Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

[Parts One & Two]

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Principle behind Step Four is COURAGE

Greetings my fellow travelers on the Road to Recovery! Thank you for all the wonderful shares that are coming in! I'm seeing a great deal of inspiration there! And for those who are sharing only with their sponsors, keep up the good work! :-)

On to Step Four. When I first read Step Four, it puzzled me. [I read it *way* before I got to it, just fyi... I read it when I was "sort of thinking about" joining OA.] "Oh, yeah," I thought. "This is where we're supposed to write down all our faults." I have to tell you, I figured this Step would be a breeze! Faults? What faults? Me? Ok, so maybe I had a *few* faults -- who doesn't? -- but how long could THIS take! Piffle! No prob-lem-o! [Aren't I cute?] :-)

Well, after I'd joined OA and had been around for a while, I began to understand just how thorough this was supposed to be. [Gulp!] Well, I'll just write down a few faults and MOVE ON! Quickly. Who wants to do THIS for any length of time? My sponsor doesn't have to know what I write down anyway, right?

In Chapter 5, "How It Works," it was laid out quite clearly how this was going to work, and I have to say I felt scared. At some point, I was going to have to write down all my wrong-doings. Eeeeek! Can't I just skip this part? Ewww! C'mon, who needs this? Digging up all this cr*p from my past? I'd spent decades trying to keep that garbage burried! How is writing all this down going to do anyone any good? What has this got to do with FOOD???

Well, I believe that the 12 Steps were written in exactly the right order, because, by the time I actually GOT to Step Four with my sponsor, I was ready! First, she had me write a list of all my fears. [This is actually the third list talked about in Chapter 5.] I could not be-LIEVE how long my list was! I never knew how "fear-driven" my life had been! From fear of spiders to fear of death, my list was LOOOONG! Then she had me write out a list of all my CD's (Character Defects / Faults / Flaws / personality traits that weren't so charming). Early on, as I said, I didn't think I had many faults, right? Well, by the time I got to this list, they just poured out of me. Just the words that began with "self-" took up a lot of space! [e.g., selfish, self-centered, self-important, self-absorbed, self-pitying, etc.] The final list of CD's was several pages long, and it felt GREAT to write them down. [Hard to believe that this activity could feel "great," right? But it did.]

After listing all my faults/CD's, my sponsor then had me write down all my assets -- all the things that were good about me. That one actually turned out to be HARD! It seems it was very easy for me to write down what was WRONG or BAD about myself, but when it came to the opposite, I nearly drew a blank. I had lived a fairly puffed-up-ego-type of life (when I wasn't feeling like a big nobody). I should have been LOADED with ASSETS, but it took some coaching from my sponsor to get them out. But I got that done, too.

And my sponsor also had me do the other lists in Chapter 5 as they were laid out in the book. I was glad I had an example to follow -- the chart I used in the AABB was very helpful in keeping me going, and doing it thoroughly.

Keep in mind, I didn't have to "do anything" with these lists (yet -- or ever -- if I chose not to). They were just for me. I didn't have to share them with another living soul -- just write this stuff down, get it out of me! But keep in mind, this list is to be "thorough" and "searching." The only thing that could prevent me from writing these lists is ME! [Slogan: "You're only as sick as your secrets."] [Later we'll talk about why it's important to share these lists, and how to share them appropriately.]

You see, by now, I was beginning to incorporate the "principles" of the Steps into my life: HONESTY, HOPE, FAITH, and now COURAGE. Yes, I could do this! Yes, this was freeing! And in the end, I worked on my lists and the rest of Step Four (with my sponsor guiding me) -- and I shared it *all* with her (in Step Five). No hiding my faults! No white-wash! No dishonesty here! I had HOPE that this would move me forward, I had FAITH that this was all part of "The Solution" to my COE life, I had the HONESTY to put down what needed to be put down, and I had the COURAGE to "just do it." [Not to mention the fact that Step Two had me chosing to believe in a Power greater than myself, and Step Three had me turning my life and my will over to the care of that Power. I had a great ally here! I was not alone! Plus I had all sorts of fellow COE's in the OA fellowship!]

