Dear Willingness: A Modern Love Letter to the Sixth Step

the Sixth Step

This post is part of a series of modern love letters to the 12 Steps. To start at the very beginning, read To Whom We Owe Our Recovery: Modern Love Letters to the Twelve Steps.

  • In Step One, we acknowledge our powerlessness over addiction.
  • In Step Two, we find hope of a cure in a loving, personal relationship with a Higher Power. 
  • In Step Three, we surrender, casting off our burdens fully into the arms of life’s healing powers. 
  • In Step Four, we reclaim our right to be set free by the truth of our tender humanity. 
  • In Step Five, we access compassionate witness. 

But the Steps don’t leave us there, midway up the stairway to heaven! Onward, dear friends, to Step Six. During the Sixth Step, we recover our authentic willingness to change. 

Dear Step Six, 

You read, “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” 

Hold the Phone – Defects?

Okay. Hold on. Step Six, before I go anywhere with this, let’s just take a pause to think about the phrase “defects of character”. 


To my contemporary sensibility, the phrasing feels highly unfortunate. Nobody wants to be defective, it’s almost an offensive concept. I take offense!

Nor do I want to believe, honestly, that my defects are so ingrained as to be part of my character

Why don’t you just come out and say it, then: it’s all my fault? It’s because I’m bad, something is wrong with me?

Can’t we please call it something else – woundedness, trauma, social programming? Something that’s not so fully my responsibility? 

Ah…I see it now…I will have to take responsibility for something in this step. 

Shoot. OK. Continue.

Deep Breath, Carry On

OK, let me start over. Dear Step Six, I am not here to tell you how things should be. I am not here because I know better. 

I am here to be shaped, softened, to receive the gift of what you have to offer me. I am here for the deeper meaning. 

I am here hat in hand, with reverence and respect for a longstanding tradition. I am here because, whether or not I like it, AA remains the single most effective solution on planet for the problem of addiction. 

Perhaps now is not the most important moment to register my resistance, to call attention to my opposition. 

Let me remember who I am in relation to this solid body of work. In relation to what’s tried, tested, and true. Let me look for the deeper truth in this, the truth behind the pain that these words bring up for me. 

In authentic, chosen humility.

Deep breath. Carry on. 

Malfunctions of Character

Staying open, what does it mean to consider that I have defects in my character? 

If I start with the most basic idea of defectiveness, all it really means is that my character has areas where it doesn’t work. 

Well that’s certainly true! There are so many things about my personality which, frankly, just don’t work as well as I wish they did.  

My self-esteem. My codependence. My tendency to personalize everything, to think everyone is always unhappy with me, attacking me, or doesn’t like me. My tendency to think I don’t matter. 

All of these habits are, sure enough, ingrained in my character. And I am so weary of them, Step Six, I truly am. These ancient habits, these tendencies, these patterns that so deeply inform my experience inside a human skin, so counterproductive, pointless, frustrating. These have long outstayed their welcome. 

If I think about my purpose in life from Spirit’s perspective, I can see even more clearly the ways that my character is broken. 

If my job is to be the best, highest, most natural, most expanded, most authentic expression of Source in this world, I can see what is getting in my way.

It’s these…malfunctions of character. You could even call them defects. 

Small smile. I see it now.

Take these From Me!

Looking at the concept of character this way, I can not only admit that these are problem areas, but begin to feel a huge readiness to have them lifted away from me by God. 

Source, yes, please take away these defects of character, places where the functions of my small self don’t work! Shore me up, rebuild my walls, patch my holes. Give me a whole new structure, whatever.

I have my own wish list ready to go. Please take away my anxiety, my feeling that I have to control things or they’ll go off the rails. Please lift this guilt that I have carried as long as I can remember drawing breath. Please take away the excesses of my self-doubt, the lingering suspicion that I am bad to the bone. 

And Source, I guess you might have your own list. The things you see about me, that I hide from myself, for all the reasons. Those things that loved ones sometimes try to reflect to me, whether I am ready or not, to see these truths. Where I am the opposite of how I mean to be, where my influence brings harm to others. 

I am open. If there is something that you think is getting in my way, have it at, Source. Your will. I have no investment in remaining the same, it is not in my interest. There is nothing in this world that is improved by me continuing to stay the same. 

All right. I’m ready. Entirely.  

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