Character Defects (my own personal list)

  • abrasiveness, hostility, belligerence, being generally bad-humored.  Do I have to make other people suffer when I am angry, annoyed, even hurt?
  • ambition – an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth.  Seeking these things rather than to be a worker among workers, or to be as useful as possible to God and my fellow human beings.
  • anger, hatred, aggression, resentment, being argumentative, defiant, oppositional, irritable or sullen.
  • anxiety – A general way of viewing things with an eye toward what is wrong, what might be wrong, what has been wrong or what is going to be wrong. Excessive worry, especially about things I cannot change.  Failing to live in the now.
  • apathy, indifference
  • arrogance, conceit- Offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.  An excessively favorable opinion of one’s own ability, importance, wit, etc.  Being a know-it-all.  Telling others how I am better than someone else, or thinking those thoughts to myself.
  • childishness- being immature, foolish, naive, self-centered, dependent.
  • closed mindedness – Contempt prior to investigation. Disregarding things and ideas just because they are new and unknown. Being unwilling to try things or follow suggestions. Failing to remain teachable.  Having a mind firmly unreceptive to new ideas or arguments.  Can I at least SEE the other point of view?
  • controlling attitude toward people, places and things; self will – Trying to control others by manipulation, bribery, punishment, withholding things or tricking them into acting as I wish, even when I believe it is in their best interest to do so. Failing to be equal partners with others and to consider their knowledge and opinions.  Trying to force outcomes.
  • dependency, over dependency, co dependency – Relying on others to provide for me or do for me what I ought to provide for myself (or letting or getting others to provide things for my family or others I should be providing for). Feeling I must be in a relationship, or must hold on to others who want to move on. Letting others control me to an extreme due to my fear of being alone, abandoned, or independent.
  • depression, pessimism, complaining – Generally seeing the dark side of things.  Entertaining, feeding and indulging in negative thoughts.
  • dishonesty and hypocrisy- Sins of omission and commission. Telling lies, hiding things, telling half truths or pretending something is so that isn’t. Withholding important information. Adding untrue details to stories and situations.  Telling lies about another person.  Hurting someone’s reputation.  Pretending to be or to believe something I don’t, especially giving the impression that I am virtuous.  Stealing, cheating, taking things that aren’t mine and that I’m not entitled to.
  • fear
  • gluttony, greed – Wanting and taking too much: food, sex, time, money, comfort, leisure, material possessions, attention, security.  Acquiring things (material things, relationships, attention) at the expense of others.  Feeling entitled to (like I have done something to deserve) things like money, time off, privileges, material things, praise, inclusion, benefits.
  • gossiping – Speaking or writing about others in a negative manner, especially to get them in trouble or to feel superior to them and bond with someone else against the target of the gossip.  When I find myself talking about someone, I must pause and check out why I am mentioning their name.  Am I talking about them with genuine love, interest, and/or concern?  Or am I really putting them down?
  • humility, a lack of humility – Feeling better than and/or worse than others, and being self centered.
  • impatience – Being frustrated by waiting, wanting often to be some time in the future, wanting something to change or improve rather than accepting it as it is.
  • intolerance – Not accepting people or things for who or what they are.
  • inventory taking, being judgmental, criticizing – Noticing and listing, out loud or to myself, the faults of others.
  • irritability and touchiness – emotionally sensitive, easily offeneded
  • jealousy and envy – Wanting what others have, feeling we don’t have enough or deserve more, wishing we had what others do instead of them. This applies to material possessions like houses, cars, money and such. It also applies to nonmaterial things like relationships, a nice family, children, parents, friends and partners, and fulfilling work relationships. We can envy others their looks and physical appearance, their talents and physical abilities or attributes such as thinness, tallness, sports ability or musical talent.
  • laziness, procrastination, sloth – Not doing as much as is reasonable for us to do. Putting things off repeatedly. Not carrying our own load as much as we are able. Letting others provide things for us that we ought to get for ourselves.
  • people-pleasing, being a “yes” person – Being false by saying yes when I mean no, and feeling resentful about it.  Trying to trick others into liking me by saying what I think they want to hear, rather than what is true.
  • perfectionism, compulsiveness, being a workaholic – Expecting or demanding too much from myself or others. Treating things that aren’t perfect as not good enough. Not recognizing a good try or progress.  Concentrating too much on what is wrong.
  • prejudice and favoritism- Pre-judging people based on a group they belong to. Negative or positive feelings about someone based on their religion, race, nationality, age, disability, sexual orientation, accent, politics, economic status, physical characteristics like height, weight, hair style, clothing style, physical fitness, age.  Not treating everyone as equal and devaluing or elevating a person or people in my family, meetings, workplace, school, or any group of people.
  • pride – a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.  Being grandiose or arrogant.
  • pride in reverse, guilt – from Step Four, page 45 of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions – Spending too much time thinking about how bad I am, how I screwed up, what’s wrong with me.
  • rationalization, minimizing and justifying, self-justification – Saying and/or believing I had good motives for bad behavior.  Saying that I did bad things for good reasons, or that what I did really wasn’t that bad.
  • resentment – The feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.
  • rigidity and fear of change
  • sarcasm, cruelty, meanness
  • sex: misuse of sex – withholding sex to get my way, being promiscuous, using people, cheating on a partner; lust
  • shyness, aloofness, being self-conscious (what are people thinking about me?)
  • self-centeredness, selfishness, self-seeking, attention-seeking – Spending excessive time thinking about myself. Considering myself first in situations. Not having enough regard for others or thinking about how circumstances hurt or help others. Thinking about what I can get out of situations and people, what’s in it for me? Spending too much time considering my appearance, acquiring things for myself, pampering myself, indulging myself.
  • self pity, being discouraged
  • being undependable – being late, not being where I should be, not doing what is mine to do, letting others down,  not doing my part.

