Taking Step Four

Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision (Step 3) was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once (fast) followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions. Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four … We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations. (AA p. 63-64)

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease (pride, vanity, ego, self-pity, jealousy, suspicion, envy, selfishness, self-seeking, self-centeredness, dishonesty, anger, bitterness, hate, impatience, fear, worry, intolerance, lust, infidelity, inconsideration, slander, prejudice, diffidence, etc.) for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. (Would you agree – yes-no?) When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry (Column 1). We asked ourselves why we were angry (Column 2). In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened (Column 3).  So we were sore. We were “burned up.” On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with (Column 3)?  (AA p. 64-65)

We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully. (AA p. 65)

Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done (Column 2), we resolutely looked for our own mistakes (Column 4). Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened (Column 4)?  Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved (Column 1) entirely. Where were we to blame (Column 4)? The inventory was ours, not the other person’s. When we saw our faults we listed them (Column 4). We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs (Column 4) honestly and were willing to set these matters straight (Column 5). (AA p. 67)

We reviewed our fears thoroughly (5 Columns). We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them (Column 2). Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us? (AA p. 68)

We reviewed our own conduct (all harms to others, including sex conduct) over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate (Column 4)? Whom had we hurt (Column 1)?  Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness (Column 2)? Where were we at fault (Column 4), what should we have done instead (Column 5)? We got this all down on paper and looked at it. (AA p. 69)

Step 4 Instruction

If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments (5 Columns). We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness …. We have listed the people (Column 1) we have hurt by our conduct (Column 4), and are willing to straighten out the past if we can (Column 5) … If you have already made a decision (Step 3), and an inventory (Step 4) of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so, you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself. (AA p. 70-71)

Keep in mind that it is not necessary, for newcomers to talk about every resentment or selfish act, or each person he or she has ever lied to or harmed for the inventory to be thorough. The objective is to get to “causes and conditions”. Sometimes it takes only a few incidents to make clear which short-comings have kept the newcomer blocked from an intimate, two-way relationship with the “One who has all power.”

About the Authors

Contributors to Renascent’s Blog share their stories of addiction and recovery and/or their professional expertise.