Step of the Month: Step 6

  1. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

The leader of our workshop this past weekend helped us understand the action steps, 4–9. Step 6 doesn’t seem like an action. After all, it’s not even phrased as an action verb: “were entirely ready…”.

So what action are we taking, and why? Well, it’s this simple: We are approaching what might be the most important decision we will make in recovery, the decision to finally stop living our lives on self-will and to start living by God’s will.

As our workshop leader told us, there’s a blurry line between steps 5 and 6. The Big Book tells us, just before step six, that once we’ve read off our inventory we spend an hour with our higher power. Reading that inventory is like watching a slow-motion movie of our life. If we’ve been completely honest and thorough, we will be ready to have all that’s objectionable removed from us. But will we be willing?

On page 76, the Big Book asks, “Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all—every one?” In other words, do we want to keep holding on to a few things? A resentment against someone who wronged us deeply? Justified anger? A comfortable old way of looking at the world that we think keeps us safe from its ups and downs? The way we talk to others? The way we listen, or don’t? Aggressive driving? The need to be right? The need to control? The idea that we can rely on ourselves? Eating compulsively to quash our feelings?

These and a hundred-hundred worn out ideas and ways of conducting ourselves in the world have to go. Otherwise we will eat again. Think of our lives like a damaged ship. We wouldn’t go back to sea having repaired the boat save for one little hole in hull. Even if the hole measured just a few inches across, eventually enough water would stream in that we would sink. It is the same with our recovery. We are about the business of giving ourselves to our higher power so that we can be fully repaired—by God—and sent back into the world to help others. If we deceive ourselves into hanging onto just a couple little things, then, like the ocean filling the ship, our ego will find that weak point and fill our souls back up with the very kind of junk we’d just read about during step 5. The stuff that makes us want to eat.

Yet, despite the fact that we didn’t come into OA on a winning streak, we have this uncanny knack for hanging onto behaviors that have proven again and again to cause us pain and suffering. Step 6 is about getting honest on this account. About finally getting ourselves fully and unquestionably ready to abandon the stuff that doesn’t work in our lives. And because we are probably the worst judges of what does and doesn’t work in our lives, we have to give it all away to God, the good and the bad. That’s how we avoid even the potential for hanging onto to something objectionable that can lead us back to eating again.

Steps 6 and 7 get very little airtime in the Big Book, but they are the turning point in our recovery. Up until then, we’ve been dealing with our problems. Once we get through step 7, we restart our lives in the solution. But for step six, the good news is that we are only becoming perfectly willing, not perfectly able. It turns out that giving away our character defects is a lifelong process, and one that brings us closer and closer to God. So in step 6, we have simply to tell ourselves, that, yes, this is something I’m signing up for. From here on out, I’m going to get out of God’s way by not trying to do it my way.