're feeling when we practice it. Imagining what our life would be like without each defect will help us see that we can live without it. Some of us take practical action by finding out what the opposite spiritual principle would be for each character defect.

  • List each defect, and give a brief definition of it
  • In what ways do I act on this defect?
  • When I act on this defect, what effect does it have on myself and others?
  • What feelings do I associate with this defect? Am I trying to suppress certain feelings by acting on certain defects?
  • What would my life be like without this behavior? Which spiritual principle can I apply instead?
Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guides, p. 57-58

Steps 6 and 7 form a unit in a way that is parallel to Steps 4 and 5. Step 6 asks clients to become more aware of their personal character defects and become willing to give them up. This is the logical follow-up to the preceding two steps, which heightened one's awareness of areas that were problematic and needed change, but which did nothing to actually change them. This step is a preliminary step in readying oneself to make changes in these areas. ...

Step 6 introduces the phrase "defects of character", which requires some comment. In the old days, these character defects were seen as the underlying psychodynamics that caused the addiction. Remember that as recently as DSM-II, alcoholism and addiction were listed as personality disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1968). This is the psychological model of addiction that is indeed implicit in some of Bill Wilson's writings. However, more recent conceptualizations of addiction suggest that these well-known addictive character traits are more likely the results of addiction than its cause. In either event, the kind of thinking, scheming, denial, defense mechanisms, and such that usually accompany the addiction are genuine impediments to recovery and are an appropriate target for change.

A Clinician's Guide to 12 Step Recovery, p. 49