If you’ve written a thorough Fourth Step and completed the Fifth Step with your sponsor you have most likely identified a number of character defects. In the program we understand that these defects are the primary blocks between us and God, between us and our fellows. So Step Six helps us to become ready to have them removed.
But I don’t want to, you might cry. Many of us have held dearly to our character defects for quite some time. Because, although they often cause us pain in the long term, they can be effective short term tools. For example, being aggressive towards someone might alleviate my immediate feeling of discomfort and remove that person from my presence. However, it doesn’t do a lot for my long term relationship with that person or my own self-esteem about how I treat others.
So the inventory is helpful in allowing us to see where our character defects have harmed other people. We can clearly see on paper where they were not working for us.
So are we entirely ready? And it is also important to point out that it is God’s power in this step that we are becoming ready for. It does not say we were entirely ready to remove our own defects of character, or have our sponsor remove them, or have them extracted by a dentist. It is God who removes them. We just have to prepare ourselves. We just have to be willing.
So this is another faith step. In Step Two we believe that a power could restore us to sanity. In Three where we turned ourselves over to that power. Now we are asked not only to be ready but also to believe that God can remove these defects.
Some sponsors will have sponsees work Steps Six and Seven together. And some will break them apart. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
Many people new to the program look upon Steps Six and Seven as a sort of intermission in between two big chunks of steps. This is not uncommon. These steps can seem somewhat vague on a first pass. It is normal for our relationship with them to deepen and expand over time. Furthermore, it is totally ok to not “get it” your first time through the steps. The personality change that comes through a spiritual experience is not something that occurs like the flip of a switch. If you have ever heard someone refer to peeling back the layers of the onion this is what they are referring to. We may have character defects and shortcomings deeper below the surface that we can’t see until we pull back additional layers. Not to worry. The important part is that we keep trying.
In summary, Step Six is a big step and can also seem somewhat vague and inconsequential at first. It is also a step that seems to require less action than some of our previous steps. However, even though it can feel like half time, it’s important to try and work it to the best of our abilities. Also, talk to others about their experience. You’re probably not the first person to feel a little confused on Six and Seven. Work with your sponsor and determine what the best course of action is. Some sponsors will have you work it lickety-split knowing you will always come back. And others will have you spend some more time to have it sink. Both approaches are good.