You will *not* be asked to share any Step Four "inventory" on this loop. A "searching moral inventory" is a very private thing, and you don't have to put any of it out on the Internet (in fact, I would suggest that people never put anything on the Internet they don't want to see out there for eternity). But please use your sponsor's guidance on this Step, if you need to, since you'll be preparing for future Steps.

Back to the lists... One of these aforementioned lists was listing all the wrongs done *to* me. Oooooh, goody!!! Yeah, this is where I got to write down the names of all the people and institutions who had "done me wrong." I could pour out all the abuse that had been heaped on me! Yeah, those S.O.B.'s were all there on my list! The swine! [grumble, grumble] Boy, was *THIS* going to be cathartic!!!

But wait, when I was finished, my sponsor said I then had to list *MY PART* in those events. MY PART??? But *they* hurt *me*! How was **I** to blame for anything? Well, that's the interesting thing about this. I actually did "contribute" in various ways.

Don't get me wrong, though. When children are abused, they have no part in their abuse -- NONE. It's all on the other guy. Period. But I can "contribute" to my abuse as an adult by doing a few things: by wallowing in it -- by wearing it like some red badge of pity -- by using it to stay in "victim mode" for years and years *after* the abuse -- by allowing it to define me -- by staying "sick" -- by using it as an excuse to eat compulsively. I may not have had any power to stop the abuse back then, but I can stop allowing it to rule my life after it's over. [Slogan, heard in another loop: "As an adult, I'm a volunteer, not a victim."]

So who done me wrong? Well, I had a bully in my life -- he's what's called a "malignant narcissist." The blame is all on him for his bullying ways, no question. So what part could I possibly play? Well, I used to bait him. I would goad him into arguments so I could basically attempt to bully him back. Great. My "solution" was to get down in the mud with him. How is that decent behavior; how is that "courageous"? Baiting this guy was *my* part. I own that.

I also had a rigid, authoritative father. Some of his "parenting styles" would probably merit intervention these days. LOL! He wasn't very good at it. I was emotionally abused by him. My reaction was to rebel -- but in a sneaky way. For example, he was very strict about boys (not that that's a bad parenting ideology ), so I would take the dog for a walk, but I'd go by my boyfriend's house along the way. I *looked* like I was being an obedient child (walking the dog), but I was defying my father's wishes by sneaking over to a boy's house! I was basically a disobedient, sneaky, lying child! I own that behavior. That's *my* part.

In another OA loop that I'm on, the leader discussed infidelity, and asked us to talk about non-sexual ways in which we could be "unfaithful" to our spouses or family members. One way in which I was "unfaithful" with my first husband was in hoping he would go to an out-of-town meeting so I could be free to indulge in my compulsive eating. He didn't treat me well so I *deserved* to COE (that's what I told myself). So I was going to "cheat on him" with my "lover" -- excess food and sweets. I own that.

These are just a few of the things I could "unload" in my Step Four work. For me, it was a catharsis. The AABB is telling me that unless I get this stuff out of me, I'm doomed to continue my COE life. Slogans for this Step Four work are numerous, but one I like is "Face your stuff or you'll stuff your face." That's why it was important for me to do Step Four thoroughly and honestly. I was being told that this work would lead me out of my miserable COE existance, and I wanted that. It was worth it.

- Susan


Before you begin this assignment, it might help if you read the Step Four Prayer, below. It may help you with the readings and questions.


Dear Higher Power,
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.


And remember, you do not have to share any part of this Step with the loop -- unless I request it specifically -- so keep it private, or work on it with your sponsor's guidance.


A. Step Four says, "thorough, searching inventory..." Why does it have to be "thorough"? Why does it have to be "searching"? Share these answers with the loop.

