RA offers hope, sanity, and recovery, especially to those who, despite their best efforts, have yet to find full recoveries, no matter what their problems or behaviors may be and their family and friends.
V Broaden and Deepen Your Understanding of the Twelve Steps
4) Step Four
Broaden and deepen your understanding of Step Four.


“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

1. In the 12 & 12, please turn to p. 46. The first full paragraph says:

“At this stage of the inventory proceedings, our sponsors come to the rescue. They can do this, for they are the carriers of A.A.’s tested experience with Step Four. They comfort the melancholy one by first showing him that his case is not strange or different, that his character defects are probably not more numerous or worse than those of anyone else in A.A. This the sponsor promptly proves by talking freely and easily, and without exhibitionism, about his own defects, past and present. This calm, yet realistic, stock-taking is immensely reassuring. The sponsor probably points out that the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities. This tends to clear away morbidity and encourage balance. As soon as he begins to be more objective, the newcomer can fearlessly, rather than fearfully, look at his own defects.”

2. One of R.A.'s members shares that he had always thought “fearlessly” meant courageously. He thought that he had to have the courage to look at all those things from his past that he was afraid to face. Then he looked up “fearless” in the dictionary. It didn’t say a word about having courage.

3. Fearless was simply defined as “without fear.” As we just read: “As soon as he begins to be more objective, the newcomer can fearlessly, rather than fearfully, look at his own defects.” By being objective, we can look at our defects without fear. We don’t need courage.

4. At this point, please be reassured that none of you is strange or different regarding your character defects. In the years that we have been working with others, we have guided many people through this inventory process, and have thus heard a multitude of character defects. These character defects were there because these people were spiritually sick, not because they were bad people.

5. When A.A. started, the common perception was that alcoholism was a moral issue. It was believed that a good person could stop drinking if he or she wanted to. After all, didn’t he have a good wife, or wasn’t her husband a good provider, etc.? A.A. shows us that we acted the way we did because we were not well, not because we were bad people. The recognition that an alcoholic could not stop drinking, no matter how much he wanted to, changed the perception of alcoholism from it being a moral issue to being a disease, with one of the symptoms being an inability to stop.

6. An alcoholic doesn’t choose to be alcoholic, nor does a diabetic choose to be diabetic. We have no more control over our particular compulsion than we do over the aspects of any other disease. An alcoholic does not want to stop BECAUSE he is an alcoholic.

7. Someone who has a cold, for instance, usually cannot stifle a sneeze. We don’t beat ourselves up when we sneeze, even if it’s at an inappropriate time, such as in the middle of a concert. We recognize that sneezing is a symptom of that illness, and there’s nothing that we can do about it.

8. It’s the same thing with any problem or behavior. We do not have control over our symptoms.

9. In doing this inventory, we can also note our assets. For every time that we were greedy, there were also times we were generous. There were times we gave to charity. There were times we did nice things for people, putting the welfare of others before our own.

10. In the 12 & 12, on p. 48, in the second full paragraph, the first sentence says:

“Now let’s ponder the need for a list of the more glaring personality defects all of us have in varying degrees.”

11. Once again, please note that they are not calling for us to list each and every defect of character we may have, but simply to list the more glaring ones.

12. On p.50, starting with the first full paragraph, it says:

“By now the newcomer has probably arrived at the following conclusions: That his character defects, representing instincts gone astray, have been the primary cause of his drinking and his failure at life; that unless he is now willing to work hard at the elimination of the worst of these defects, both sobriety and peace of mind will still elude him; that all the faulty foundation of his life will have to be torn out and built anew on bedrock. Now willing to commence the search for his own defects, he will ask, ‘Just how do I go about this? HOW do I take inventory of myself?”

13. Please notice the fourth word of the paragraph we just read. They say “newcomer.” They intended for the newcomer to do this inventory. And the reason they could encourage a newcomer to do it is because they knew that when they got through their first nine Steps there was a Tenth Step which would be worked daily.

14. On p.50, the first sentence of the second full paragraph says:

“Since Step Four is but the beginning of a lifetime practice…”

15. A lifetime practice that is done by working the Tenth Step on a daily basis.

16. The Tenth Step inventory is not just for the character defects that appear today. It’s also for things from the past that we have now become willing, or capable, of recognizing today.

17. If you only go as far as the Fourth Step, you will not get the same results that you could receive by working all of the steps.

18. We need to go through, and work all Twelve Steps, use the entire process, for it to produce the entire result.

19. We can’t do this step or any of the other steps perfectly, and what’s more important, we don’t have to.

20. In the 12 & 12, please turn to p.90, where the second full paragraph, says:

“It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also.”

21. And on p.92, in the second full paragraph, at the end of the fourth line, it says:

“It will become more and more evident as we go forward that it is pointless to become angry, or to get hurt by people who, like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up.”

22. If somebody hurts us, it must be because they are sick. Well people do not do things to hurt other people. For us to get angry at someone for being sick is pointless.

