Step 4 can be intimidating. There are several prayers associated with Step 4 but the one that I think kind of sums up the Step begins with, I have made my life a mess and I can’t undo it. It goes on to say, I will write down my wrongs, but also those things that are good about me.
Bill W’s idea of an inventory was based on a business or specifically a store. If a store is going to succeed and thrive a regular inventory is a must. They look at everything on the floor and in the warehouse. Is anything damaged? What are we carrying that’s not selling? Let’s get rid of that to open up floor space. What items are selling well? Let’s move those things to the front or into the window. Are there items that are missing and have been stolen?
This is the kind of inventory Bill proposed we conduct on ourselves. An honest evaluation of our weaknesses and strengths. A traditional moral inventory includes a review of resentments, fears, sexual conduct and a review of people we have harmed. These are based on the idea that we have three basic instincts in life. The social instinct, things like self-esteem, personal relationships and community. The security instinct, food, clothing, shelter and emotional needs. The third is the sexual instinct. This includes the part of our sex lives that are accepted by society, and that we believe are acceptable under God’s principles and our own personal principles. There may be a side of this instinct that is hidden. This would be things not acceptable to society. It may include things that we don’t believe are acceptable to God’s principles or our own personal standards. We may have ambitions in this sexual instinct like a desire to marry or participate in a long term relationship.
These three instincts are surely God given but as we allow self-will to take control, we begin to experience things like resentment. Resentment takes place as we allow ourselves to be controlled by real or imagined harm done by others. We may experience fears. Fears, like resentments may be real or imagined. Often fear is based on what is referred to as “future tripping.” We experience fear based on what we think might happen, not on what is happening. And then there are harms and hurts inflicted on us by others or by us on others. Both can cause tremendous damage if they aren’t processed and allowed to heal.
If we want to move forward in healing, we must be able to put together a clear picture of where we are at. That is the purpose of a 4th Step moral inventory. If you have made your three decisions, it’s probably time to take an honest look at yourself. If you have questions about an inventory or the 12 Steps in general, shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.