“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
One of my favorite phrases in the Big Book of A.A. comes after the description of Step 5. The passage says “Carefully reading the first five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are building an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last.” To me this means that the hard work we have done so far has laid the foundation for fundamental changes in our lives. We are moving from a constant battle against addiction (“white-knuckling”, if you will) to life of serenity and gratitude. We are getting to the roots of our addiction, not just the behaviors, but the underlying flaws in our character that have manifested themselves in our acting out. This milestone is where a spiritual awakening really begins to happen for many of us.
Willingness to be rid of our character defects is crucial. If we are not willing to change, we are just giving lip-service to this step. The Big Book even suggests that we ask God for willingness: “If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.” Hopefully, the work we’ve done in the first 5 steps will open our eyes enough to see where these defects of character have gotten us, but if we want to hang on to some, ask for willingness.
The action part of this step is to make a list of our character defects. It is sometimes helpful to go back and re-read our Step 1 and Step 4 writings and think about them through the lens of character defects. We look at our moral inventory for things like selfishness, manipulation, codependency, or a poor self-image. When making this list, try not to confuse deep human needs with character defects. For example, we all have the need for connection with others. That is not a defect of character. But manipulating people as part of those connections may be a flaw in our character. A therapist or a sponsor who knows our story can be really helpful in identifying defects that we may not see in ourselves. Intensive therapy sessions, such as the Roots Retreat offered by Awaken, can be helpful in this area as well.
One thing that I have found with my character defects is that they require daily surrender. One of my most memorable recovery meetings was a discussion of Step 6 and a brother in the program said “Sometimes, God will take away one of my character defects, and the next day, I take it right back!” That really stuck with me as a reminder that these flaws in my character do come back from time-to-time and that I need to surrender them each time they come up. Like many of the steps, being willing for God to remove character defects is not a one-time event – it is something we practice every day.
Another thing that I have found is that as I work on my character defects, it is a lot like peeling back an onion. There are layers to my character defects that I didn’t see when I made my initial list. And I’m quite sure that there are layers that I don’t see now that I will need to address as I continue to peel back the layers. All of this talk about onions and layers reminds me of my favorite scene from the movie “Shrek.” I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom from an ogre and a talking donkey:
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Shrek: Example? Okay, er… ogres… are… like onions.
Donkey: [sniffs onion] They stink?
Donkey: Or they make you cry.
Donkey: Oh, you leave them out in the sun and they get all brown and start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek: NO! LAYERS! Onions have layers. OGRES have layers. Onions have layers… you get it. We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. [pause] You know, not everybody likes onions. [pause] CAKE! Everybody loves cakes! Cakes have layers!
Shrek: [restraining temper] I don’t care… what everyone likes. Ogres. Are not. Like cakes!
May you begin to peel back the layers on your character defects today!
-A grateful member of the Awaken community
Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. If you want to know more about Awaken or our resources, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!