I am so excited to start step 6! Step 6 is one of my favorites. I think this step is the heart of the 12 steps because steps 1-5 lead to this, and steps 7-12 build upon it.
Step 6 is the change of heart. The key principle is, "Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses."
It sounds kind of intimidating, doesn't it? At first, when I approached step 6, I thought I needed to already be ready to have God remove my character weaknesses, and I wasn't sure if I was ready for that. I mean, how do you gain that change of heart? Well, that's what this step is. This step is about finding that willingness in yourself to have God remove your character weaknesses, then you put it into practice later (just like how in step 2, we simply had to come to believe that the power of God could restore us to complete spiritual health. That belief has carried us through our journey, and all step 2 was about was coming to believe it.).
I have a lot of character weaknesses. I discovered that through steps 4 and 5. I did my inventory, and I confessed. Isn't that enough? No. Part of the repentance process (which was part of step 5) is trying to rid yourself of that sin entirely. In other words, the repentance process requires a change of heart.
You might still be asking the question, "Well, isn't this more for my spouse, not me?" If you are asking that question, I hope by the time you have experienced step 6 for yourself that you understand more how going through this process is healing for you. I have finally gotten to the point, and I don't really know when I arrived at this point, where I don't question why I am doing the 12 steps. The reason I am doing the 12 steps is for my healing. And because I love it, and I am drawing closer to Christ. I know that to heal, I have to come unto Christ. And I know that to come unto Christ requires full submission. That means I do need to recognize my own sins and wrongdoings, confess them, and forsake them. Many of the things I wrote about in my inventory and "confessed" in step 5 are either character weaknesses or symptoms (for lack of better word) of my character weaknesses. And those character weaknesses are what prevented me from forgiving and fully loving my husband for a long time. My character weaknesses (for me it includes impatience, holding grudges, anger, expecting perfection, always having to have things go my way, etc) held me back from what I desired most: healing and peace. Those character weaknesses are also all I knew for a long time, and it was really hard to give them up. Well, it is still hard to give them up. I am in a constant process of changing my heart and trying to rid myself of my character weaknesses.
Steps 4 and 5 are steps of serious emotional and spiritual cleansing. After I got through with those steps, I was on a spiritual high. I felt so clean. I studied my scriptures more. I prayed more intently. I felt really good. However, I still felt like something was missing, and that is where step 6 comes in. I really was trying to overcome my negative thoughts and feelings. Most of the time I had the desire to rid myself of my anger and impatience (but, let's be honest, we don't always want to rid ourselves of that because then we don't have any reasons to be mad except for at ourselves). Even if I thought I had that strong desire, it was always so hard to overcome the negativity I had developed inside myself.
I realized through my group meetings and the help of my friends there that I could not overcome those things alone (which goes back to step 1. See, they all work together!). I had to experience a real change of heart to actually lose the desire to turn to my anger, impatience, stress, anxiety, etc.
"'How?' you may cry. 'How can I even begin to accomplish such a change?' Don't be discouraged by these feelings. Step 6, like the steps before it, may feel like an overwhelming challenge. As painful as it may be, you may have to admit, as we did, that recognizing adn confessing your character weaknesses. . . did not necessarily mean you were ready to give them up. You may realize that you still cling to old ways of reacting to and coping with stresses in life. " (pg 35).
Okay, here is what I wrote in my journal last week as I started studying step 6:
"The beautiful thing is that right now, I don't have to change yet. I'm preparing to change by becoming willing to change. Of course, I will start by making some changes, but I'm turning to God and seeking His assistance to become ready to have Him remove my shortcomings.
"I have to surrender myself completely to God. I can't hold on to the desire to change without Him. [Sometimes, we still want to do it by ourselves because we don't want help. We can't do that! We can't hold on to that prideful desire to do it ourselves. That pride will stop us from fully coming unto Christ, and ultimately, reaching our divine potential.]
"This is a process that requires trust and patience. With trust and patience my pride will gradually be replaced by humility. The Lord wants to give me rest from my feelings of isolation. He wants me to use the Atonement that He has put in place for me. I need to heed the promptings of the Spirit and look to Christ for salvation. As I do that, a new character will grow out of my willing heart, and I will have a growing desire to be sanctified by God."
Those were some of my thoughts as I pondered the words in the guidebook. I really want to encourage you to read the guidebook yourself because there is so much important stuff written there, and there is so much room for personal revelation. I know what I need to do, or at least I know what I need to start doing to acquire a true change of heart. However, I don't know what everyone needs to do. We are all different, but God knows what we each need. Read this chapter and take it to Him through prayer. Ask Him to guide you so you know what baby steps you need to start taking for your change of heart.
As you know, this is my second time through the 12 steps. I'm all the way back at step 6, and believe me when I tell you I still need that change of heart. It is a process. And, at different points in the process, we need to do different things to help us progress towards our Father in Heaven.
Next post will talk about action steps! I really want to keep writing right now, but I need to do other things this afternoon too :)
Listen to these songs.