71 thoughts on “Character Defects (my own personal list)

  1. Greetings! I’m trying to complete my 4th Step and my Sponsor keeps going on about these defects of character! By God, I believe I have every last one listed above…I’m exhausted just looking at them; what do you suggest?

    • Relax. Just take one at a time and trust that your Higher Power will use your willingness to give you what you need when you need it. In the beginning, I let the enormity of the 12 steps keep me from starting the 12 steps.

      Keep it simple. I tried to overthink each one of them. My character defect of false pride was kicking in and I wanted to impress my sponsor with my wisdom and willingness. My sponsor brought me back to the columns and examples in the Big Book. He told me to mimick the examples. The work I was doing was between me and my Higher Power and both of us knew who hurt us and what our defect was.

      Trust. The process works and you have the time to work it if you do what the steps and the program asks you to do.

      By the way great job in exhibiting humility by asking for help!

      Eric D.

    • I’m an elderly guy who has been in and out of AA since 1987, I have now realised that merely having the books, and attending an occasional meeting just aint enuff. I am currently working on Step 4, and was having difficulty deciding what I should “declare”, I had no Sponsor, and still don’t, but I have many friends. I do listen to them, and when I listened to Clarence Snyder discussing the steps, it was so easy, the operative word is Nature, not individual “sins”, and that was my problem, now I can steam ahead, as I hope by now you will have done. Yours in the fellowship Bill.

    • LOL – right there with u….. just keep doing the best you can…… it all comes out day by day by day by day and then we become aware of the stinking thinking and keep a good sense of humor. xo’s

    • Laurel: Look at the last column. The Big Book show only (3) by example Mister Brown. As you read the rest of Chapter 5 you will see there are (2) more columns. We are looking for a pattern of our behavior and how we acted when we felt resentments, fear, and harms done others. Mine were selfish, dishonest, anger, inconsiderate, and many others. I saw my defects and knew what the were for the first time in my life. I saw the truth and wanted to change the person I see in the mirror. The promises in step 9 say “We will be amazed before we are half way through. That is when step 5 is complete and step 6 begins. Give yourself a break and do the best you can. I agree with Lydia when she wrote The Fourth Step is one of the very best things you will ever do for yourself, and it will change your life.

  2. I believe we all have every one. I suggest you look at one at a time, remembering that you are not unique, and keeping your good qualities in mind also. The Fourth Step is one of the very best things you will ever do for yourself, and it will change your life. One day, one step at a time. Good luck to you.

  3. Thanks for the list, this was very helpful completing my 6th as well. Greatly appreciated. I wish you the best that life has to offer. Don’t drink or use no matter what! Be well…

  4. I am reading this…have read it before…I need to quit drinking but I am afraid to be without this safe “friend’…who is causing me shame and compromising my life…Still, I don’t know how I will replace the feeling of freedom and respite from anxiety. How did you replace the alcohol? Really. I need help with that.

  5. This is what ive been looking for all my life is the answer to all my proublem. I just didnt know there were so many,when i was drinking and useing ive allways woundered how my life would be with out the use of the drugs and alchohol. And now that im sober i cant find my life drunk or louded.Thats a gift and ALLWAYS remmber were we came from….

