Many self-help groups look at the step that corresponds with the month. Thus, many of us are reading about and talking about steps six and seven in our home-groups. Let’s take a look at these two steps that help us downsize, decrease, or diminish our defects of character.
To begin, it is important to know what a defect of character is and why is it necessary to remove. The Collins online dictionary describes a defect as: A fault or imperfection in a person.” Character is defined as the qualities that make a person distinct from other people. Put it all together and a character defect is an imperfection that keeps a person from engaging meaningfully with others or a quality within a person that keeps others at bay. Our character defects shut us out from the “sunlight of the Spirit.”
Some of our character defects became coping techniques which kept us trapped in our addiction. We became adept at lying so we could avoid the consequences of our drinking or drug use. We became skilled at thievery so we could keep ourselves supplied in drugs and alcohol. We used feelings like anger to repel people who were getting too close, or we used self-pity and despair to draw others into our chaotic world.
Now that we are in a program of recovery, we must unlearn those maladaptive coping techniques and add new coping tools to our recovery tool kit. We use these new coping techniques to reconnect with our family and friends. We use these new coping techniques to widen our recovery circle. And we use these new coping techniques so that we may bask in the “sunlight of the Spirit.”
Some of you may be thinking, “That’s a tall order. I’ve been lying most of my adult life to cover-up for my drinking. Are you suggesting that I suddenly get honest over-night?”
In a word – yes! Remember what it tells us in the fifth chapter of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, this is “a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.” By getting honest with ourselves and others we will begin to decrease and diminish our defects.
Regarding other character defects, steps six and seven help us place them in perspective. Feelings like anger or despair are not unhealthy, but when we use them to manipulate others that’s when they turn into character defects. Getting honest with ourselves and others will help us discern when we are having a healthy reaction to something or when we are trying to use the situation for our own advantage.
For example, it’s perfectly normal to become angry or frustrated. However, when we channel that anger it into gossip, shaming, shunning, character assassination, or blacklisting that’s when we’ve crossed the line and our anger has blown into a character defect.
It’s perfectly normal to feel sad or despair. However, when we use that despair to manipulate others, to get our way, or to avoid the consequences of our behavior that’s when we’ve crossed the line and our despair has blown into a character defect.
How do we get out of this dysfunctional cycle? We humbly ask our Higher Power to help us, and we become willing to accept that help when it arrives.
How will I know when that help has arrived? My Higher Power often works through other people. Thus, when my spouse, sponsor, or a trusted friend asks me a probing question that touches on a defect of character I interpret that question as God’s gentle way of saying to me, “Look at this. This behavior is keeping you from fully engaging with others. This behavior is keeping you from the sunlight of the Spirit.”
Another way I receive God’s help is through the “small voice within”. It is a “God consciousness” that urges me to be compassionate, kind or understanding when my initial reaction is something quite different. It is a learned ability to look at a situation and to think through the second and third order effects before I engage. It is leaving a situation a little better than I found it. It is doing the next right thing.
Steps six and seven let the air out of our over-blown character defects. With God’s help we can downsize, decrease, or diminish our defects of character. Through the practice of steps six and seven and with the help of our Higher Power, we can turn character liabilities into character assets.