Category Archives: Here Are The Steps We Took

Step Four: The key to the future

We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future.
We were prepared to look at (all of this) from an entirely different angle.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 66)


We are ultimately headed toward new attitudes (“constant thought of others”) and actions (“how we can help meet their needs”) stemming from spiritual principles such as summarized here:

“Most of us sense that real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us more useful to others. Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.” (pages 19-20)
“At the moment (Steps Four through Nine) we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” (page 77)
“Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle.” (page 128)

And to help us eventually get there, we are making a beginning by learning some things about ourselves, life and right living while seeking freedom from anger and resentment. While we had been practicing “constant thought of ourselves and how we can get our own needs met” in the past, “we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it.” (page 25) So now:

“We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look at it from an entirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us.” (page 66)

How is it that “the world and its people really dominated us”? First, we human beings all have the natural instincts, desires and needs we have listed in Column Three, and we have been trying to get other people to serve us while we have been practicing “constant thought of self and how we can get our own needs met”…and all of that has left us empty-handed in a never-ending stream of frustration and misery ultimately driving us back to alcohol for relief.

“In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.”

Next, did you notice “fancied or real” in the above? We have listed the attitudes and actions of others that have been the targets of our past anger and resentment, but the fact we have felt upset or hurt does not guarantee those attitudes and actions of others have always actually been wrong. For example:

Resentment List - Fancied

The fact that someone might get someone else’s job does not prove any wrong-doing on the part of anyone else, and neither does the fact that someone had been locked up to keep him from drinking himself to death. Then, is an employer automatically being unreasonable, unjust and overbearing while reprimanding us if we do not show up for work on-time every day and do what we have been hired to do? How about a wife wanting the family home in her own name before her alcoholic spouse might drink it away? There certainly are right ways and wrong ways for those kinds of things to be done, but the fact that we are affected by the actions of other people and end up angry and resentful does not prove other people have actually committed wrong-doings. Rather, the overall point here is that our own attitudes and actions helping to fuel our anger and resentment have not been making life any better either for ourselves or for anyone else.

We will learn more about discerning right from wrong as practiced anywhere by anyone as we continue on in our new “constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs” (page 20) manner of living, but for now we are getting started by learning new attitudes and actions toward other people even though some of them might actually have committed true wrongs against us:

“This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.” (page 66)

We are not judging and condemning others while pondering this possibility of spiritual sickness, we are simply recognizing the fact that spiritual sickness lies behind wrong attitudes and actions.

“Though we did not like their symptoms (of possible spiritual sickness) and the way these (attitudes and actions listed in Column Two) disturbed us…” (page 67)

Let us give some careful thought to the second part of that:

“Though we did not like…the way these (attitudes and actions listed in Column Two) disturbed us…”

We are not trying to become free of being affected by the attitudes and actions of other people. To do that, we would have to either find a way to only ever experience good things from others or else become completely self-sufficient and never be dependent upon this world or other people at all. So while dealing with this matter of our past-or-present anger and resentment, and even though we have yet to look for any of our defects of character, we say this:

“…(other people), like ourselves, were (spiritually) sick…(so we) asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.”

Rather than trying to remove or expel offensive people and/or their wrong-doings from our lives, we are now working toward being able to display for others the kind of witness for which we have prayed at Step Three:

“Relieve me of the bondage of (self-sufficiency, selfishness and/or self-centeredness), that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties (over the frustrations of my natural human instincts and desires), that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power [to deliver], Thy Love [in kindness], and Thy Way of life [in right fellowship with others and worship of You in place of worship of self].” (Step Three)

And so:

“When a person (next) offended (us) we said to ourselves, ‘This is a (spiritually) sick man (or woman). How can I be helpful to him (or to her)? God save me from being angry (and/or from wrongly acting in or upon my anger). Thy will be done.’
“We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.”