  6. Aitch- Alcoholic

    Great website! I’m starting my 4th step and have found your descriptions and listig to be very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

    H

  7. When I was doing my step work, I had a terrible time pinpointing my character defects. Your list is a tremendous help even now. I’m approaching a fourth step with my sponsee and believe that this list will be a big help for her when it is her time to do sixth step. Thanks for sharing!

  8. thank you so much. this was a huge help. i tend t o really understand things better when i can physically put them out there. i was having trouble with my 6th step and you really laid out the defects. totally appreciated!

  9. I am taking my 4 step very patiently and I am discovering alot about who i really am alot of it is not so nice not me but the things i have done in my addiction, I thank GOD every day that i do not have to get hi today my life is awesome today. Yes i have problems and anxieties and stress and you name it but you know what it all seems insignificant when you are part of something greater than yourself..

  10. Your site is wonderful. I’ll have 24 years of sobriety this month, and I’m chairing a meeting. I came here to read your meeting topics and found myself continuing to read.
    Thanks, Lydia, for your continued sobriety and for being such an inspiration to so many people.

  11. Thank you for the list on character defects,I did not know how to idenify my defects of character the imformation that that seem inconplete.thank you

  12. I have been sober for 21 days. Go to meetings every day and it seems to help alot. I liked reading everything on your site. I am having trouble with step 2. I know this whole process takes time and I keep praying.

  13. I’m doing my 6th step and didn’t know how to “name” some of my character defects. Your list reminds me of some I hadn’t previously admitted to myself. I can also clearly see which ones I’m unwilling to let go of and can examine why now.
    Thank you for outlining this so clearly. All the best to you!

  14. God bless you! I just completed Step 6 yesterday (with my 4th sponsor with whom I am STILL not happy) and I’m supposed to complete Step 7 this week. I came up with the analogy of Step 4 through Step 6 as learning all about parachuting (history, physics, packing a parachute, emergency procedures, etc. Step 7 is actually jumping out of the plane — it’s over really quick, all you have to do is get up the nerve to do it. My fear of the unknown is really banging at me. I’ve read that some folks have some shortcomings they would prefer to keep. The “Do I have any of these?” fear is gnawing at me. Your list will be a tremendous help. God always seems to provide exactly what I need when I need it. Glad He provided you!

  15. thank you ive been working on my 6th step for about 3 months until i looked at your site i didnt realize how many character defects i really had now that i know i can bget to work on thm it really does help to put them on paper

  16. I am doing my second step : I am trying to figure out What charaterists my higher power does not have? If you please give feed back ? Thanks

    • I don’t understand your question. My higher power doesn’t have any character defects – my higher power is ideal. I, as a human being, have all character defects to one degree or another. Talk to the people in your meetings, and more will be revealed.

      • That is NOT what she asked. She asked about what CHARACTERISTICS her HP lacks or owns—sounds to me like she needs some help on how to determine what a Higher Power means to her. Got any pointers there? I’d love to know what advice you have too!

  17. I have been working on a Step 4 guide according to Joe and Charlie because they had experienced the early teachings and rubbed shoulders with people that had learned from Bill. Someone asked me for a more in-depth list of char defects and I will refer them here. Thanks so much for your hard work.

  18. I posted on this thread almost exactly a year ago. I’m now approaching 25 years of sobriety (thank God!), and I’ve just been laid-off. This transition has brought all my character defects to the surface again, and I’m now in the process of doing a 4th step about work. I’m always amazed by the layers and layers of myself that get uncovered by continued sobriety and through working the steps. Thanks again for your good work.
    Andrea

  19. I want to say to Andrea that you are an intelligent woman. Working your 4th again when you are in the thick of it is such a smart move! Go Girl!!

  20. Lydia, Thanks so much for this. I’m not in AA but am recovering from severe bi-polar depression. I believe there is a lot of overlap b/w some of the mental health disorders and addictions. I’ve been to many meetings (in unsuccessful efforts to get family members sober). But, I was actually doing research for my current boyfriend, who stopped drinking a very long time ago, but hasn’t really dealt with all the issues… I’m trying to figure out the best way to bring it up. Your site is very useful. I related to many things on your list, but I wonder if you are assuming that some of the defects you had while using are still present. It’s a long list! Don’t be too hard on yourself!

    • Thanks, and welcome. I’m glad my list can help.

      I DO have all these defects that I had when I was drinking. The only thing I’ve been able to get rid of completely is the act of drinking alcohol. None of the others will ever leave me because I’m human. Life today is a process of continuing to give these things up, and life gets better and better for me when I follow the program.

