Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.

Leader's Share and Step Questions


Courage is: the ability to do something that frightens one or strength in the face of pain or grief.”

I have spent my life in a state of hiding ashamed of who I’m inside. I was hiding by living a double life of addictions that made me feel like someone else. This Step Four uncovers things I have been hiding, even from myself. When the real person inside me comes out of hiding, I will have to deal with some dirt! Making the inventory is a good way to “wash the inside”; some of that washing may involve bathing our life with tears. By uncovering the hidden parts of myself, I will be able to change the outer person including my addictive/compulsive behaviors. At the beginning, rationalization stand excuses were given as I faltered at the prospect of making a honest sadness of making a moral inventory. I needed the “joy of God” to give me strength. I recognized that God’s ability to bring me out of bondage. I have to admit the truth about what brought me into bondage. It might be very well involved the wrongs committed by my parents and other family members. It is all right that I would express my anger and regret over what has been done to me. It is not all right, however, to use this as an excuse for my wrong choices or for staying in bondage. My parents may be partly responsible for bringing me to this point, I am responsible for moving on to a better place for myself. I have ignored my own sins and problems and pointed a finger at ex-husband mostly. I am out of touch with internal affairs because I was still blaming others for moral choices. It was my human nature to blame others as my first line of defense. I have to remember that this is a season of self-examination. I must guard myself against blaming and examine the lives of others. I was in denial. I didn’t deal with sorrow and pain and then I stuffed it down, drowned and ignored it. But it didn’t go away. I needed to accept the sorrow and pain. For that kind of pain and sorrow, God wants me to experience it and then it leads me away from sin and change.

In My Own Words From The Twelve Step Devotionals From The Life Recovery Bible

Step Four is the beginning of a spiritual process that will allow us through the grace of God to retain the positive things and eliminate the negative self-defeating habits that keep us focused on ourselves.

If we have turned to God, He will give us new perspectives. Some of the things we thought were “bragging material” turn out to be connected to self-centeredness.

“The Greek biblical word for sin ‘amara,’ means literally ‘to miss the mark’ like an archer. (It refers to) “doing anything that takes our focus off God (the target), onto ourselves, thinking we are the be-all-and-end-all.”

The “sin” word then is completely appropriate to use when thinking of this step and others that follow, and it also relates to our idea of going from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

Veterans of 12-Step programs usually recommend that one’s fourth step be written. This is because writing things has a way of taking them from the abstract to the concrete. We are forced to put specific names on sins, to own them, and to begin to take responsibility for them. Writing also helps us to extend our thinking.

Why dredge up the past? Isn’t it better off forgotten? No, because it continues to impact our lives today.

Once we recognize where we have gone wrong and take responsibility for our actions, we will be able to put these things in God’s hands through the steps that follow. As we do this, we will understand why we either stayed away or strayed away from God. We will also watch in amazement as God turns our liabilities into assets.

We need to remember that we are on a spiritual -- not a psychological -- journey.

This step is to be “searching and fearless.” We are tough on self and easy on others. We have no control over anyone else’s actions’ finger-pointing and the blame-game keep us wallowing in the mire of the past.

The opposite of fear is faith. Because God is on our side, we are not to fear what we might uncover as we take this step.

Taken from Twelve Steps To A Closer Walk With God by Don Umphrey


Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our food was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.

Let’s turn to (p.64). We started our personal inventory. This was Step Four. First we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more compulsive overeaters than ANYTHING else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.

So now we are going to take stock of the three manifestations of self-will: resentments, fears and our sex conduct or harms toward others. We are going to make columns just like they do in the BB on (p. 64) plus two more that I use to stay clean and abstinent, adding my part in it, and ending with a column of something positive that came from all of this.


This is an example of a resentment inventory and headings that I would like you to use:

I’m resentful at: myself
The Cause (or why): weight gain
Affects my (what): body, mind, soul and spirit
My Part in It: self-esteem, pride and selfish
Something Positive: surrendering to God and meeting you

Affects my (what) is finds that my self-esteem, pocketbook, ambitions, personal relationships, (including sex) security or pride was hurt, threatened or interfered with.

It is a plan that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. But with the compulsive overeater, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, the business of resentment is infinitely, grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of compulsive overeating returns and we eat again. And with us, to eat is to die.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.

