Step Four: Listing our resentments

In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper…”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 64)

Aside from confusion, the second obstacle some of us have encountered at Step Four has been in the short-sighted belief we had no resentments. If that might be your own case, that is fine…just proceed by making a list of “people, institutions or principles” (page 64) with whom you are or have ever been angry. Anger is a natural and normal human emotion each of us has experienced or felt in relation to one or another “person, place or thing” at one time or another…

…and remember, we are not yet looking for any defects of character! Looking for our defects comes later while making our second list in Step Four. So for now, and while leaving an empty line or two between names as you go, just begin this first list as in the example shared on page 65 in our book:

We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.”

Here is how your list might look as you get started:


Resentment List - Column 1


If you are having any difficulty here, just think of the “complaints” you have had (and might still have) against other people and things they have said or done (or have possibly not said or done in relation to yourself) that have bothered you over the years. Also, do not be concerned about how few or how many names you might have at the moment. Just begin a listing of your memories or “grudges” against others that come to mind…then add a brief description in Column Two:


Resentment List - Column 2


Do you see Step Four’s simplicity so far? The only thing new about writing theses things down (at least for most of us) is the fact we are now writing them down! These are the various complaints we have already been holding inside ourselves or “sharing” with anyone who might (either willingly or otherwise) listen for a bit at one time or another…such as while we were “crying in our beer”, so to speak, or when we were trying to rationalize or to justify (either to ourselves or to anyone else such as an employer or a judge) our personal actions or retaliations against other people and their doings (or even against the entire world) whenever we had been harmed or felt threatened. So whether you might call this your resentment list, your “grudge list” or simply a list of your personal complaints against this world and its people, the important thing here is to make a list of names and the actions of others that have been troubling you so you will have what you need to continue on in the Steps.

Before moving along to Column Three, we would like to share with you a little about where all of this is headed…and we begin with this excerpt from page 25 in our Basic Text:

“…deep and effective spiritual experiences…have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe.”

Or as Dr. Carl Jung had once mentioned while essentially suggesting we alcoholics “Go see God” if we wish to find permanent recovery from chronic alcoholism:

“…vital spiritual experiences…huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men (and women) are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.” (page 27)

Step Four is the beginning of some specific action we take with that kind of goal in mind, and here is a preview of the upcoming “key to the future” we have mentioned:


Resentment Prayer Purpose

note: The above is from the Third Edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous”
and might have a different page number in your own copy of our book.

Notice that part about “peace of mind in exact proportion to the peace of mind (we) bring into the lives of other people.” You might eventually word that in your own way, but here is some related action many of us have taken to begin experiencing true freedom from our lives being controlled by our own anger and resentment as in the past:


Resentment Prayer


You can begin doing that for yourself right now, if you wish. One-by-one, begin praying for the people on your resentment list. Ask for their health, their prosperity and their happiness just as you might wish to know those things for yourself in life. Ask for the people you have resented to have only good things just as you naturally seek them. But if you would rather wait until a bit later in Step Four before beginning to develop this new attitude toward others, that will be fine also.

Column Three is where we begin learning more about ourselves by listing our natural instincts and desires affected by the attitudes and actions of others…

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