Step Four: Clearing away some confusion

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 59)


If you have ever been in a treatment facility or attended very many meetings, you have likely heard a lot of confusion about Step Four.  You may have heard it is painful or that it takes a long time and a lot of hard work on many pages while you “write your life story” or whatever…and we would like to clear such things up for you.  Step Four is a simple “troubleshooting” process, a step in recovery where we uncover-and-discover “the flaws in our make-up which have caused our failure” (page 64)…and the heaviest or worst pain anyone might experience there could only come from resisting it.  For example: Continued crashing would certainly be painful if a vehicle owner continued failing or refusing to accurately troubleshoot and repair his or her vehicle’s bad brakes, but that pain would not have come from trying to do something about the actual problem at hand by taking the steps required to become free of the pre-existing pains caused by bad brakes.

How long does it take to take Step Four?  In the earliest days of A.A., the Steps were often taken within just a few days.  You might or might not get everything done that quickly unless working side-by-side with someone who has already done that, but ideas such as “one step per year” are completely mis-guided.  So with just a reasonable amount of effort being made, we would guess you might easily accomplish something like “one list per week” over the course of two or three weeks while taking Step Four.

How many pages will you write while taking Step Four?  That will depend upon the lengths of the two (or possibly three) lists you will make and how much you might wish to detail certain things along the way.  But for sure, you will not have to “write a book”…and we actually suggest you do not!  Step Four is about learning, listing and analyzing certain facts or truths about ourselves, not documenting our lives in an autobiographical format for others to later dissect and inventory.

One of the neatest things we happen to like about Step Four comes from our being shown “the key to the future” (page 66) before looking for even the first defect of character!  You are not likely to find that factual experience shared anywhere other than in our A.A. “Big Book”, however, so set aside any kind of “Step Guide” and even our own “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” (12 & 12) if you would like to experience Step Four as first passed along by the very-earliest of A.A. members.

Are you ready to begin?  If so, here we go: Listing our resentments


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