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A Reflection on Step Four

Apr 21, 2021

By Joe Hartwell — Alumni Relations Liaison

Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.” (Big Book, Page 59)

My experience with personal inventory has changed dramatically over the years. Although the information is the same, my perception and outlook have changed. If you were anything like me initially, it was all about getting through the 12-Steps rapidly to stay sober. Yes, we must achieve sobriety, but once we’re sober, now what?

Emotional Sobriety

I’ve learned that my ego was only willing to allow me to see as much truth as I saw at the time. As we continue to take personal inventory through Steps Four, Ten, or Eleven, more truth is constantly being revealed. This business about inventory must be pretty important since it’s found in all three.

I often ask people the reason we work the 12-Steps. “To stay sober” is the most popular answer, and that would have been my answer back in 2004. Yet the Big Book states in several places what this 12-Step process is really about: “Its main object is to enable you to find a power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.” (Big Book, Page 45)

Resentment Inventory

Step Four is a tool to make “a strenuous effort to face, and be rid of, the things in ourselves that have been blocking us.” (Big Book, Page 64) But blocking us from what? God or the Spirit, if you will.

To truly grasp the gravity of what we are up against, we must go back to pages 60-62 of the Big Book. Here is where they are preparing us for as much truth as we can possibly see in the resentment inventory of Step Four, and our problem isn’t alcohol and drugs: “The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success.” (Big Book, Page 60.

I recommend looking in all areas of your life — thoughts, feelings, and actions – and list where you are not bearing fruit. The Big Book goes on to discuss how we all try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show, the play, the scene. Column Three of the resentment inventory covers these tendencies in “My Life/The Seven Areas of Self.”

Selfishness and Self-Centeredness

On page 63, the Big Book tells us the real root of our trouble is selfishness and self-centeredness. In this state, we’re being driven by fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity. So, we step on the toes of our fellows, and they retaliate (Column One). Sometimes they hurt us seemingly without provocation (Column Two) because we placed ourselves in a position to be hurt (Column Three). Still, we invariably find that we have made decisions based on SELF (Column Four).

Finally, after this process, we’re ready to deal with some causes and conditions. I hope this helps shed some more light on the resentment inventory process. I will continue to discuss the other two inventories –Fear and Sex — in my next article.

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