This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps. Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors. Our specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women. If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Before you read this post, check out our introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.
Step Six: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Admitting your flaws and character defects to yourself in Step Four and to another person in Step Five seem like a daunting enough task. But it’s not enough to end with just acknowledging these flaws. The next step involves the willingness to change those areas.
Hope comes when you realize that you are not alone on your path to change. Acknowledging God as the source of change in your life can take the pressure off you to be perfect. Philippians 2:13 says that God will give us both the power and the willingness to do what pleases Him, and so you can invite him in to this process of change and see Him transform your heart.
What is Step Six?
According to the Green Book of Sex Addicts Anonymous*, character defects are “undesirable traits, attitudes, and beliefs that make our lives unmanageable, cause pain to others, and block our spiritual growth.” Often these traits were adopted from childhood experiences of survival. As adults, you have the option to choose healthier ways of coping and relating.
There is a pivot point in Step Six toward rebuilding your life. Beyond reflecting on past flaws and defects, this step propels you into changing the future. Changing your character defects can feel risky because they have often served as the scapegoat or excuse for why you feel unloved or rejected. Without your excuse, you will have to risk pain without a protective shield. But making that change leads to movement toward trust and authenticity, which are the foundations of true intimacy.
How To Work Step Six
Revisit your fearless moral inventory from Steps Four and Five.
Identify the attitudes, behaviors, traits, and approaches to life that you recognized in your fearless moral inventory. Pay extra attention to places where you have felt stuck or are being held back by these traits. Write a list of the distorted beliefs you have about sex or your drug of choice that keep you in your addict mentality rather than in a rational mindset.
Identify where you learned the different character defects.
As mentioned earlier, the ways in which you cope with painful emotions or experiences in your life are shaped by coping strategies picked up in the past, whether healthy or unhealthy. Acknowledging where you learned these patterns does not exonerate you from blame, but instead acknowledges its origins and gives grace to the part of you that did whatever it took to survive.
Were your character defects something you picked up from your parents? Were they something you used to survive a painful childhood? Were you hurt in a way that sent a message such as, “you have to protect yourself,” or “don’t be responsible for anything, you’ll screw it up”? Is there a history of depression, anxiety, addiction, or mental illness in your family? Do you see the patterns of these family members reflected in your life?
Acknowledge what purpose these flaws of character served in your life.
You wouldn’t act or think in these ways if they didn’t feel good or serve you in some way. Maybe your forgetfulness allowed you not take responsibility for mistakes. Maybe you never had to be on time because your loved ones expected you to flake. Maybe your lack of commitment in jobs or relationships protected you from responsibility. Or maybe you didn’t have to make your inner world known and risk rejection because you isolated yourself or avoided relationships.
These coping strategies have served a purpose to protect you from painful emotions, hurt, or fear. Ask yourself: what are you afraid will happen once these are gone? Do you fear being rejected? Unloved? Abandoned? Enmeshed with another person? If you acknowledge the ways you are self-sabotaging in your areas of growth, you no longer will be able to use your character defects as excuses or justifications. You will need to face the pain connected to these fears.
Acknowledge the areas in which you will feel deprived and not want to release these character defects.
You’ve been working on maintaining your sobriety from quite some time. And if that weren’t enough, this step asks you to remove other coping mechanisms through giving up your character flaws. This can be a scary process. Practicing humility and dependence on God and your support system are crucial at this point. You need them to move from just understanding these flaws into making a change in your behaviors and attitudes.
List each character defect with the corresponding positive quality that can replace it.
Often the coping strategies we’ve used to survive that have turned into flaws in our adulthood are two sided: they have both a light side and a dark side. Identify the “light” side of each of your character flaws: see your defects and become aware of how you can use them for good or replace them with more adaptive behaviors or qualities you want to embody. This could be moving from mistrust to trust, or allowing yourself to be human rather than trying to be superhuman. Begin to seek opportunities to live out these positive characteristics.
Invite God into the process.
As this step expresses in its phrasing, God is a crucial part of this process. Invite God through prayer to illuminate the areas where you feel resistant to letting go. Ask God if He will stay with you despite knowing all your flaws. Scripture reminds us that God saved us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), so He likely knows them already and still chose relationship with you. If you don’t feel fully willing to let go of these flaws in character, pray and ask God to change your heart.
Invite your sponsor or trusted guide in.
Share this process with your sponsor. Ask your trusted guide or your friends in recovery if they know of other areas of weakness or character difficulties to which you are still clinging. They may have faced similar character issues in their personal journeys and have ideas on how to resolve them. Ask for help and support through this process.
Are you crippled when you look at all your areas of weakness and character flaws? Do you struggle to see the good in yourself when you’re faced with the hurt your actions have caused? It is a painful and difficult process to examine yourself and make changes. At Restored Hope, I believe it’s crucial to walk alongside you in these difficult areas and help you to create lasting change. Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule a counseling appointment.
*This is an Amazon affiliate link. Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.