  21. Thank you… You have opened my eyes to things that I didnt see or maybe just didnt want to see… Again thank you and thank GOD for recovery and sobriety and people like you guys.

  22. I thought for a long time that I could work the steps without a Sponsor, I was really being dishonest
    and closed minded with myself, I wasn,t fully ready to surreneder to the Principles of AA.
    I found Myself with 26 years of Sobriety, Severlly Depressed and Suicidle as a Direct result of my unwillingness to fully Surrender to Spiritual principles.

    Bobby M

  23. I’ve been sober for one hour now. I have been sober for years before now. I do not like what I have turned back into. I forgot. My sobriety let my addiction lull me into a false sense of security.Back to square one. “Theres always time to do things right the first time” I will be back in the morning

  24. I went to a meeting last nite and the speaker talked at length about her “character defects”. I made a mental note to google the term and found your blog. Thank God and thank you Lydia! I have 8 months sobriety and this term was new to me when I started my recovery. I’m currently working with a sponsor who’s really thorough in his approach to doing step work. I’m so completely grateful. Thanks!!

    • Thanks for your reply Check out the Oxford Group also and thank God for your success .

      The steps keep me sane, and God watches over me . Sponsors are ANGELS and we are all angels to each other.

      Keep coming bback and LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN

      I have had many miracles .
      Musette

  25. Thank you for that list Lydia. The seven dealy sins are not the only defects of character … your list shows there are so many others. I believe that one of my key defects of character is solcial and emotional anorexia, and I am SO ready to have that removed. (My Mom died when I was 12-years old and at bording school, and I was so fearful of showing any emotion that I did not dare tell any of my class-mates). I think my fear of emotional or social situations was the main reason I drank for 30 years.

    But when I try to include that in my list I get negative reaction from my sponsor, like I am trying to pretend I am “special and different”. I am not special and different. I think there must be thousands of other AAs that share that defect of character. I don’t want to pretend I don’t have it just because it doesn’t fit in the seven-deadly-sins model.

    I still have that defect, but at least I have not had a drink since a good few 24-hours.

    • Thank you for your comment, Kevin. Just before the list of the seven deadly sins in the 12 and 12 it says that different people have different names for these character defects, and I believe the list of the seven deadly is given just as an example. That said, if you read that paragraph in the 12 and 12, I think you will see that the fear you describe fits easily into the “pride” category. It goes on to say that “pride . . . spurred on by conscious or unconscious fears, is the breeder of most human difficulties . . .” The seven deadly is, I believe, just an example, but it may be there because it is so all-encompassing that most if not exactly all of what we experience lies there.

  26. Thank you for your reply Lydia. It is not comfortable, but nobody said it would be. “… easier softer way …”, and all that. If it is pride that fuels my compulsive avoidance of social or emotional situations, I wonder how ready I really am to let go of that defect. I am so powerless over it . I shall read what it says in the BB and 12&12. Thanks.

  27. Thank you for the phrase emotional anorexia. It’s odd I’ve never heard of it yet suffered with it for decades until, though the grace of my higher power, I came into AA. The members of my family all loved each other but didn’t talk about what was going on with them and I’ve never been in a group therapy session. My first AA meeting was a kaleidoscope of emotion and honesty. I indeed wanted what they had: The ability to honestly and humbly talk about themselves.

  28. Am I really as screwed up as my defects list implies ? I think I would be happier if I was just punching myself in the face ……. Ow , maybe not !! This must be why it’s called working the steps ….. I need a break !!

  29. I recently completed my 5th step with my sponsor.As I look at step six “We were entirely ready to have God remove these defect of character.” I hit a roadblock.What is a defect of character? ,and how do I identify mine? Every one of those list I have.Can you suggest anything that I can do to help me spot my own D of C ? I don’t feel I should use others hard work and I don’t want to cheat myself of the opportunity to grow in this valuable step.Thank you. Mike R.

  30. By estimating, how long should it take to complete a 4th step, and in the 5th step by being honest with myself, honest with God and another human being. Can being to honest with a sponsor can cause him to turn me over to the cops from my pass behavior? How will I know how for to go when making amends and confessing short commings. Do I really have to pay back that 15,Grand I stole from the bank in order to stay clean and to live a peacfull life?

    • Well let me see.

      How long should it take to complete a 4th and 5th step? Not too long. In my experience, people who agonize over it are postponing the inevitable. You don’t have to write a novel.

