Step 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
The first time I worked this step was in therapy almost eight years ago. It was shocking to see all my addictions, compulsions and perversions written down on paper. Because much of my life had been lived in a daze of fantasy and denial; it was like reading about someone else.
In Steps One, Two and Three, with the help of the Virtues: Honesty, Hope and Faith, we have submitted to God’s authority over our lives and have converted our doubt and fear into peace with God. In Step 4 we beginning the growth steps, by examining our past behavior we will work towards understanding and eventually finding peace with ourselves.
It’s critical when taking our inventory that we look at our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Often when reflecting on ourselves we focus on the bad things and beat ourselves down with guilt and condemnation. But when we include our strengths in the evaluation we can see the potential for greatness God has put in us which accelerates us forward on our recovery journey.
In the traditional AA Step Four, we take only a moral inventory: weaknesses, wrongs, character defects, faults and shortcomings. In the Christ-centered Celebrate Recovery, Step Four includes also a Spiritual Inventory. Let me clarify with text from the Celebrate Recovery Bible:
- THE PERSON: List persons or things we resent. (Fear and anger are clues.)
- THE CAUSE: List specific actions someone took that hurt us. (Why we resent them?)
- THE EFFECT: List how the specific hurtful action effected us.
- THE DAMAGE: List how that specific hurtful action still effects us.
- MY PART: Honestly determine any resentments, sins, or injury we’re responsible for.
- OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS: Who hurt us? Are we still holding a grudge? Seeking revenge? Jealous? Bad attitude? Who have I hurt?
- OUR PRIORITIES IN LIFE: Is there an area of life we’re keeping from God? What have been our life priorities? What was wrong with those priorities? Who did those priorities affect and how?
- OUR BODY: How have we mistreated our body? Are there activities / habits that caused physical harm?
- OUR FAMILY: Have we mistreated anyone in our family? Do we owe them amends? What family secret are we denying?
- OUR CHURCH: Have we been faithful to our church in the past? Have w been critical instead of active and supportive? Have we discouraged our family’s support of their church?
Step Four begins the process of coming clean. With pen and paper in hand, prayerfully ask God to reveal His truth about you to you. Remember, God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2Tim. 1:7) With strength given by the Holy Spirit we can push through the denial, past resentments and the fear of acknowledging who and what we have been, to become free and whole in Jesus Christ.
Resources: Life Recovery Bible, Celebrate Recovery Bible, The Twelve Steps for Christians.