Consider these two excerpts once again:

Resentment Prayer Purpose

Resentment Prayer

We will see all of this again later and in more detail at Step Eleven:

“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—that where there is hatred, I may bring love—that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness—that where there is discord, I may bring harmony—that where there is error, I may bring truth—that where there is doubt, I may bring faith—that where there is despair, I may bring hope—that where there are shadows, I may bring light—that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted—to understand, than to be understood—to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.” (Prayer of Saint Francis)

Here is the same kind of prayer in the form of song:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Jan-Lee Music

“Let there be peace…and let it begin with me.” We hope to help burn that prayer and its principles into your mind. In the past, some of us have actually enjoyed-and-employed our resentment-driven anger as a source of energy in life, but now the futility and our resulting pain of doing so have driven us to seek a new way. No matter how loudly our ego and/or pride might complain, self-reliance for security and comfort must now be replaced by reliance upon the ways of the One who created us, and that means our old attitude or idea of “constant thought of self and how we can get our needs met” must now be abandoned in favor of “constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” (page 20)…

…and now with that new attitude and approach to life and right relationships in place, we next begin looking for our own wrong-doings and defects of character still standing in the way of the very best our Maker intends for ourselves and others around us.


Step Four: Looking for our own mistakes and defects

Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done,
we resolutely looked for our own mistakes
.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 67)


Here in Step Four is where we make “a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends.” (page 76)  To begin, most of us just copy the names from Column One of our resentment list over into Column One of our new “Harms List”.  For example:

 

Harms List - Column 1

 

Column Two might seem a bit difficult at first, but take a look at each of your own troubled interactions in life as you have known it (such as on your resentment list) and recognize where you have not treated others as you would have wanted or expected them to treat you.  And if you wish, you can actually begin with Column Three here:

“Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?” (page 67)

Sometimes it can help to list a known defect first, then add a bit of detail in Column Two…and always keep this in mind:

“Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the (defects of the) other person involved entirely.  Where were we to blame?  The inventory was ours, not the other (person’s).”

Some of us have had difficulty here at first because we have long been accustomed to rationalizing and presuming to self-justify our own attitudes and actions in the light of the how other people have treated us.  So-called “paybacks” would be one symptom of that kind of old thinking in need of replacement, and our past manipulative behaviours attached to selfishness, self-centeredness or self-reliance would be another.  So, the challenge here is to begin seeing where and how our past attitudes and actions have brought no more actual good into the lives of others than the wrong attitudes and actions of others might have brought into our own.  One of the prayers we have mentioned in reference to “the key to the future” can help provide some useful questions here:

Where there has been hatred, have I been bringing love?
Where there has been wrong, have I shown the spirit of forgiveness?
Have I been bringing harmony where there is discord?
Have I been sharing truth where there is error?
Where there has been doubt, how and why have I failed to bear witness of faith?
Where there has been despair, how and why have I failed to bring hope?
Have I been using my energies to bring light where there are shadows?
Have I been bringing joy into the lives of others where there is sadness?
Where have I been seeking more to be comforted than to comfort?
Where have I wished more to be understood than to be understanding?
Where and how have I sought more love than I have been willing to offer?

“When we saw our faults we listed them.  We placed them before us in black and white.”

Faults, defects, wrongs, shortcomings, harms…  There is no need to feel intimidated by such words being encountered anywhere in the Steps, and nothing in Step Four is any kind of “rap sheet” listing charges or evidence to be used against us.  The idea here is to just take a clear and honest look at how and where our past attitudes and actions toward other people have not been what God as you understand God would have wanted for those people, and to then list in Column Two our wrong-doings in need of amends as we learn to think and act differently in the future.  For those of us who have been rather aggressive in life at the expense of others, this list can be fairly lengthy.  For others of us, this harms list might not be long at all.  But for all of us, making this list can help us see where our past attitudes and actions have fallen short of the spiritual ideal where we human beings truly care about each other and share and work together in ways that are best for all.

What are our defects and/or shortcomings to be listed in Column Three?  Here is a list used by many of us, and always keep this principle from page 63 in mind: “The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation…”

Ego amounts to the delusion of self-sufficiency and believing we can successfully manage our own lives well;
Fear can represent an unwillingness to believe God as you understand God actually can and will do for us what we could never have done for ourselves;
Pride or vanity is excessive belief in one’s own abilities or knowledge of one kind or another;
Ignorance (lack of knowledge) can lead to varieties of wrong attitudes and/or actions;
Selfishness amounts to considering oneself above, ahead of or at the expense of others;
Self-centeredness is similar in believing any or all of life should revolve around oneself;
Envy is ill feeling either toward or in the presence of someone who has something we do not have;
Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than we actually need or require for life;
Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body;
Anger can be a troublesome emotion producing wrath;
Greed or covetousness and self-seeking stem from an excessive or mis-directed desire (instinct) for material wealth or gain (when that excess is at the expense of others);
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

