The words fearless and moral define the value of taking the 4th step in this program. This is the beginning of the real work. At first, itís not easy to take a frank look at the relationships, and incidences in our past that have troubled us, that many of us have eaten compulsively over. But self- inventory, which becomes part of the 10th step ahead, is a valuable tool to sort out the occasional problems that naturally occur in life.
Some people say that what taking the third step is about, is becoming willing to do steps 4 through 9. In the 4th step, we need to be willing to face ourselves, and our past experiences. If we donít feel willing, we can pray for the willingness. Part of the inventory experience is admitting anger, and disappointment, and confusion, and resentment, and hurt, which can be painful. But keep in mind, the purpose of this step, and the rest of the steps, is to understand, and resolve these painful feelings.
I suggest that you read what the Big Book has to say about doing an inventory on pages 64 through 71. These pages describe several categories of inventory, a very thorough catalog. For the purpose of this step study, however, I suggest you make a start, with a few resentments that you can put through the column format. Afterwards, with your sponsor or another person who is available to work with you, you can do a complete inventory, which can take some time. There is a website that has the 4th step inventory worksheets that I have found helpful. The URL is: www.step12.com. The format I have always used is the column format in the Big Book.
You will see that the inventory organizes resentment into several affected categories: Self Esteem, Pride, Emotional Security, Pocketbook (financial), Ambitions, Personal Relations, Sex. In an inventory, we assign each resentment to itís relevant category (or multiple categories) so that we can get a sense of what areas of our lives are affected by relationships. One of the important things about this column inventory approach, is to do the work a column at a time. Somehow the process flows more organically that way. First we make a list of people, institutions, or principles with which we are angry. The second column, we list why we are angry. And so on. Your sponsors will be able to help you understand the relevance of the columns. The last column is one we definitely need to do with our sponsors, or someone else, because we will need help to understand if we had a part in the debacle, and if so, what our part was. This is not to assign blame to ourselves, but to recognize that we have perhaps had some part in how things went awry. The accountability, our part, is very important to recognize. Patterns usually surface, and we become familiar with what I call our ďoperating styleĒ out there in the world.
My history before program was fraught with dozens of failed relationships on all fronts. One of the first patterns I discovered doing this step was that I abandoned relationships without resolving them. I didnít deal with conflict, I rejected people as a result of conflict. Another pattern was that I didnít let people know how I felt about them. I guess I was afraid of feeling vulnerable, so I kept that little secret to myself. My anger, frequently, was about people going away and not coming back. Once I saw that I was a rejecting character, and also Ė someone who didnít let people in, then I could understand why people didnít come back.
Much of the pain that we all have compulsively eaten over, is the pain of misunderstanding the painful experiences we have had in our relationships with others. Family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, spouses, every relationship in life affects us. When I was stuffing my feelings, I wasnít dealing with any of them. But this program provided me with a process to begin to catalog the painful relationships of my past, and come to terms with what they were all about. I get to know me better, and begin the process of striving to change those patterns, which is what the rest of the steps are about.
Questions for reflection:
Many people experience resistance to setting pen to paper and beginning a self-inventory. Have you felt some resistance? If so, what are your concerns? If not, why are you now motivated to do this work?
In putting a few resentments through this 4th step process, what have you learned about yourself in terms of behavior patterns that repeatedly caused you pain, or trouble?
Did you have any ďaha!Ē moments, when your understanding of a past hurt turned around completely through the experience of self-examination? If so, can you share about it?
What do you now understand about the value of being able to self-inventory as a life skill?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps