The Spiritual Principles of Step Four

Step Four: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

“C-c-c-c-courage!,” whimpers the Cowardly Lion, as he approaches the Dark Forest in The Wizard of Oz. He was afraid of the dark and lacked the courage to move forward. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, Courage is defined as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

None of the prior steps seem as daunting as the Fourth Step. The Fourth Step is about US! None of this other stuff like in Step One where we were admitting or Step Two when we are being restored or Step Three making a decision to blah, blah, blah. To be “searching and fearless,” requires a lot of Courage to look at ourselves and move forward! We do not ever work this step alone. We work this step with our sponsor’s care and guidance.

For Step Four, the Spiritual Principles in the previous three Steps will be called into action. No wonder the 12 Steps are in order for a reason! We need the Willingness to be able to look at ourselves, without reservation. We made it to Step Four because we were willing to follow up on our decision in Step Three to be cared for by the God of our understanding. He hasn’t brought us this far to drop us now!

Step One taught us that “admitting our Powerlessness” was an exercise in Honesty. The searching part of this step is where our Honesty gets a workout! We begin by writing down everything and asking ourselves, “Is this true? Did it really happen this way? If not, what am I leaving out?” And we move on.

Courage kicks into overtime as we write down our deeds without fear. Fear of retribution, fear of vindication, fear of reprisal, fear of being exposed for what we really are: big, fat phonies. The disease had created these great masks of bravado, coping mechanisms or survival skills to bring us to this point of recovery. The Fourth Step exposes these “skills” for what they really are: character defects. An inventory is, just like any good retailer will tell you, taking stock of what’s selling and what’s not. In this case, a moral inventory is taking stock of what’s working for us and what is no longer useful in our new lives.

The Faith and Trust we practiced in Steps Two and Three serve us well here and now. While we’re writing down all the things we may have done, we remember that a loving caring God is present. Some of us like to light a candle during Step Four to be me reminded of His “Presence.” We remember to seek our sponsor’s and friend’s support while working this step. They will gladly guide and encourage us along the way.

The Fourth Step is actually one of the kindest and loving things we can do for ourselves. We must remember this is not a bat to beat ourselves up with, but to be gentle and kind with ourselves during this process of “discovery” and not give up. We go to meetings, we share our fears about this step and they are lessened. We light a candle, say a little prayer “to be Searching and Fearless,” and we move forward out of the dark into the Light. Go to Step Five

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