      Can being honest with a sponsor cause him to turn you over to the cops? Yes, it can. If your story contains terrible crimes, it is my suggestion that you talk to a therapist before you talk to a sponsor. For one thing, it’s a terrible burden to put on an AA sponsor. You put that person in the position of knowing that a potentially dangerous person is going untried. AA is not a haven for criminals. It’s a place for sick people to get better.

      How far do you have to go in admitting shortcomings and making amends? All I have is my AA experience. You have to go all the way. If you think you can stay sober having stolen 15 grand, and not giving it back, I don’t know, maybe you can. If you’re like me, and to drink is to die, you may not want to take a chance.

      Please read the Big Book and the 12 and 12. There are further guidelines there. I don’t know if this comment is made in jest, but it asks some serious questions. To me it sounds like someone who is not willing to go to any lengths, and hoping that by making fun of a rather drastic program, he can feel superior to it. I wish him luck.

  31. Last night it was suggested that I read AA Character Defects so I started. I started at 6:30 this morning. Then I continued on to the 60 Responces. I am overwelmed. This is my third do over of my 6th Step on the path to start my 8th Step. I see myself in the mirror beginning to changing – my insanity is clearer. It is with God’s help and guideince that I have begun to see. I am grateful so many are willing to share the path they are walking with me.

  32. All you steppers, put this all down and go get a life. Our flaws define us as human beings and can never be removed. I sure don’t want mine removed or there would be nothing left of me but a mindless troll with no emotions. Emotions keep us alive. AA has you all brainwashed that you are supposed to do this step.

    • Thanks for your comment. No, really, thanks. I’m happy for you if you enjoy character defects and don’t need to be brainwashed. I was dying. My brain needed washing. I hope my flaws don’t define me, but rather what I do about my flaws defines me. I don’t aim for no emotion, and really I like positive emotions. But the way I drank showed that there were serious, serious things wrong with me, and I needed to change if I was going to live. Steppers did not approach AA because life was wonderful. And I didn’t stay because I enjoyed the work. I do now, but that’s another story. Good luck to you living with your character defects. If it ever gets too difficult, I’m sure you know there is another way.

      • Hi Lydia, that kind of response to others’ replies it’s gorgeous. I couldn’t see myself reacting in that way. I always wonder how people like you (steppers or non-steppers) can have that natural peaceful reaction to things and not get all angry, fearful, frustrated, unhappy. I’ve been in recover for over 4 years and now I am working on my step 4 but now that I have been sober from my acting out behaviors, I only see in myself, discontent, irritability and restlessness like the BB describes and it doesn’t seem to be going in a different direction. It’s been so hard to build a truly relationship with other. I seem to have an inherent criticism in my head that sets a block between the other person and I. I am hungry to get on with this painful situations that the only thing they do is keeping me stuck and confused about how to move forward and start living an enjoyable life accepting others in the way how they are….

        Sincerely

        David

  33. Once the initial surrender took place in my soul and the obsession to drink was removed there I was just me and my defects… a painful place to be. I knew to drink was to die, but to live in the emotional pain that surrounded my being seemed equally unpleasant. The only tools I had for living were defected. Through this process of psychic transformation I have been graced with release from the bobwire like emotional pain. The one thing that ensures this is my willingness. Which in reality as a human being the only power I really have….

  34. Hi Lydia,

    Thank you so much for sharing this list. What brought me here to read through these character defects is because it’s very hard to not think that my actions are based on my character defects. When I read each of them I can totally relate to each one and it does make me very confused because one of the things that I haven’t been able to manage or figure out if what I am doing it’s okay is my ambition. This is something that when I was acting out, I always acted with ambition regardless how I would get things (by cheating, lying, withholding, manipulating so on) because I needed to be validated and have a sense of superiority. However, when I want now to get back on the high way and get rid of from my depression, victimhood role, inferiority, not good enough, I get all confused because I think that ones again I want to be driven by my ambition and get what I couldn’t get when I was acting out feeling envious of what others are getting while I am the one who suffers and with a stupid idea that my recovery is not helping at all to get back up and get going with my dreams because right away I feel that whatever I am trying to do is because I want to compete,, have a place in society and get what others seem to be getting except me. So it’s very confusing at this stage of my recovery the healthy ambition and the non-healthy one, the one I had but I couldn’t keep up with it because each day it was more difficult to look at myself in the mirror.

    Hope you can have some thoughts about this.

    Thanks a lot and let’s hanging in there. Hoping that my stepwork is leading me to what I am meant to become.

    David

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