This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book" by AAWS. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.
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What is Step 6 of AA? Is there a Step 6 prayer you need to follow?
Step 6 of AA through Step 9 of AA are all about addressing your flaws and shortcomings. In Steps 6 and 7, you’re looking to your higher power to remove your shortcomings.
Read on to understand what happens in the phase of recovery that begins with Step 6 of AA.
Address Flaws and Failures Beginning With Step 6 of AA
In Step 6 of AA through Step 9, you seek to remove your shortcomings, and you make amends with people you’ve hurt in the past. This will relieve yourself of the burden that causes you to drink.
Step 6 of AA
“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
In Steps 4 and 5, you investigated your shortcomings and confessed them to someone else. Step 6 of AA is about being willing to let them go.
Why is this important? Your shortcomings have driven you to drink in the past. For instance, your tendency to resent other people may worsen situations that cause you to seek alcohol. If you try to become sober with these shortcomings still in your inventory, you’ll be much less likely to succeed.
Appeal to your higher power to rid yourself of every defect of character with the Step 6 prayer.
Don’t cling to something you don’t want to let go of. Ask God to help you be willing during the Step 6 prayer or the Step 7 one.
“We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
After Step 6 of AA, Step 7 is about humility. You are not, and have never been, able to remove your shortcomings by yourself, no matter how high your willpower of determination. You need your higher power to do this for you.
The Big Book has this prayer for your higher power: “I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.”
“We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Steps 8 and 9 are about repairing your misdoings from the past. Where you had previously harmed others, you must now be willing to apologize for that harm and relieve your guilt.
(Shortform note: practically, the effect of these steps is to reduce guilt over your past misdoings. Guilt fuels a vicious cycle for alcoholics—feeling guilt over past actions, they drink; after drinking, they commit more mistakes, which causes them to feel guilty later; they now feel more guilt, and are more likely to drink. Relieving this guilt, by amending with people you’ve harmed, should reduce future temptation to drink.)
In Step 8, you make a list of all people you’ve harmed and become willing to make amends. You don’t need to make amends yet—you just need to be prepared to do so.
You can consult your moral inventory, which you made in Step 4 and confessed in Step 5, for a list of people.
If you aren’t willing yet, ask your higher power for the will until it comes. Remember that you were willing to go to any length to recover from your alcoholism.
“We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
After you make your list in Step 8, your goal is to correct your mistake directly with the people you hurt. An amendment isn’t just an apology—it’s an act to solve a problem from the past.
There are some wrongs you can never fully right. Don’t worry about them if you can honestly say to yourself that you could right them if you could.
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- How alcoholism is a nearly insurmountable disease that non-alcoholics can't understand
- The key 12 steps of the program, and why they work
- Why Alcoholics Anonymous isn't a cult and why it works