Saturday, 15 June 2013

Pot-ay-to or pot-ah-to?

Is there a difference between defects and shortcomings?

We know that Bill W., who originally wrote the words, was avoiding repetition, which actually settles the matter, but even if Bill W. had not said that, we have (a) some evidence and (b) our critical faculties.

Let's look at what the Big Book says.

Steps Six and Seven (short form, page 58) read:

'6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.'

Steps Six and Seven (long form, page 76) read:

'If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step Six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all—every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.
When ready, we say something like this: "My Creator, 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 have then completed Step Seven.'

The terms available are (a) defects of character and (b) shortcomings. There are also two descriptions: 'all the things which we have admitted are objectionable' (Step Six) and ' every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows' (Step Seven).

We have to assume, also, that the summary of the Steps on page 58 is an adequate and correct summation of the long form version of the Step on page 76, where the ideas summarised in the Steps are expanded upon.

Either these terms are meant to denote different things, or they all denote the same thing.

Which is more logical?

If 'shortcomings' are different than 'defects of character', what we ask God to remove in Step Seven is different than what we prepare to have God remove in Step Six. That makes no sense.

If Step Six is concerned with 'defects of character' ('the things we have admitted are objectionable'), and Step Seven is concerned with 'shortcomings', and these are supposed to be different, Step Seven on the scrolls (which refers to the removal of shortcomings) is actually inconsistent with how to work Step Seven, described on page 76 (which refers to the removal of defects of character). That makes no sense either.

One would have to disregard page 58 and go with page 76 or disregard page 76 and go with page 58.

Furthermore, if we are to hold that they are different, we might expect this problem to have been foreseen and forfended, and the difference would have been explained.

A good rule is the application of Occam's razor—basically, when you have a conundrum, you take the simplest solution.

If they mean different things, one would have to assume that the writers thought it wise to keep this distinction secret and let people guess, because they do not distinguish the terms.

It is simpler to assume that the writers meant what they said in the foreword: 'To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.' Holding secret information key to the understanding or working of a Step would be inconsistent with this stated purpose.


No: defects and shortcomings are the same, both denoting what is objectionable and what stands in the way of our usefulness, as described on page 76. Basta!

No comments: