Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.


This is January K., your leader for this quarter.

Note: I am citing page numbers in the 3rd edition of the AA Big Book. The Big Book online is the 4th editon, so the page numbers may be different. I will cite the chapter titles as a lead to the appropriate page. and provide paragraph word leads, so that you can more easily determine where you begin reading.

Step Four is perhaps the most introspective of the steps; it requires some deep thinking about things that may be painful for us. We are asked to do a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, our part in things, situations, relationships (both personal and business) that have caused us trouble.

"Resentment is the 'number one' offender." (AA Big Book, 3rd edition, pg 64, HOW IT WORKS).

For some of us, we might need to get the advice of a friend or counselor as we write our inventories.

This was difficult for me, at first. I didn't want to look at my part in anything. After all, others had wronged me, and it was high time it came out! My first inventory was very brief because of my level of willingness to look at my part in anything, if applicable.

I got quite a bit touchy when my sponsor pointed out that the inventory is about me, my actions, my character flaws, my part in life choices and events. What about the parts of my life where others had greatly altered my simplest, most routine, of life choices? My sponsor pointed out that though I may not be at fault as far as a character flaw at work, I should become willing to list the event or situation, describing how I chose to overcome the adverse impact. He reminded me that a person can choose to stay in a hole, or that they can begin digging to form the footholds in the sides of the pit by which to make their way up and out. Again, even doing that much, was a process. It took several Step Fours before I could do it in the manner that he had suggested.

I have worked Step Four numerous times. It was a time-release process for me, and so it may be for you.

As far as how to do your Step Four inventory? The best reference to go by is to read the AA Big Book on pages 64-71. See the chapter entitled: HOW IT WORKS. The paragraph starts: "Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four . . ." or you can also read this in the AA 12 & 12 on pages 42-45. (The Big Book is on-line at:

Since Step 4 is intense and often very private, you might want to journal in private rather than sharing such personal life details on-line. Step 4 digs deeper into the graphic details of our lives. Journaling this out upon paper, keeping our notes safe from prying eyes, is essential to making a searching and fearless moral inventory.

Please remember that an inventory simply lists things, it doesn't seek to change things at this time.

Some people carry around mini-spiral books to jot things down throughout the day as things come to mind. In Step Four you will be writing down all the things that you can remember that cause you to ache or wish you hadn't spoken or written such thoughtless words, hadn't acted out so hastily.

By holding things in, we hurt ourselves, mindlessly, thoughtlessly--without regard for our health or well being, or others.

Again, I mention that on Step 4, it is suggested that you journal privately and keep your writings in a safe place. Keep it where no one will see. Once you have worked through this it can be discreetly discarded however you choose.

Here are some writing suggestions to get you started. These writing suggestions can be deep and graphic for some of us. If you experience strong, uncomfortable feelings, you may want to think about confiding in someone you trust as to what you are writing.

In Step Four we recall:

  • family life and relationships
  • childhood fears, fights, siblings
  • parents and their marriage example
  • sexuality, feelings about that
  • resentments about any of the above
  • life as a child
  • in junior high, high school, young adult
  • any character flaws / emotions you felt: envy, jealousy, fear, pride, lying, shame, stealing, manipulating situations and people
  • What were the highpoints of your life? (Don't forget the highpoints). This was especially helpful to remember the positive while citing the negative; it provided a much-needed counterbalance.
  • While listing your "liabilities" in life, don't forget to list your personal "assets." (My sponsor had me to list my positive character traits and where those had taken me in life).

1) How did it feel as you were recalling some of these events?

2) How do you feel now that you are through this?

3) Share with us what was most helpful to you when writing the inventory, be it a particular frame of mind, encouraging mentor or friend, or the way you able to make your inventory list.

4) Did you remember to list your character and events "assets?" How did you feel about entering this alter mood? Was it hard for you to list out positive things about yourself?

Step Three

Step Five

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