The goal at Column Three is to discover and list our inherent or underlying personal characteristics or traits that have been self-defeating in the past as well as harmful to others, and are therefore in need of being “cast out” (page 72) by way of actually being replaced by new characteristics and traits as we continue on in the Steps…and along that kind of line, this next sentence in Step Four in our Basic Text (“Alcoholics Anonymous”) is clearly indicative of Steps Five and Eight…

“We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.” (page 67)

 …thereby helping to show the overall flow and interconnection of spiritual principles and actions practiced by the earliest of A.A. members before our program of recovery was later codified and numbered as “the Twelve Steps” (see Forewords to 12 & 12).  So while the present focus of Step Four is to list our own wrong actions and character defects, it is certainly fine if you might wish to simultaneously admit them “to God, to ourselves, and to another human being”, to become willing to make amends wherever possible and to begin living a new way — “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” (page 20) — even right now as you do these things to “join us…in the Fellowship of the Spirit.” (page 164)

Next in Step Four, “We reviewed our fears thoroughly…even though (or even if) we had no resentment in connection with them.” (page 68)


Step Four: We reviewed our fears thoroughly

We reviewed our fears thoroughlyWe put them on paper even though we had no resentment in connection with them.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 68)


“Notice that the word ‘fear’ is bracketed alongside (our) difficulties…”

Resentment List - Fear

You can, if you wish, do the same on your own resentment list.  Or if you prefer, you can begin a similar-but-separate list dealing specifically with fear.  Overall, the purpose here is to look and to see where fear has been a factor in any or all of our past attitudes and actions in life…and to begin learning how we can now re-direct the measure of faith granted to each of us at the time of our creation.  For in fact, placing our faith either in or upon ourselves had not been working well at all.

“[Fear is an emotion that] somehow touches about every aspect of our lives…the fabric of our existence was shot through with it.” (page 67)

How so?  Either we “feel afraid” of losing something we already have, or else we are afraid we might never have something we either want or believe we truly need.  To try to help analyze this matter of fear:

Most everyone knows something such as a venomous snakebite can cause a loss of life, but many of us do not know — ignorance (lack of knowledge) and fear often go hand-in-hand — how to avoid harmful or deadly encounters in the first place or what is best to actually do either while or after experiencing one.  All considered concerning any kind of danger in life, there can be a certain level of “healthy fear” (common sense at the level of intellect) that is logical, sane and even necessary…but then what can we do today to keep from being driven or controlled by overwhelming fear while facing an immediate danger or harm tomorrow?  Shall we attempt to isolate ourselves away from all dangerous reptiles, animals or even people?  Shall we take deadly creatures in as pets or “companions” so we can try to win their favor by trying to satisfy their own instincts and desires in efforts to comfort ourselves with a sense of situational or circumstantial dominance, due or control?  Either way, via isolation or endless “people-pleasing”, would we not eventually discover our having (again) acted in fear-driven self-reliance had really only (again) “set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune…(and that) we, ourselves, (had again) set the ball rolling?” (page 67)

As we consider our fears here in Step Four, an overall goal is to see our need to turn away from any form of self-reliance as well as away from having any mere emotion (such as fear) serve as a guiding force in our lives.  And so, and as we have been doing in the above…

“We reviewed our fears thoroughly…put them on paper…asked ourselves why we had them.  Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us?”

It might sometimes seem like this matter of fear and self-reliance is a question such as that of the chicken and the egg — Which was first? — but we have discovered self-reliance is the culprit here, begetting even the ever-growing bevy of new fears ultimately stemming from the pains any human being might experience as a result of self-reliance.  So, it now makes complete sense to us that the first step in our recoveries required an uncompromised awareness, acceptance and admission of our complete powerlessness and inability to manage our own lives into any kind of state even close to “happy, joyous, and free.” (page 133)  We had certainly given life our very best self-reliant shots (efforts), of course, but now we know…

“Perhaps there is a better way…a different basis…trusting and relying upon…infinite God rather than our finite selves.” (page 68)