23. In the 12 & 12, on p.50, the second and third full paragraphs say:

“Since Step Four is but the beginning of a lifetime practice, it can be suggested that he first have a look at those personal flaws which are acutely troublesome and fairly obvious. Using his best judgment of what has been right and what has been wrong, he might make a rough survey of his conduct with respect to his primary instincts for sex, security, and society. Looking back over his life, he can readily get under way by consideration of questions such as these:

“When, and how, and in just what instances did my selfish pursuit of the sex relation damage other people and me? What people were hurt and how badly? Did I spoil my marriage and injure my children? Did I jeopardize my standing in the community? Just how did I react to these situations at the time? Did I burn with a guilt that nothing could extinguish? Or did I insist that I was the pursued and not the pursuer, and thus absolve myself? How have I reacted to frustration in sexual matters? When denied, did I become vengeful or depressed? Did I take it out on other people? If there was rejection or coldness at home, did I use this as a reason for promiscuity?”

24. In the 12 & 12, on p.51, starting with the first full paragraph, it says:

“Also of importance for most alcoholics are the questions they must ask about their behavior respecting financial and emotional security. In these areas fear, greed, possessiveness, and pride have too often done their worst. Surveying his business or employment record, almost any alcoholic can ask questions like these: In addition to my drinking problem, what character defects contributed to my financial instability? Did fear and inferiority about my fitness for my job destroy my confidence and fill me with conflict? Did I try to cover up those feelings of inadequacy by bluffing, cheating, lying, or evading responsibility? Or by griping that others failed to recognize my truly exceptional abilities? Did I over value myself and play the big shot? Did I have such unprincipled ambition that I double-crossed and undercut my associates? Was I extravagant? Did I recklessly borrow money, caring little whether it was repaid or not? Was I a pinchpenny, refusing to support my family properly?

“Did I cut corners financially? What about the ‘quick money’ deals, the stock market, and the races?”

25. In the 12 & 12, on p. 51, the last full paragraph says:

“Businesswomen in A.A. will naturally find that many of these questions apply to them, too. But the alcoholic housewife can also make the family financially insecure. She can juggle charge accounts, manipulate the food budget, spend her afternoons gambling, and run her husband into debt by irresponsibility, waste, and extravagance.”

26. In the 12 & 12, on p.51, starting with the last line on the page, it says:

“But all alcoholics who have drunk themselves out of jobs, family, and friends will need to cross-examine themselves ruthlessly to determine how their own personality defects have thus demolished their security.

“The most common symptoms of emotional insecurity are worry, anger, self-pity, and depression. These stem from causes which sometimes seem to be within us, and at other times to come from without. To take inventory in this respect we ought to consider carefully all personal relationships which bring continuous or recurring trouble. It should be remembered that this kind of insecurity may arise in any area where instincts are threatened. Questioning directed to this end might run like this: Looking at both past and present, what sex situations have caused me anxiety, bitterness, frustration, or depression? Appraising each situation fairly, can I see where I have been at fault? Did these perplexities beset me because of selfishness or unreasonable demands? Or, if my disturbance was seemingly caused by the behavior of others, why do I lack the ability to accept conditions I cannot change?”

27. These next questions deal with Emotional Situations. Some people are confused by these questions, because it sometimes seems that questions already dealt with in previous topics, such as sex relations or financial situations, are being answered a second time.

28. This is not the case. These questions are simply using sex relations, financial situations, and personal relationships as examples of EMOTIONAL situations.

29. They look at the EMOTIONAL situations involved with our sex relations, financial situations, and personal relationships.

30. In the 12 & 12, on p.52, continuing with the next to last paragraph, the last sentence says:

“These are the sort of fundamental inquiries that can disclose the source of my discomfort and indicate whether I may be able to alter my own conduct and so adjust myself serenely to self-discipline.

“Suppose that financial insecurity constantly arouses these same feelings. I can ask myself to what extent have my own mistakes fed my gnawing anxieties. And if the actions of others are part of the cause, what can I do about that? If I am unable to change the present state of affairs, am I willing to take the measures necessary to shape my life to conditions as they are?”

31. In the 12 & 12, on p.52, starting in the middle of the last line on the page, it says:

“Questions like these, more of which will come to mind easily in each individual case, will help turn up the root causes.

“But it is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. We have been especially stupid and stubborn about them. The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. Our egomania digs two disastrous pitfalls. Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend upon them far too much. If we lean too heavily on people, they will sooner or later fail us, for they are human, too, and cannot possibly meet our incessant demands. In this way our insecurity grows and festers. When we habitually try to manipulate others to our own willful desires, they revolt, and resist us heavily. Then we develop hurt feelings, a sense of persecution, and a desire to retaliate. As we redouble our efforts at control, and continue to fail, our suffering becomes acute and constant. We have not once sought to be one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it. This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us. Of true brotherhood we had small comprehension.

“Some will object to many of the questions posed, because they think their own character defects have not been so glaring. To these it can be suggested that a conscientious examination is likely to reveal the very defects the objectionable questions are concerned with. Because our surface record hasn’t looked too bad, we have frequently been abashed to find that this is so simply because we have buried these selfsame defects deep down in us under thick layers of self-justification. Whatever the defects, they have finally ambushed us into alcoholism and misery.

“Therefore, thoroughness ought to be the watchword when taking inventory. In this connection, it is wise to write out our questions and answers. It will be an aid to clear thinking and honest appraisal. It will be the first TANGIBLE evidence of our complete willingness to move forward.”


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