Recovery Step 6

Ready for Change?

This is the step that separates the men from the boys, or, more accurately, the real adults from the emotionally immature. For those working and living by a twelve step program, you may remember that this step, quoted here from the Narcotics Anonymous literature, actually says, “We were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.” For anyone not in a twelve step program, personal growth may still be of interest and step six is a terrific “step” on the way to having a better self.

Unless you are completely, totally satisfied with your life, consider reading further. It’s free and I promise you it will not do harm to you or anyone else. No, you are not too young to change; the next 20 years can be better than the last twenty. Too old? The next fifty can be better than the last fifty. There are lots of examples of people making major changes of all kinds well into their seventies, eighties and beyond.

The first five steps (see any twelve step literature) prepare you for step six. If you have actually done them, you have had the opportunity to look at yourself, your beliefs, your thought processes, your feelings and behavior. You have laid the foundation to make changes and now it is time to take action.

Oh no. Please, can’t I just read more, “process it” and think about all this stuff? Sure, but you get only a fraction of the growth available by declining to act.

In reviewing the foundation you have built in steps one through five, you find that the first three involve having made a decision to allow spiritual forces into your life. The God concept is beginning to be palatable, whether traditional Judeo-Christian or just a force of nature. If you did a thorough inventory of yourself in step four, and reviewed it in a fifth step with someone who had done his own step work and who could therefore guide you, you have been able to begin to see who you really are as evidenced by your patterns of behavior. A wise man was asked by several somewhat less wise persons if he wanted to know what they believed. He said “Not necessary. I will tell you what you believe by watching you.” Who we are shows in our actions, in what we do, not so much in what we say or think. By the way, our children do what we do, not what we say. Be the person you want your children to see, the one your dog thinks you are.

Step six actually means we became willing to change the behavior that has caused discomfort in our lives. I’m not talking about the simple behaviors of stealing, lying, cheating and perhaps drunkenness. We call this “cash register honesty” and of course it is important, sort of basic “first grade” important. The deeper and more intense change of self, the high school and beyond change, requires the foundation discussed above. Look at your personal hopes, values and goals. Is your behavior consistent with what you say you want? With who you say you are? These more subtle and equally important character defects are the hidden ones, that part of us that is in play when no one else is watching. What is your arrogance quotient? Generosity (of spirit), humility, friendliness, acceptance and forgiveness capacities? How do you treat others? If you are working steps, you will note that four and five highlight imperfections. Step six is where you decide to allow removal of those imperfections. Oh, did I say none of us human beings are able to change significantly and permanently on our own? If so, we would have changed the things we don’t like about ourselves long ago. We would not continue to be in discomfort; hence the first three steps and the incorporation of a Higher Power into our lives.

To progress in personal growth, (yes, progress, not perfection), we get to refuse to gloss over “defects” we want removed. No responses like, “Yeah, that’s the way I am…” or comparing, “I’m not as bad as he is…” You can be the best person you can be. (Profound, huh?) If you want more from yourself and your life, become “entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character” and take the action, with His help, to change.

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