Our natural human instincts and desires have not changed.  We all still need food, clothing, shelter, companionship and so on while still needing, wanting and loving to be (or to feel) needed, wanted and loved amongst our fellow human beings…and we are still making sincere efforts along those very lines.  However, we are now doing that as we believe God as you understand God would have us do, and that means “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” in place of our ego-, fear-, pride- and/or ignorance-driven selfishness, self-centeredness and self-reliance of our pasts.  Today, and in place of anything like that, we willingly accept and actively live by this:

“We are in the world to play the role (God as you understand God) assigns (rather than in any way continuing to try to live in self-reliant ‘worship’ of ourselves or any other human entity).  Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us (in place of our own thinking), and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity…”

 …and the result of that kind of “sufficient substitute for alcohol” (page 152) in the face of calamity or difficulty in life is exactly what we had been seeking either almost as soon as or even before we had heard the original A.A. message of permanent recovery from chronic alcoholism.  Truly, our Creator (pages 25, 68, 72, 75, 83) is now “doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” (page 84)

People around us do not always understand and philosophically accept our new manner of living, and that fact can occasionally be discouraging for some of us.  When others try to congratulate us for staying sober, for example, and we say God alone deserves the credit for our recoveries, they sometimes roll their eyes a bit or even ridicule or attack us while feeling threatened by our spiritual experiences and awakenings they do not yet know for themselves.  But overall, and now that we know the truth of “Trust in God and clean house” (page 98) in place of self-reliance only making messes of our lives…

“We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh (at least at ourselves who used to) think spirituality the way of weakness.  Paradoxically, it is the way of strength.  The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage.  All men of faith have courage.  They trust their God.” (page 58)

Beyond “trying to put our lives in order” (page 77) here in this moment, there is yet an even larger goal before us as we take these Twelve Steps to find permanent recovery:

“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” (page 77)

And so, our text continues even at Step Four…

“We never apologize for God.  Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do.” (page 68)

That is what we had prayed at Step Three…

“Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.” (page 63)

…and now we are beginning to cooperate with the transformational process that can make that possible.  Where our past lives had born hopeless witness of self-reliance, our new lives can now begin bearing hopeful witness of reliance upon God for bringing about “a transformation of thought and attitude” required to “get over drinking” (page 143).  Where many of us had once believed “Fear is a lack of faith”, we now know the debilitating fear we are analyzing here was a manifestation of our faith having been mis-placed either in or upon our finite and powerless selves.  Few of us, if any, had been aware of that at the time, of course, but now our inventory is helping us to see and understand how “self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us” (page 64).  And so…

“We ask (God) to remove our fear and (or as we) direct our attention (faith) to (Him and) what He would have us be.  At once, we commence to outgrow fear.” (page 68)

Such is the way of faith first experienced and shared by the earliest of A.A. members, and that is what always works for people like us.

 

While being fearless and thorough as we complete Step Four, most of us needed a bit of sexual overhauling


Step Four: A bit of sexual overhauling

Now about sex. Many of us need an overhauling there.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 68)


Here in Step Four, we are working at seeing ourselves as we have been in the past and how to now begin fitting ourselves to becoming what God as you understand God would have us be in relation to satisfactions of the natural human desires, instincts and ambitions shared by all people.  Where we had been employing our own ideas and self-reliance in search of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves in life, we are now learning to practice “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” (page 20) while relying upon God and His ways…and yes, we do mention those things a lot!  After all, those principles are at the very core of the message we carry…

“…a way out on which we can…join in brotherly and harmonious action (in life)…the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.” (page 17)

…and some of us have been a bit “thicker” than others in the skull department.  So, these new ideas had at first been rather foreign to us and easily forgettable until being or becoming fully-rooted in our minds…and that is why we mention them often here, and just as first done for us!

“We try to be sensible on this question (of sex and/or sexual overhaul).  It’s so easy to get way off the track.” (page 68)

Our purpose here is not to discuss or debate sexual preferences or personal lifestyle choices.  Whether considering sexual relations for pleasure, for procreation or even for both at once, our purpose here is to try to bring into view “a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life” (page 69) where we and others will no longer be wronged or hurt by whatever we do or do not do sexually.  And so:

“We reviewed our own conduct over the years past.   Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate?” (page 69)

If a sexual partner of your past does not already appear on your list of harms to others and his or her name actually should be there, right now might be a good time to be sure about this:

“We subjected each relation to this test – was it selfish or not?”

