What is a character defect?
The Big Book describes character defects as “the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure.” Character defects stem from one source—self-centeredness. The Big Book says that selfishness “is the root of our troubles.” Character defects are personality qualities that can slow or block recovery and lower your quality of life.
Character defects are barriers to recovery, blocks in the path that can cause you to relapse or eventually return to use. Fear, exaggerated desires, unhealthy dependencies, and self-will give rise to the kinds of character defects that Steps Four and Five ask you to identify and admit out loud.
Of course everyone, alcoholic or not, has character defects. To the alcoholic, however, these character defects can keep us from sustaining our spiritual condition, and that could lead us to the next drink or drug. To us this is a matter of life and death.
What are some examples of character defects?
In the Big Book, the list of character defects includes resentment as “the number one offender. . . . From it stem all forms of spiritual disease.” Fear is another key character defect discussed in the Big Book.
Lying, all forms of denial (minimizing, rationalizing, blaming), grandiosity, and self-pity are also defects of character. So are traits such as anger, lust, dishonesty, impatience, poor self-esteem, overconfidence, and being overly judgmental.
Why is it important to do a moral inventory?
Addiction leads you to do and think things that often are in direct conflict with your own values. This conflict results in intense feelings of shame and guilt, which in turn undermines self-confidence and self-esteem. A moral inventory asks you to take stock of yourself, to identify, admit, and ultimately to hand over defects of character. Deep inside we know our failings. By bringing these forward we release our shortcomings to our Higher Power and another human being in an effort to break free of our self-will.
A very important part of taking a moral inventory (Step Four) and admitting your defects out loud to another person (Step Five) is recognizing your positive qualities. Sometimes it’s just as hard to identify and name what’s good about yourself as what’s negative. An honest assessment of your strengths is just as important as an admission of your weaknesses. Remember: progress, not perfection. You will not do this perfectly, but just doing it may yield great rewards.