Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.


Step Four Prayer

Dear God,

It is I who has made my life a mess.
I have done it, but I cannot undo it.
My mistakes are mine & I will begin a
searching & fearless moral inventory.
I will write down my wrongs,
but I will also include that which is good.
I pray for the strength to complete the task.

I have heard it said that the only way you can be sure you have worked Step Three is that you have completed Step Four. If we give everything into the care of the God of our understanding, doing the forth step is a natural consequence. It has also been said that we are only as sick as our secrets. The fourth and consequent fifth steps get rid of out secrets. True, this leaves us with no place to hide, no place to run, but isnít that the whole point? If I say I turn my will and my life over to my Higher Power, but then donít bring all my will and life to that light, I really have not done what I said, have I?

I canít guess how many people I know of who say they have worked the first three steps, but stopped short of doing the housekeeping steps (4 ≠ 9). This is simply a blatant refusal to let God into our lives to heal us of our compulsion. The usual excuse is fear. How strange it is that we are afraid of what we already know. Believe me, it isnít fear that keeps us from doing the inner work of the inner steps, it is shame, pure and simple.

But shame has no place in recovery. We do not need to be ashamed of being human nor of being imperfect, which is part of being human. All we need is the courage to change the things we can, which are basically things God does, and the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, which on closer inspection turn out to be things we may want to change but may not really need to, and of course, the divine wisdom to know the difference.

Huge numbers of compulsive eaters have been molested or abused. There is usually so much shame around these circumstances. The first character change we will want a little later on in our step work is to ask God to take away our shame over the things that were beyond our control to begin with, and to make us grateful that we are survivors, even if our survival method has turned on us over time. We were wise children. We found a way to live when our souls were being murdered by those who should have been our caretakers. And that was good. We would not be here today without it. The shame is not the event, nor the method we found for dealing with it. The only shame is continuing one day longer in addiction than we have to. Today is the day of liberation.

Whatever external events may loom large in our histories, and there are others, the area where we will find our most grievous moral offenses are those we have committed against ourselves. Our addiction may have hurt others, but it will kill us.

The one final essay note is about morals and character as used in the Steps. Morals, of course, can mean going along with certain norms, cultural or religious or whatever. But in the Steps, morals are choices. While we are hunting to a great extent for our bad choices, we also need to take note of our good ones, and a chief good one is to be working this program. Since our choices are formed by who we perceive ourselves to be, and we become what we have chosen to be, Character is the sum total of our choices. If addiction is one of my characteristics that I will want removed, one day at a time, then I have to look at the choices I have made that have formed this characteristic. There are only three things we are called upon to do with our lists.

1. Read the list to one other human being (who is not called upon to make comments unless we want them.) and to God;
2. Use this list to see how we have formed our character.
3. Allow God to take care of the necessary changes, which is the core of the program.

Do not be harsh with yourself, but do be honest and truthful. Look for the good as well as the bad, and do not flinch from either. And be thinking of the person you will share your inventory with.

We do not share the actual inventory on line. We are not told to proclaim our wrongs to all the world. The Steps do not tell us who this person should be. Obviously, it should be someone who can be trusted to keep confidence. But that can be your sponsor, a therapist, a religious leader, a true friend (who is not in line for an amend, I would suggest), or whomever. But sharing it is absolutely necessary if we are to go forward in recovery.



1. There are several methods for working the Fourth Step. One is the OA method outlined in the 12&12, and the Workbook. One is the AA method outlined in Chapter Five of the Big Book. There are also several "proprietary" ways, which people have outlined in books they have written in recovery. Check around on these various ways, and select one. Tell us what method you have found to use this time. You might even expand a little on why your process seems appropriate to you at this time.

2. Before you post anything on this Step, work it. And tell us that you have done so when you post. If you donít work the step, you have stopped working the Steps.

3. Pick the person you plan to share your inventory with, and ask them. Let us know that you have done this. If you want to share who this person is (not by name) and why they are your selection, feel free to do so. Some of us share with our sponsors, because we have that kind of relationship with them. Others may want to go to their therapist, others still to the religious official. Much depends on who is available to you, and the nature of your list.

4. Remember that you want to separate facts of the situations from feelings around the situation from reactions to the situation. A fact is, my father beat me in the dining room with a long leather strap when I was eleven. He did this because I had expressed anger, which he considered disrespectful, and he would not permit that. I felt cruelly treated, angrier than ever, and hate filled and resentful. My reaction was to go to the refrigerator and eat an entire something that had been baked in a 9 inch pan.

It was not my character defect that I was not permitted to express anger. It may not be exactly my fault (fault finding may not be helpful anyway) that I had all those negative reactions that I could not deal with, but it was a character flaw that I did so. I now know other ways to respond to bad situations emotionally. And I have learned that by correcting my responses to bad situations, I have no need to resort to food in any event. Clarity of thought is not our forte, but the clearer we can make this inventory, the more it will help us.


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