The Courage of Step 4
I think Step 4 in the 12 Steps could possibly seem intimidating. To make a “fearless moral inventory of ourselves” can appear that searching and examining the very depths of our psyche and soul is neither hard nor scary. It can be quite the contrary, especially when there are pieces of us that we do not understand or perhaps do not even know that they are there. Then, there are the pieces that we are ashamed of and would like to pretend that they are not there.
If Step 4 intimidates you, be not afraid! If you’ve made it to Step 4, you already have the courage to endure! It is courageous, honest and humbling to admit when you have a problem that you cannot change alone. This act of courage, honesty and humility provides us with an opportunity to understand ourselves more deeply. Two other attributes to consider acquiring is grace and forgiveness. I think as addicts, we have a natural ability to be hard on ourselves and we allow the toxic shame tornado to wreak havoc within our being. One way I have learned to have grace with myself is by being curious about what I do, think and say. I learned about this specific type of thinking from eating disorder expert, Anita Johnston. It allows us to ask ourselves with a kind and forgiving tone, “Hmmm, I wonder why I do this” instead of a judgmental and harsh tone, “Ugh! I’m such an idiot! Why am I like this?” Who wants to take a moral inventory when negative thoughts are being hurled at us like grenades by our own minds? It only makes the immoral things we have done seem that much more daunting. That will not help us to accomplish our goals in recovery.
I remember when I began taking a personal inventory, it became more about who I wanted to become rather than what I did before. That is not to say that I did not take ownership of my past actions because I did. I had to get brutally honest with myself and others, but I also realized that I could not change the past. I could only move onwards and upwards from that point on. Once I developed a moral code and a belief system, I worked on acting on those beliefs. That meant if I made a wrong decision, I thought about how I could improve it instead of beating myself up for making a mistake. I once heard a wise counselor say, “If you make a mistake, make the next best decision.” That is what making a personal and moral inventory is all about. If you get stuck while taking your personal and moral inventory, remember the following:
Have grace with yourself.
Get curious about yourself.
4. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”