B. Read Chapter 5, from middle of pg. 63 to the end of the chapter.
1. Do List #1 which begins on pg. 64 (it begins with the last paragraph on page 64 that starts with "Resentment...," and ends at the end of the 2nd paragraph on page 67). Utilize the "chart" on page 65, being sure to write your own chart down. [Don't just do these in your head -- the physical act of writing is important.] This will be about people and institutions that "wronged you." Be thorough. Be specific. Re-read pages 64 to 67 as often as you need to. You do *not* need to share this list with the loop.
2. Pray the "Resentment Prayer" (found in the first paragraph at the top of page 67) for each person/institution in your chart. Pray it as often as you have to till you feel a little softening in your heart for some of these wrong-doers. Share with the loop whether you do feel such a "softening" in your heart toward someone (you needn't mention the "someone," just if you feel a change of heart).
3. Do List #2 which begins on page 67, 3rd paragraph (which begins with, "Referring to our list again..."). What you have to do here is all contained in that 3rd paragraph. Think of the principles we've been learning: HONESTY, HOPE, FAITH, and COURAGE. Do this list as thoroughly as you can. You do *not* need to share this list with the loop.


4. List #3 begins with the last paragraph on page 67. This is about FEAR. Do this list just as described in the AABB, from page 67 through the 3rd full paragraph on page 68. You do *not* need to share this list with the loop unless you wish to.
5. The AABB is basically telling us that FEAR is a THIEF. Why is that? What has fear 'stolen' from you? You may share these two replies with the loop.
6. List #4 begins on page 68, last paragraph, "Now about sex." Read from that paragraph thru the 2nd full paragraph on pg. 70.
[NOTE: The way I did this list was to stop feeling squeamish, and just remind myself that sex is just another aspect of my humanity. If I have sex "issues," they're just like my food "issues" or resentment "issues" -- they're human, and just need to be dealt with in a matter-of-fact way.]
7. Do the list just as they tell you to do in this section. Be fearless! :-) Be honest. Be thorough. Remember, so far, no one has to see this list but you. So far. And keep in mind, you've come a long way -- through 3 other Steps before you got here! You've begun to exercise those principles we've seen: Honesty, Hope, Faith, and now Courage. You can do this. Remember, "if you want what we have, you'll do what we've done." You do *not* have to share this list with the loop.
8. Re-read from the second to last paragraph ("If we have been thorough...") on pg. 70 to the end of the chapter on pg. 71. Share the following answers with the loop:
a.) Have you begun to see the "futility and fatality" of your resentments? Have you begun to see their destructiveness?
b.) Have you "begun to learn tolerance, patience, and good will toward all men, even your enemies"? Can you now see those "enemies" as sick and therefore needing your compassion?
c.) Have you "listed the people you have hurt, and are ready willing to straighten out the past if you can"?
d.) The last passage on page 71 says, "If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning." Have you done those things? Do you feel you are at "the beginning" of this "new" life? Explain.

D. Here are two of the "Promises" of Step Four:
At once we commence to outgrow fear.
We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.
Questions on the Promises:
After you have done your "searching, moral inventory," tell us if either of these Promises is coming true for you. If not, what can you do to increase your likelihood of experiencing these promises?

POST ASSIGNMENT NOTE: When discussing Step Five, the AABB says, "When we decide who is to hear [our written inventory], we waste no time." [AABB p. 75] We won't actually get to Step Five on this loop until *next* Monday. So, for that reason, please feel free to go ahead and do Step Five with your sponsor if it works for the two of you. Don't wait till next Monday if you and your sponsor are ready for Step Five before that. [Be sure to ask your sponsor for the proper reading assignment before you begin.] Alternatively, you *can* wait till my Step Five posting next Monday if that makes sense for your situation. It's a good option since many of these lists take time. [That's why Step Four is in two "parts."]

Note: Hold onto your lists! You'll need them for Steps 5 - 9.


Housekeeping Section

Gee, I'm not sure there are any housekeeping issues this time. :-) Let's face it, if you've gotten this far, you've got your AABB, you've got a sponsor, and you've been working in your notebook/journal! But if you have any questions, don't hesitate to write me on- or off-loop. Just put "Question for Leader" in your subject line.


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