A Young monk asked the Master:
“How can I ever get emancipated?”
The Master replied:
“Who has ever put you in bondage?”
Sometimes I feel like I am a slave to my character defects. A frustrated, unruly slave, tugging at my leg irons. Our character defects can do that to us; hold us hostage and prevent us from feeling happy, joyous and least of all, free. False pride, egotism, anger, fear, anxiety, they rear their ugly heads and before you know it I’m locked in the bondage of self.
Since this is the month of June, in meetings all over the globe step studies have been looking at the 6th Step. "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." When I first got sober I thought this was some kind of miracle “eraser” step. I was going to identify and admit my character defects, humbly take them to God, and soon after I would be transformed. Sure enough, some were lifted as I began to work my program, but a good many remained. The character defects that remain are what I call the “divine ordinary” they are emotions and characteristics that are common to all of us. They will probably be with me always at some level. My challenge is to work a program, practice the principles to the best of my ability and not let them imprison me, or others.
I now understand that the 6th Step is not an Eraser Step, it is an Attitude Adjustment Step. I need to accept my own humanity, defects and all, and tell God I am ready to work towards perfection, surrendering the notion that I will ever come even close to it.
During the years we were drinking and using we were bent on self destruction, in one insidious way after another. Our minds, our behaviors and our responses to life were programmed in that one direction. Our character defects were learned responses to our way of life; often they were even our survival skills. When we get clean and sober we chose a new way of life. No longer a life of self destruction, we are choosing to live, and hoping to live happy, joyous and free. We do a complete turn of direction. But what about those learned behaviors, those survival skills? Those ingrained responses that don’t serve us any more? (Those character defects) They don’t just go away, and they won’t just dissapear no matter how many times we humbly ask God to remove them. My point is, that it is a process. It may take a lifetime but what a great journey we’re on. We strive for progress, not perfection. We practice patience, and ask God for guidance.
So what do I do about a particularly troublesome character defect when it takes me hostage? I observe it. To the best of my ability I don’t fight it (that which I resist always causes me more pain). I recognize that is a part of me and I observe myself. When I admitted my drug abuse, I didn’t just “confess” to it. I had to “admit” it. Admit it into my heart and soul. I am an addict. That is the only way I could ever move forward in recovery. That is how I try to handle my character defects. I “admit” them. I take ownership of them. They are a part of me. If I rage against them they own me. If I lovingly observe how they are hurting me, or preventing my spiritual growth they seem to lose their power, sometimes they even become comical. Some of the best laughter I’ve shared is with friends in recovery honestly talking about our character defects. Go figure.
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. from the 12 and 12