Character Defects vs. Shortcomings: What’s the Difference?

It is no secret Bill W. (as one of the leading contributors to the book, Alcoholics Anonymous) liked to vary the words he used in his writing.  This tactic helps keep material fresh, readers engaged, and subjects interesting.

However, there are unintended consequences that can occur as a result.

One of the most famous within many 12 step fellowships is the misunderstanding over the difference between defects of character and shortcomings.  In fact, many people have created fun theories as to what this difference may be (one popular idea is that a defect is when a person misses the shot, while a shortcoming is when they change the score).

Actually, both terms mean the same thing.

FUN FACT: A defect of character and a shortcoming are two different ways of referencing the same thing: what the book refers to as “the exact nature of our wrongs” in step five.

A July, 1977 Grapevine article (vol. 34 no.2) confirms this when it quotes Bill as saying about the matter “I just didn’t want to use the same word twice.”

So the verdict seems to be that this distinction is merely for the purpose of literary flow.

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3 Comments on “Character Defects vs. Shortcomings: What’s the Difference?

  1. Pingback: 7 names | Big Book Wizard

  2. a defect would be like having a flat tire. a shortcoming would be like still driving on the flat tire.

    • I’ve heard stuff like that before too… the point of the article is that Bill Wilson made no such distinction in his writing.

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