If your only honest answer there is “Yes, it was selfish” (as in ‘Constant thought of myself and how can I get what I want?’), then be sure the other person’s name appears on your list of people hurt by your past conduct.  The fact that some of our past actions in life have been related to sex does not change anything we are doing here in Step Four.  Some of us have used sex to dishonestly extract things from other people, or at other times we have inconsiderately used someone or others during certain sexual activities that were really nothing other or better than what we might now call “interpersonal masturbation”.  No matter how justified we might have believed ourselves to be at one time or another, the fact remains (at least for some of us) that “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” had seldom been anywhere nearby during the sexual relations of our pasts.  So again:

“Whom had we hurt?  Did we (or where did we) unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness?  Where were we (or where we were) at fault (in committing a wrong or harm against another human being), what should we have done instead?  We got this all down on paper and looked at it.
“In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life…(asking) God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them.”

What about “sex for hire” or commitment-free “consensual sex” between casual acquaintances or even close friends?  We believe those kinds of “questionables” might best be answered here:

“To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing.  If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others.  We think of their needs and work for them.  This takes us out of ourselves.  It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.” (page 70)

Never are we asked to be rid of our natural human instincts and desires.  Rather, we are asking to be shown what we might be enabled to do in order that everyone’s instincts and desires might ultimately be met without anything ever being done at the unwilling or unfruitful expense of others.  So, there are times when we must set some of our own ambitions or desires aside in favor of what is best for others…

“Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs…when to (again) yield (to our selfishness, self-centeredness or self-reliance of the past) would (again only) mean (more) heartache (either for ourselves or for others, all around).” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”)

“Simple, but not easy”, we have heard.  We must now “turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.” (“Bill’s Story”, page 14)

“Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble?  Does this mean we are going to get drunk?  Some people tell us so.  But this is only a half-truth.  It depends on us and on our (willingness to continue learning new) motives.  If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson.  If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink.” (page 70)

At first glance, some of the above can sound like some kind of punishment will be imposed upon us if we do not act or perform perfectly from this point onward.  However, many of us have now come to understand all of this is really more a matter of simply learning to recognize and remain upon a path of life rather than wandering off on yet another branch of the one that had already been leading us to death.  Many religions and/or denominations — “We represent no particular faith or denomination.  We are dealing only with general principles…” (pages 93-94) — seem to speak of some kind of ultimate punishment for continual and non-repentant evil-doers, but our immediate concern is only about learning to live in a way the same folks often say can be beneficial today as well as eternally.  And so, and with either thought in your own mind, we now suggest something like this:

“Choose your path for its experience or destination rather than by the depth of its rut.”
–unknown

Before moving along to Step Five, our next bit of shared experience has to do with being sure we have been thorough while taking Step Four.


Step Four: Being sure we have been thorough

If we have been thorough about our personal inventory…”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 70)


1) “…we have written down a lot.
2) “We have listed and analyzed our resentments.
3) “We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality.
4) “We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness.
5) “We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.
6) “We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.”

Just as while developing a desire to stop drinking because we had lost all control and alcohol had been killing us, we began Step Four in need of being freed of anger and resentment leading us back to drinking.  Having completed Step Four, we now understand why our very lives actually do depend upon “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs”, and we now have a list of people who will be some of the first to experience our practice of new ways.

“In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him.” (pages 70-71)

How does Step Four help convince us that God as you understand God truly does have a better way for us than our own, and that He both can and will remove from us whatever self-will has previously blocked us from experiencing, offering and sharing His very best for all people?  If you have not already tried a bit of “the key to the future”, here it is once again:

Resentment Prayer Purpose

Resentment Prayer

“If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning.  That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.” (end of Step Four)

Many of us have heard people talk about whether we alcoholics are bad people needing to become good, or just sick people in need of getting well.  We have sometimes wondered about those kind of things ourselves, and we now believe Step Four has helped us sort all of that out.  As shared in our Basic Text: Spiritually sick people commit wrongs and harms against others, and that is bad.  So for our own bad actions to be replaced by good ones, we suffering alcoholics, and just like any other spiritually-sick humans, needed to discover and to learn to live within spiritual wellness.  Pretty simple, eh?!  And of course, and as variously described in whatever words, all of that is what all the Steps are all about:

“A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.” (Forewords to “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“)


Step Five: Admitting the exact nature of our wrongs

Admitted to God,
to ourselves,
and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 59)

Humility and transparency within “the shared honesty of mutual vulnerability openly acknowledged” (Ernest Kurtz) while on a spiritual pathway truly going somewhere.

