An In-Depth Look at Steps 6 and 7
Last month, we spoke about the controversy surrounding the question of whether Steps 8 and 9 include making amends to oneself. For those who favored the idea of making amends to self, examples of inventory for Step 8 and mirror techniques for Step 9 amends to self were included.
Working backward from there, Steps 6 and 7 have their own controversy. There is little written in the Big Book about these two Steps, actually just one brief paragraph on each, found on page 76. Some people believe there should be written “work” for Steps 6 and 7.
Others believe that we simply request that God remove our character defects. I believe that either approach is good, and may well depend on and reflect our own understanding of a Higher Power.
For those looking to actually do some writing on these Steps, this article will provide background and a worksheet with which to do just that.-Jay Westbrook
My worksheet is based on the concept that there is a difference between an “amends” and an “apology” – if there were not, then the other name for the Bill of Rights would be “the first ten apologies to the Constitution.” It is not; it is “the first ten amendments to the Constitution,” meaning to improve, to change for the better.
The Vehicle for Change is in the Work
My belief is that for a 9th Step amends to have depth and weight, we must present in a manner that is different – for the better – than how we have presented, acted, and engaged in the past with the person to whom we are making amends. The vehicle for our progress is the work of Steps 6 and 7.
My God is a co-journeyer, a co-sufferer, but does not intervene. That seems to work for me, given my childhood incest and torture, and other history.-Jay WestbrookI know many people, upon completing their 5th Step, simply get on their knees, hold their sponsor’s hand, say the 7th Step Prayer, and then move right on to Step 8. For me, that does not work – in part because I have not changed, and in part because I do not have an intervening God that will reach down and remove my character defects.
My God is a co-journeyer, a co-sufferer, but does not intervene. That seems to work for me, given my childhood incest and torture, and other history. Once, upon hearing a speaker say, “wow, I was running late and God gave me a parking space right in front,” I remember thinking, “oh, so that’s why God never rescued me from my daily rape as a child – He was out in L.A. looking for parking spaces for tardy AAs.”
Also, my God would certainly not do for me that which I can do for myself. My God does not cultivate laziness in me. Your beliefs may be different, so you need to consider whether or not this work is needed by and/or applicable to you.
So I do the Steps 6/7 work to change for the better so that I can make meaningful amends to self (the one I hurt more deeply and more consistently than anyone else) and to others, and ultimately better fit myself to be of service to God and my fellows. Does this make sense?
Please remember that character is defined by behavior; therefore, character defects are behaviors, not feelings. Our feelings are God-given, and we cannot choose them.
Don’t you love when people say, “Well, don’t feel guilty” or “don’t feel angry” or “don’t feel sad.” If I could do that, I would probably have never had a drink in the first place!
What we can choose is our behavioral response to those feelings, just not the feelings themselves.
In the face of feeling terrified, we can choose the behavior of cowardice or the behavior of courage. In the face of feeling enraged, we can choose the behavior of vengeance or the behavior of forgiveness. In the face of feeling lonely, we can choose the behavior of isolation and withholding or the behavior of reaching out and engaging.
In these examples, the character defects would be “cowardly, vengeful, and isolating,” NOT “fear, anger, and loneliness.” Does that make sense?
In the face of feeling terrified, we can choose the behavior of cowardice or the behavior of courage. In the face of feeling enraged, we can choose the behavior of vengeance or the behavior of forgiveness.-Jay WestbrookThere are a couple of stop points in this work, that are not indicated on the worksheet. The 1st stop point is after you have created your list of defects, but before you define them.
At that point you should stop and go over the list with your sponsor to make sure that everything on the list is really a character defect and not a feeling. You should also make sure that there are no duplicates. For example, “punishing,” “vindictive,” and “vengeful” are probably one defect stated three different ways and not three separate ones.
The next stop point is after you have created your list of antonyms or opposites, but before you define them. At that point you should stop and go over the list with your sponsor to make sure that the antonyms are really 12-Step appropriate. For example, if one of your defects is “manipulative,” a dictionary antonym might identify the opposite of “manipulate” as “stationary” – meaning you can manipulate an object in space, or you can hold it stationary. However, that obviously doesn’t apply to 12-Step work, so perhaps you and your sponsor could identify more appropriate opposite behaviors. So for the defect “manipulative,” the opposite could be “accepting and non-meddlesome.”
After completing this work, I usually have my sponsees pick one character defect/asset card per day, and for that day watch for the defect coming up in their behavior and make a conscious decision to replace the defect with its asset.
Only after they’ve gone through the entire deck twice, do we move on to Steps 8 and 9, and even then, only if they feel their character, their behavior, has been amended – changed for the better. Only then can their amends to self and others have depth and weight.
Here is the 6th and 7th Step Workshop Worksheet
by G. Jay Westbrook, M.S., R.N.
Big Book: First two paragraphs on page 76
Twelve & Twelve: Step 6 and Step 7
A) List your defects of character (or survival skills)
B) Using a good dictionary, define each of your defects of character (or survival skills)
C) Using a good dictionary (or an antonym dictionary), list and define the opposite (antonym) of each of your defects of character
D) After reviewing the A-C with your sponsor, answer the 6 questions below, for each defect/survival skill:
- 1) The defect of character or survival skill is: ______________________________
- 2) Two (2) examples of this defect/survival skill in action in my life recently are:
(If you cannot think of two recent examples, the defect is apparently not defining your character, and should come off the list.)
- 3) How does this defect/survival skill harm you and keep you from being in recovery?
- 4) How does it affect others adversely, and block intimacy?
- 5) Are you ready to have your Higher Power remove this defect & learn to live without it by accepting that your Higher Power has already given you the ability to choose to replace the defect with its opposite (e.g., replacing greed with generosity), and then doing so?
- 6) If not, what are you gaining by holding on to it?
After going over the above with your sponsor, make a set of “3 X 5” index cards, and on each card place one defect on the front and its opposite on the back. Then each day look at both sides of ONE card, and for that day consciously look for that defect in your thinking, attitude, and behavior, and strive to replace that defect with its opposite.
That’s it – simple, straight-forward, powerful, and – I hope – useful. Let me know your experience with this.
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