Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Part 6- Change of Heart

Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses.

Step 6 and 7 are so incredibly beautiful. They are complete proof to me that I trusted God and had faith in His divine power. I learned that God was in control and capable of changing my life for the good if I would allow Him. These two steps come back around to a daily practice in step 10.
Have ever noticed coming out of a trial or hardship that you can breathe again? That all of the sudden you have normal problems. Things that don’t really seem to impact your entire life and well-being. When I arrived at this point in my recovery I was shocked. I remember telling my husband that it was so nice to have a normal problem. I was so happy that spilling something on the carpet was the worst part of my day.
These two steps, 6 and 7, are known in the AA world as the “forgotten steps”. They are forgotten in my opinion because life is good, what else if there to work on? However, they have also been the most impactful in my life. I think that I have felt that because it was an opportunity to look at my character and change my way of living to be as Christlike as possible. I wasn’t having to face something that was life changing or impactful outwardly, it was now little tiny things that I need to change and tweak. It was beautiful. The changes that I was making and continue to make had nothing to do with anyone else and were all within me. They were manifested and changed because of my connection with God, which is all my choice.
 This step is called “change of heart”. This was about the time in my recovery that I realized I had indeed had a change of heart. I realized that I cared about other people more than I care about myself. My focus wasn’t on me and was more on what I could do for others. My pride was greatly diminished and my humility had started to show itself in a way I never had experienced. I learned that staying in this very clean and healthy way of living had allowed me to serve others and be there for people because my cup was full. I was completely taken care of and aligned with God’s will in order to show up, be present and available.
In my recovery, I did a two year “aftercare”. I went to the treatment center I had gone to for 30 days, Action Recovery Group, once a week for two hours. This is where I started step 6. My counselor lays out step 6 with 17 character defects to focus on changing. His program had me go through every one of these defects and say exactly why the defect or weakness made my life unmanageable. That was the initial practice. I now go through every one of those defects every night and write down from 0-3 how much that defect or weakness impacted my day. (see the bottom of the post for the 17 defects and their accompanying asset) This practice has been so incredibly vital to my mental health. If I allow weaknesses to creep in and become habitual again I lose the desire to strive to be better and fall back into a rut of living a subpar life. This practice and discipline of constantly trying to better myself reminds me that I am in control of my thoughts, actions, and negative feelings. I rely on God to not just show me what these are, but I have developed a faith to know that He can change me and my heart. I know that God wants me to live my best life and be the very best version of myself. This is 100% through asking him with a desire and developing a trust that He will assist me to change all these defects of character.
One of the most humbling discoveries I have made about myself is that if I don’t allow God to assist me in ridding myself of these negative behaviors, thought patterns, and desires that I will cling to them. I have done this “moral inventory” nightly for roughly three years and I know that I have favorite defects or weaknesses. I say favorite because they are the easiest for me to tap in to in order to cope in an unhealthy way. It’s pretty sad to write that down, but it is so true. Self-condemnation and pride for example are two of my very best. I use them very innocently in the beginning and if I don’t catch myself quickly and ask God to forgive me and assist me to live and choose better, then I can go weeks in that pride cycle and feeling sorry for myself. This practice of looking at ALL of my weaknesses and trying to better myself is unbelievably daunting. However, Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice had brought me to this point, why would it not cover such a task?  
The process was gradual at best and I saw it go forward and backward several times. I felt myself fall back because it was easier and safer, totally the social norm. Then I would have amazing experiences where I was progressing spiritually, emotionally, and physically that I would just continue to reach for a greater and the best version of myself. I am very observant by nature and what I know from of every avenue in my life is that people want to stay put because it is comfortable. Making the choice to continually change and embrace the good has brought not only growth, but I have seen the most accurate version of my inner self portrayed outwardly to others. I have found happiness because I stopped looking where I knew it wasn’t and embraced that happiness is found from somewhere inside of me all I had to do was CHOOSE it. I incorporated being comfortable with uncomfortable, and have stopped trying to think every situation should be what I think it should be and actually just let it be what it is. Living a life and being a person that I would want to be around.
Whenever I feel a stall in my life, where I am comfortable and seem to be staying put I am so grateful for what I have written. I write daily about the experiences that I have with God, friends, family, and anyone I’m in contact with. I write my successes and failures. I write down where I feel like I have gone wrong and where I know I have done the right thing. If there is anything anyone ever takes from me I hope that it will be the power of writing. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or amazing. No one ever has to read what you put on paper. What I do know is when I am stuck, like I said, I turn to these writings and thoughts. I am immediately motivated to do better. I find a weakness that at one time I felt as though I had mastered, my words that I had written give me direction and purpose. I call it a God journal because I am very prayerful while I write. I write in it every day and it has no rhyme or reason, it is totally scattered. But it has been a lifeline for me.
A conference report from 1985 by President Ezra Taft Benson says this; “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature… may we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him and born again.” I love this because once I decided to change me and my heart with God’s help I found a desire to change everything about my life. I changed who I associated with, what conversations I would entertain, my daily habits, the way I approached challenges and trials. These changes came because Christ changed my heart. A new disposition and character is ALWAYS achievable. We can always change for the better, and that is beautiful.
“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” Mo Willems

17 character defects and assets

Impatience/ patience, Procrastination/ promptness, Laziness/ activity, Criticizing/ non-judgmental, False pride/ humility, Self- importance/ modesty, Self-condemnation/ self- valuation, Dishonesty/ honesty, Insincerity/ sincerity, Self-justification/ taking responsibility, Self-pity/ acceptance, Jealousy/ trust, Envy/ gratitude, Vulgar immoral thinking/ values oriented, Destructive anger/ constructive anger, Resentment/ forgiveness, Negative thinking/ positive thinking 


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