Though we did not like the symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man, How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.

Referring to our list again. Putting our minds the wrong others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?

Definitions: These were from Lawrie Cherniack, 2008.

Selfish: Selfish means not only what dictionary says it mean -- wanting things my way for my own purposes or comfort -- but it also means something broader, that it means wanting things my way, period, regardless of my motives.

Dishonest: Dishonesty has three definitions such as telling untruth to others, telling untruths to myself and not telling the truth when the truth should be told.

Self-Seeking: “Seeking myself” in others. It’s like self-esteem. How does this person, institution, or principle in column one define how I feel about myself?

We can also understand it by asking whether with this person or principle or institution it was all about us or whether it was about the other. In that context, self-seeking is putting our sense of selves forward.

Frightened: Asks us how and why we felt any fear in relation to the people, institutions, or principles in column one?

FEAR: This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling?


This is an example of a fear inventory and headings that I would like you to use:

Who/What Do I Fear? Lack Of Intimacy
What Am I Afraid Of? Being vulnerable
What Part of Self Is Affected? Personal Relationships
What Feeling Did I Create In Others? Lack of Self-Esteem
What Are My Character Defects? selfishness

Fear destroys and paralyzes us and keeps us from being the best we can be. Concentrating on and saying the prayer shows us the nature of an amend to be made by helping us focus on the future in the most constructive, rather than destructive way.

The Big Book says: “We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be.” Here is the simple prayer, “God, please remove my fear of ________________, and direct my attention to what you would have me be.”


The purpose of the Sex Conduct Inventory is to figure out how to have a sound relationship right now, in the present, by analyzing out what we did wrong in the past and what we should do in the future.

We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead.

We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised or loathed.

We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing.
This is an example of a sex conduct inventory and headings that I would like you to use:

What Did I Hurt? Rapist
What Did I Do? Lost my virginity
What Part of Self Was Affected? Myself
What Feeling Did I Create In Others? Security and Personal Relationships
What Are My Character Defects? Insecurity and selfishness

Sex Prayer: God mold our sex ideals and help us to live up to them. Give us guidance in the questionable situations, bless us with sanity and strength to do the next right thing in Jesus Name, Amen (or your HP).


The fourth step calls for us to examine our lives up to the present day. Writing this inventory is an important process which tests our commitment to the twelve-step program. As we took an honest look at the past at who we’d been and what we’d done, we began to understand ourselves better. That understanding was beginning of emotional healing! Writing our step-four inventory enabled us to begin cleaning up the messes of the past so we could start live over, afresh. Step four is essential to our recovery from compulsive eating. A process of increasing honesty and self-awareness that will gradually free us from our bondage to self. Our past problems have been controlling our actions and feeling for years. As we face the problems, they lose their power to overwhelm and control us. We MUST change if we are to recover. Change begins with honesty. As we work the fourth step, we develop a new ability to see our own dishonesty and a greater willingness to live by truth. In fact, we’ve learned that delaying the fourth step until we feel we can’t do it “perfectly” only delays our recovery. When our sponsors told us “the important thing is just to DO it,” we didn’t understand. We didn’t realize until after we took the step that perfectionism was one of the troublesome defects of character we needed to get rid of. Many of us have delayed beginning the step four because we didn’t want to do it. We said we were not yet willing, but when it came right down to it, being WILLING, to do the inventory and WANTING to do it two different ways.A simple prayer for willingness works to get us going on the inventory, especially when the prayer is followed by some further action.

FOURTH STEP 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 and I will begin a searching and fearless 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.

AA Big Book - How It Works (p.64-71)
OA 12 Steps and 12 Traditions (p.29-44)


1. What behaviors over my lifetime have been offensive to God?

2. By hiding my problems with image management, how has my shame taken root and grown in my heart? Am I fearful to admit what is there?

3. What truly brought me into bondage of addiction and dependency (what is my responsibility, my part in it)?

4. What is the “log” in my eye, the blind spot that has caused me trouble and given rise to pride, finger-pointing, and eventually addiction?

5. Taking a moral inventory of ourselves the on earth will help to prepare us for the life to come. Is anything standing in the way of my taking action such as pride or fear?

6. In what ways have I avoided facing my sorrow about how my addiction has impacted my life and the lives of others.

7. What have I learned from Step Four?

Gail W.

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