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Old 12-30-2014, 09:49 AM   #1
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Default Step Four

About Step 4

"First, let us face it [sin] for a fact. Face the worst, in reality and in possibility. Don't brood on it, but face it . Are you afraid you have an incurable disease? Face it: get a thorough medical examination, be honest with yourself, and with those who have the right to know about you. Do you have a dark spot of unbelief in your heart, so that your religion is a kind of wearing of a mask? Face it: admit it to yourself; remind yourself that it is not a final condition of mind, and expose yourself to searching religious experience, and to reading great books about religion. But don't fool yourself, be honest with yourself - and be especially honest as to the possible moral causes for unbelief in yourself, where sin hides faith from our eyes. Is there sin gnawing away at the vitals of your life? Face it: don't say you are not taking account of it, it's not a very big sin, you think it may wear off. Sin doesn't work that way. Look it in the face, and grapple with it, else you will carry it with you. Is your conscience pressing something upon you which you do not want to do? Face it: don't flinch and run away, for you cannot alter your deepest conviction, you can only obey it, or live a divided life'." [Samual M. Shoemaker, If I Be Lifted Up]

"Imagine you are transferring the ownership of your life to God in the same way you would transfer ownership of a business. One of the first things you would do in negotiating to sell a business would be to take an inventory to discover the damaged or out-of-date goods that are no longer salable. In Step Four we call it a "moral" inventory because we compile a list of traits and behaviors that have transgressed our highest, or moral, values. We also inventory our "good" traits and the behaviors that represent them. In our life's moral inventory the defects or dysfunctional behaviors might include some that once worked; some dysfunctional behaviors may have saved our lives as children, but they are now out-of-date, self-defeating, and cause us a great deal of trouble when we use them as adults." [Keith Miller, A Hunger for Healing, Harper,1991]

"Our understanding of the moral nature of the inventory will be greatly enhanced if we first distinguish between moral and moralistic. When we are moralistic, we are judgmental and opinionated. Our language is full of shoulds and oughts. As John Keller states: "moralism is 'shouldism': You shouldn't feel that way." Moralism is about finger pointing and blaming. It is highly conditional, critical and nonaccepting. Moral, on the other hand, evaluates right and wrong in accordance with God's law of love, as exemplified by the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. A moral inventory uses the law of love as its standard." [Martin M. Davis, The Gospel and the Twelve Steps, RPI Publishing, 1993]

"Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are. We want to find exactly how, when and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us.' [Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, AA World Services, 1952]
Step 4: Related Biblical Themes

* Searching. The word searching implies that we are looking for something that has been hidden and that we will need to be thorough in our efforts. When we start working Step Four we quickly realize how instinctive it is for us to be evasive, to blame, to get distracted. Most of us have not taken inventory of ourselves in a long time - maybe never. We have hidden the truth from ourselves and it will now take a disciplined effort to pay attention.

It is probably important to emphasize that nothing in this Step is meant to suggest that we are globally responsible for everything. We may have been harmed in many ways by others. But the heart of this Step is to begin identifying the things for which we are responsible. We cannot fix anyone else. We cannot take responsibility for other people's poor choices. But we can start to identify the things for which we are responsible.

Working this Step will require a sustained effort to get past all the creative forms of denial that have protected us from the truth. Fortunately, God is prepared to help us in this task. We do well to pray with the Psalmist:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." [Psalm 139:23-24]

* Fearless Calling this self evaluation 'fearless' might be confusing. It doesn't mean we will not be afraid. That's a bit too much to expect. We will experience fear. To call an inventory fearless means that we will be courageous in the face of our fears. When the fear comes - and it will come - we will keep on. For many of us, our addictions are the main tool we have used for managing our fears. Letting go of that destructive pattern and continuing to work this Step in spite of the fear will create a new and potentially lifesaving pattern for fear management.

* Moral Inventory. Inventory taking is not a new idea. The early church knew the importance of this spiritual discipline and connected it directly to it's public worship. As Paul said, "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup" [1 Corinthians 11:28]. Unfortunately, this spiritual discipline has been abused at various times in the history of the Christian church. It has been used against people rather then for them. It has been used to create shame rather than freedom. But most commonly the biblical mandate for inventory taking has simply been ignored. And we have suffered spiritually as a result.

A moral inventory is not just a listing of bad actions for which we are responsible. It might help to think of Step Four as essentially a restatement of Lamentations 3:4:

"Let us examine our ways and test them and let us return to the Lord"

This puts it well: we are to examine our ways, the character of our lives. In the Twelve Step tradition people are given a structure, a process and a community that helps them in this self examination. In Twelve Step programs people are often encouraged to begin a moral inventory by focusing on resentments. While this might seem at first like a focus on how other people have hurt us, in reality it is part of the process of taking responsibility for our own actions. The resentments which we inventory are our resentments. They are how we have chosen to respond to painful situations. As we begin to take full responsibility for the way we have responded to life, we gradually learn to let go of things for which we are not responsible and to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions and responses. Resentments are an important focus because they are one of the most common causes of relapse in recovery. There is an old slogan in AA that says this well: "Having a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die."

A second focus that is frequently encouraged in Twelve Step programs is a focus on fears. The reason for doing a moral inventory of our fears is that, next to resentments, fears are one of the things that most commonly lead us to relapse. Making an inventory of our fears forces us to look closely at how we manage our fears. As we look at what makes us afraid we will be given many opportunities to find out how thoroughly we have worked Step Three. Gradually we will learn that God can be helpful to us when we are afraid. Gradually, one-day-at-a-time, we can turn our fears over to a Power greater than our own.
"No matter what you have done up to this moment, you get 24 brand-new hours to spend every single day." --Brian Tracy
AA gives us an opportunity to recreate ourselves, with God's help, one day at a time. --Rufus K.
When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. --Franklin D. Roosevelt
We stay sober and clean together - one day at a time!
God says that each of us is worth loving.
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