Gary S. Fisher, Psy. D., C.A.D.C.

healing, integration, authenticity

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Principles: Humility vs. False Pride

There is an implication in this step following the 5th, that the exact nature of one’s wrongs is linked to what are termed, character defects, which then begs the question, what then are character defects? The simplest definition is that they are character traits that are overdeveloped and out of proportion to other traits, and thereby motivate behaviors that rule the person’s life when other behaviors would serve them better. In other words, the person has lost the flexibility of action necessary to be a functional, healthy individual in the world.

In terms of the recovery principle of humility needed for this step to be worked thoroughly, two definitions work best; 1) an honest appraisal of one’s assets and liabilities, and 2) to be teachable. It is a paradox that within most circles both in 12 Step programs and society in general, ego is seen in a negative light, but in truth, a certain amount of ego strength is necessary for a person to take a rigorously honest look at themselves, admit what they see, both positive and negative, and be able to find the willingness to change the negative traits and behaviors. When faced with the revelations of the 5th step, the dis-eased person may be tempted to try and defend themselves in Step 6, convincing themselves that they weren’t really that bad, that there aren’t really too many character defects that they need to face. Others will have no problem coming up with a very long list of things they don’t like about themselves, however, this is also a form of false pride. It says, “I’m the worst addict/codependent/etc.” A simple clear self-assessment is still missing. Either extreme prevents the individual from seeing themselves as they truly are. Without that admission at a deep level, they are unable to tap into the desperation necessary for completion of this step, and the momentum needed to move on to the 7th step.

It is important for this step to take place at the same time as the fifth step. Much of the effectiveness of the steps will depend on the depth of ego-deflation experienced by the person, as a result of their honest self-appraisal. No better time will exist for the addicted individual to find the desire to address his or her defects than immediately after reading about a life based on them, and being conscious of the damage it caused.

When compiling the list, several character defects appear to be present for the majority of addicts. Dishonesty, anger, fear, pride, people-pleasing, and self-centeredness will probably be apparent as the basis for much of the addict’s behavior. Other defects, or patterns of behavior, will be identified and added to the list on a more individualized basis.

Some individuals, when faced with the list of defects in Step 6, may have difficulty believing that there is anything good about them at all. In order to help them avoid falling into a sense of despair (which will be different than the negative false pride described above), the list should be limited to no more than 10-12 defects. At this point, it will be very important for the listener to not let the person leave with only a negative sense of self. By continuing on to the 7th step during the same session, the listener will be able to help the individual focus on the positive side of their character as well, thus providing the individual with a complete picture of both their defects and assets.