Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

Greeting fellow travelers on this road to recovery! We are now looking at Step 4 -- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This step is taken after we have admitted powerlessness, came to believe in a power greater than ourselves, and made a decision to let that power have the reins in our fight against the disease of compulsive overeating, or as I like to put it: I can't. God can. I think I'll let Him.

We have examined the principles of honesty, hope and faith. Now we are going to look at the principle behind Step 4, which is: Courage. My dictionary defines courage as:

1. the ability to do something that frightens one:
"she called on all her courage to face the ordeal"

  • strength in the face of pain or grief:
    "he fought his illness with great courage"

    synonyms: bravery courageousness pluck pluckiness

    As I read through Step 4 on the OA 12 & 12 with my handy highlighter, I searched for the word "courage," but instead often found the word "fearless," which I believe reflects the principle of courage. Interestingly, a while ago I asked my family and friends to describe me in one word. The word that came up most often was "courageous." Who? Me? I didn't think that fit me at all, so I went to them, especially my own mother, to see why they thought I had courage. I have never done anything heroic in my mind. Turns out that seeking help when you have a problem is viewed as being courageous! Having the desire and ability to reach out to others for help is a way of showing courage. Reminds me of the serenity prayer where we ask for the courage to change. Of course, change can be terrifying; hence, the ability to do something that frightens one.

    Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of one's self is an act of courage because we must face things that frighten us. We pull out the pain and grief of the past in order to look at it. As we continue to work the steps, we will find the way to release all of the pain, grief and fear, but first we simply must face it. As for how we do that, there are a variety of ways that have worked for a variety of people at different times. My first inventory took months to complete. I used the Big Book outline, with the help of my sponsor. My second inventory was written in a much shorter amount of time, as there was not as much "stuff" to uncover. My third inventory was done in a couple of days, in a different, simpler format. My last inventory was driven by the group, and I used worksheets that were helpful.

    The OA 12 and 12 makes clear that there is not really one right way of doing a 4th Step. The important thing is "a commitment to work on the step regularly and faithfully until it is completed." I suggest that you only do this step with the guidance of a sponsor, and that you be willing to do it in whatever way he/she suggests. Willingness seems to be the key. It may take you a few days, two weeks, two months, or a year. If you work on it consistently, even 15 minutes a day, it will get done. Oftentimes we take 2 weeks to talk about this step, but there is actually another step I'd like to spend extra time on, so I'm going to ask that you share some things with us on the loop, and if you need to complete a searching and fearless moral inventory, that you take however long you need to do that, working with your sponsor.

    I would suggest reading Step 4 in the OA 12 and 12. As you read the questions written on pages 34 through 42, take a highlighter or a pen to underline those questions that speak to you specifically. You may want to include these in your inventory, or discuss with your sponsor how to deal directly with those particular questions. It would also be a good idea to read pages 64 to 71 in the AA Big Book to get some insight into 4th Step work. Then, of course, I have some questions for you to answer and share with your sponsors or with the loop.

    1. Have you done a 4th Step in the past?

    2. If you have done one or more inventories, what format(s) did you use?

    3. Why do you feel this step is a necessary one in your recovery?

    4. Do you believe it is important to have complete the first 3 steps before moving onto Step 4? If so, why?

    5. What do you see as the connection between the 4th Step and the principle of Courage?

    Thank you all so much for participating in this study. You are all helping me more than you know. I am grateful for the opportunity to do service in this very exciting way. Thank you for letting me share.


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