First of “The Four Absolutes“: Honesty.


To begin, here is some perspective (as mentioned at Step Six) in relation to Step Five:
“At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order.  But this is not an end in itself.  Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us. ” (“A.A.”, page 77)  And since a well-done Step Four is a prerequisite or “something required as a prior condition so whatever is next can happen” (Webster):
1. Have you thoroughly analyzed your resentments?
2. Have you begun to comprehend their futility and fatality, and to see their terrible destructiveness in the lives of all?
3. Have you learned of and begun to practice tolerance, patience and good will toward all people, even your enemies?
4. Have you listed the people hurt by your past conduct reviewed so far, and have you become at least willing to straighten out whatever you can?
If not, please send an e-mail and one of us will help you fully prepare for what Step Five is all about.

For people either familiar with or inclined toward religious “confession”, it is important to understand Step Five is about something far beyond merely reading, reciting or admitting to a “rap sheet” of past wrongs or “sins” or whatever other word any of us might wish to use there.  Instead, Step Five is about “the exact nature” — the inherent characteristic — of our past moral character — dealing with the immorality — behind our past wrongs and the harm caused to others as results of wrong attitudes and actions.

For people who like the sound of “We are sick people trying to get well, not bad people trying to become good”, it is now time to identify, comprehend and turn away from the deceptiveness of that kind of temporal or carnal psycho-babble wordplay.  Yes, we are sick people trying to get well, and our sickness to be overcome by taking these Steps is our spiritual sickness (pages 64, 66-67) that has in the past been the selfish, self-willed source of our past immoral or ungodly — harmful to others — attitudes and actions.

Next notice these three objectives we have here before us on the table:
Admitted to God the exact nature of our wrongs;
Admitted to ourselves (oneself) the exact nature of our wrongs;
Admitted to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Does that help clarify the subject and points of this Step?  We have in the past had certain views of ourselves, typically victims crying for justice and restitution rather than perpetrators seeking mercy and forgiveness, and now the time has come for seeing and knowing ourselves as our Sovereign Creator knows us…

…and to help make that possible (bearable), we are sharing all we have learned so far with a fellow human being who has in his or her own time already been just as fearless, thorough, humble and transparent about these very same spiritual deficiencies.

Are you keeping in mind the overall goal “to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us”?  And, the suggestion of that kind of living comes to us from single-minded people who also share these facts of their common experience:

“…wrecked in the same vessel…restored and united under one God…hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others…”
“…a common solution…a way out on which we can absolutely agree…join in brotherly and harmonious action…the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.” (pages 161, 17)

Ponder all of that for a moment.  The great news we carry, the A.A. message we have for sharing with the next alcoholic is one of complete unity within a fellowship of people who first “admitted complete defeat” and have since, in effect, “been raised from the dead…from the ‘scrap heap’ to a level of life better than the best [we] had ever known!” (page 11)  Who in his or her thereby-transformed mind would ever even think of turning back away from that in favor of a bottle?!  No, “Seemingly he could not drink even if he would.  God had restored his sanity.” (page 57)  Step Five helps bring that about.

Our Basic Text, the A.A. “Big Book”, is all about right worship of our Maker in place of our past worships of self, right views of ourselves in place of all ego or pride and about right fellowship — spiritual fellowship — with others in this world around us.  Having come thus far, we now begin actually getting “Into Action” here at Step Five…

“Be quick to see where religious people are right.
Make use of what they offer.” (page 87)

…and may we all ever yet continue to abandon as much of ourselves as we can possibly know and understand (Steps Four and Ten) to as much of our Maker as we can possibly know and understand (Steps Nine, Ten and Eleven)…and let us all do that together (Step Twelve) for the sake of still others with assurance we each-and-all actually can learn, mature, grow and “endure to the end” together just as our Maker would truly have us.

“Father, my only desire is to delight in you, and to delight only in you.  My past delights in myself and in trying to have things as I would have them only caused trouble for myself and others, so my desire now is to delight in you, and to ever delight only in you.”

Such is the Spirit of Step Five as we now pursue living in complete transparency.