6. We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
If you will recall, back in Step 4 we made a list. This list identified things that have happened to us, that to this day are still impacting our attitude and our behaviors. Then in Step 5 we opened up that list, to share it with another trusted individual. These two steps not only humbled us, but they have greatly helped us in our faith to start down the path: of moving beyond these things.
So now in Step 6, we want to focus on things from Step 4 that we identified within column 3 of that list: the attitudes and behaviors that need to be changed. And we want to start identifying things that we can do, to change.
If we had not humbled ourselves to work through step four and five before this, then the underlying feelings and defenses that we have because of our being betrayed in the past, would still be preventing us. And those feelings and defenses would not allow us to humble ourselves enough to start working on our own faults. We would simply be inclined to say: “that is just who I am. I cannot change who I am.”
But now because we have worked through these past betrayals that have happened to us, we are now able to start moving on, beyond them. We feel safe enough to be able to humble ourselves this way. And we are willing to allow God to change: “whom we seem to be” into what God would have us to be. Which is what we were intended to be in the first place.
So are we willing to strive to be our best? If we are not willing to put forth our best effort, there will not be any progress. So are we ready to “dive in” completely to the effort needed, and stick with it?
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” ~ Luke 14:27-30
If we didn’t make a list to “count the cost” then it would be easy for us to be casual about it. Anyone could generally say that they are doing better, as long as there’s nothing specific to work on. But when we specifically identify the behaviors in us, then we are specifically identifying the work that needs to be done. And we can return back to review the list again later, to consider whether we really are improving.
When people believe that certain behaviors are actually part “of who they are,” then they will not ever address them, to work on them. We list them, because we believe they are things that can be changed!
Identifying our shortcomings and admitting to them is not the end of the process. Becoming “entirely ready” to do something about them, will be key to the solution.
The Defects in Character List (download):
To help us develop this list, you can download this document. It is structured in such a way for us to identify:
- A listing of our faults, weaknesses, or challenges.
- For each one, note the ways that the problem affects our behavior. Be sure to write down the effect this fault has both on yourself and on others.
- Ask yourself what feelings are associated with this weakness. Are such behaviors intended to minimize or hide distressing emotions?
- Consider what your life would be like if you did not engage in these behaviors.
- What are some strategies that you could use instead that would be more productive?
For God to help us remove our defects of character, we are also going to have to allow him to change our understanding about them. Are we willing to change the way we think, react, judge, and make decisions? This is going to require “trusting God” at a new level!
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-8
In the epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul gave the people practical everyday ways of understanding and living. He did this so that they could continue successfully walking with the Lord.
Dealing with Anger
First Paul dealt with how we react to others, and how we treat them.
“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” ~ Ephesians 4:25-27
Anger is an emotion that is triggered. Something happens that causes our emotional state to change. But before we can deal with the cause, we must first get the reaction (the anger) under control.
Satan loves to get us wrapped up in the reaction. Because if he can get us overwhelmed in the anger reaction, he knows that we will never get to the root cause. And this is why we must first get the anger under control.
And so the Apostle Paul states: “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Because if we allow the anger to continue, we will then allow the devil an opportunity to work. This clearly shows us that when anger is out of control, Satan takes advantage in many different ways. We must cut off this advantage he has!
Note: Easily angered people don’t always yell and throw things; sometimes their reaction is to withdraw socially, sulk, or get physically ill.
People who are easily angered generally have a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust. For example: being corrected for a minor mistake.
A biblical way of describing this would be: they are lacking the ability to draw on grace for certain situations. And so they take things into their own hands, and deal with them out of their own strengths. It doesn’t matter whether you are saved or not. We can lack the wisdom to know how to draw on grace in certain situations.
The Need for Patience
Jesus said: “In your patience possess ye your souls.” ~ Luke 21:19
Patience is a quality of self-restraint or of not giving way to anger, even in the face of provocation. Patience is attributed to both God and man, and is closely related to mercy and compassion. It takes humility to exercise patience, because it is only by humbling ourselves, that we can draw on the grace of God.
“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” ~ 1 Peter 5:5-6
And so then we must change our thinking. Instead of thinking that difficulties and frustrations are against us, we change our thinking to: these difficulties and frustrations are here to help humble us, so we can learn more patience.
