Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
When I asked a friend in another 12-step program what advice he would give to someone doing Step Six and Step Seven for the first time, he said simply: “Make a list of your character defects!” The sixth and seventh steps, much like the fourth and fifth, go hand in hand. And they are not meant to be complicated.
Step Six and Step Seven build upon the previous two steps. Step Four and Step Five brought to light a lot of my “baggage.” And my baggage, when opened up and sorted through, began to reveal the contents of my soul and a pretty clear outline of my life story. Themes in my story started to emerge and I realized, for example, that I tend to respond in certain ways to certain types of sufferings (i.e. that my response to criticism has been anger, to feelings of inadequacy has been to become judgmental, and so on).
So for Step Six and Step Seven, I put “anger” and “judgmentalism” on my list of character defects and then asked God to remove them from me. It was that simple! But removing these character defects is a job that God undertakes and my willingness is the only requirement.
Cooperating with God’s Grace
This doesn’t mean that no further work will be required on my part. It only means that I have put God at the helm and that recovering from these character defects, much like my recovery as a whole, is now a project for God to undertake with my willing cooperation. It’s not one that I can undertake on my own.
My sponsor gave me hope when we got to Step Six and Step Seven: she told me that while coming to terms with all of my defects of character might seem overwhelming at first, I would likely look back in several months and be surprised at what character defects God removed first, maybe without me even noticing. She assured me that God would act and that I could trust in that.
Step Six and Step Seven also provide good opportunities to pray with the psalmist: “Cleanse me of my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). The truth is that often we have persistent character defects of which we are unaware. I began Step Six and Step Seven by reviewing my fourth step and looking for themes that stood out to me. Then my sponsor had me ask several friends and loved ones—people I could trust to be open and honest with me—to list some things they identified as character defects in me. Afterword, I went to prayer and asked God, “Is there anything else?”
God Will Not Abandon Us to Our Weaknesses
Step Six and Step Seven are rooted in a powerful spiritual truth, outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1264):
“Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, ‘the tinder for sin’ (fomes peccati); since concupiscence ‘is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.’”
In Step Six and Step Seven we hand our character defects, our “weaknesses of character,” over to God. And as with each of the steps before, we yield to the grace of Jesus Christ. We can walk away from these two steps having adopted a new spiritual principle: God is greater than our weaknesses and He can remove them if we let him.
This article originally appeared 9/17/2019 at the Catholic In Recovery blog.
Charlie is a mid-thirties guy who resides in sunny Florida with his small (but growing!) family. Charlie holds a B.A. in Religion and Apologetics and works in the financial services industry by day, writing about recovery, the Catholic Faith and Taming the Wild places in the human heart in his spare time. His writing has been featured in places like the Catholic stand, SpiritualDirection.com, Catholic Exchange and in print at Shalom Tidings. Charlie serves as the Managing Editor for Taming the Wilds and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.