This plan for drawing upon grace, is detailed out by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans.
“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” ~ Romans 5:2-5
We need to start establishing new experiences in our life that cause us to have hope, and that lead to the filling of our hearts – with the love of God!
Now the truth is critical to our success. We cannot expect to be benefited from the truth, if we do not practice truth with everyone. Perhaps one of the most frustrating and angering things for a liar to experience is to be lied to. They have no grace for it. But if the individual puts away all lying, they will discover that they personally find people more honest with them. And when people do lie to them, it will still be upsetting, but they will be able to have more control in dealing with it. Because they will have more grace from God to deal with it.
Being Overly Self-Defensive
Now when something sensitive is challenged, some of us are quick to give a defensive answer that cuts down another. We have trained ourselves in this self-defensive habit. So it comes very naturally.
But now the Lord wants us to allow him to be our defense. No more fault finding or cutting another down. Instead, we learn to have and to share the grace of God in our lives.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” ~ Ephesians 4:28-29
Replacing Bad Habits With New Ones
A complete change in our response habits will take time. Because our old ways became “habits”, we must now “unlearn” these old ways. We do this by “putting them away.” That means that this does not come automatically. We must resist our old tendencies, and put forth the effort to move these things out of the way.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” ~ Ephesians 4:31-32
And you will notice that the scripture not only shows us to put away “bitterness, wrath, anger, evil speaking, etc.” But it also shows us to replace it with “kindness, being tenderhearted, forgiving, etc.” To be successful we must put on our worksheet what we will replace the bad behavior with! And then we must “do it.”
The majority of the negative ways in which we react, have a way of revealing themselves through what we say out of our mouth. Often these are things we wish that we would have not said. There is a time-tested and proven way for us to learn and obtain control over what comes out of our mouth.
“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” ~ Proverbs 29:11
Don’t speak the first thing that comes to your mind. That first thing often is emotionally generated because of feelings of anger. Take a moment to think, and to quietly consult God in prayer, from your own heart. You will be amazed at the new wisdom you’ll find in your answers!
Finally, let God work a complete change in us, so we can be more like him.
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 7:1
In order for us to establish any kind of new and lasting relationship with God and a true companion, it must be based on the integrity of God’s holiness working within both of you. This will enable you to have a much deeper and meaningful and faithful relationship. And these kinds of relationships especially will bring healing to our heart, mind, and spirit.
Mind of Christ – The Mind to Suffer
Finally, to change our thinking to be like our Lord Jesus Christ, we are going to also need the “mind of Christ.” Christ had a mind to suffer in order to stay with the truth, and a mind to suffer for the sake of others.
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” ~ 1 Peter 4:1-4
Some of this “mind to suffer” is necessary because there will be old friends that will not appreciate the complete change in you. They will be offended when they find out you are no longer taking part in the same substances that you used to do together with them.
But being willing to suffer for this change, and the way it offends others, is completely necessary. There are some friends that we will have to be spending much less time with, if we are going to stay sober. It is not that you don’t care for them, or don’t love them. To the contrary, you love and care for them even more! But you have to first establish yourself in a new way of thinking and living before you can help them.
We Now Have a “New Fellowship”
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Our “new fellowship” is first based on the integrity of our personal relationship with God. Then we can have a proper fellowship with the right kind of people.
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” ~ 1 John 1:5-7
Gather Out the Stones So the Roots of the Gospel Can Go Deep
There are many things identified in this Step 6 list that need to be “gathered out” of our life. If we do not address them, they will hinder the ability of the Word of God to take root deep into our heart. If the roots don’t go down deep, when the troubles and difficulties come our way, we will again go back to addiction. Because we are not able to draw deep enough into the well of salvation, to keep our soul and heart watered. Therefore we will wither under the difficulty of a trial.
Do you remember the different types of ground representing our hearts, that Jesus described in his parable of the sower and the seed? Let’s read it again but a little farther this time.
“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” ~ Matthew 13:18-21
You don’t want to start, and just endure for a while. You want to make it all the way through. Therefore you must dig deep, and gather out all the stones for your heart that need to be gathered out. Don’t leave a single one that you know of!