Step Four - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The Big Book tells us CREATION gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn’t be complete human beings. If men and women didn’t exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn’t reproduce, the earth wouldn’t be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires—for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship—are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given.  Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us.  The Big Book explains this step so thoroughly and completely it would be a very good idea to click the highlighted text so you can read it in its entirety yourself.


When we took step three we showed a willingness to trust the Lord. We turned our will and our life over to His care. Now in step 4 we will show a further willingness by making a searching and fearless written moral inventory of our life.  We will summarizing the thoughts, events, emotions and actions of our life, making our inventory as complete as possible.  It is important to put it in writing for use in future steps and to see our inventory in black and white, making it more real.  Since this will be the first inventory ever taken we need to take into consideration our whole life, as far back as we can remember.  Future inventories, which should be done every five years or so, will begin where the last left off.  Keeping each inventory helps us to know where we left off, our most stubborn defects and the progress we have made.

Doing a fearless and thorough inventory of our character defects in our life will not be easy.  Fearless does not mean we won’t have any fear, probably quite the opposite. We will experience many emotions as we examine our life, including embarrassment, shame, fear or guilt.  A lot of old feelings may also come to the surface, feelings we thought were gone.  Fearless means we will not let our fears stop us from being thorough in the inventory process. In this step, we commit to rigorous honesty as we focus on events in our life, including our own weaknesses and not anyone else’s.

In the past we probably justified bad behavior and blamed other people for the problems we created. Now we will begin to take responsibility for our past and current actions & choices by acknowledging painful, embarrassing, or difficult events, thoughts, emotions, or actions.  By acknowledging those destructive elements in our lives we have taken the first step toward correcting them.

For me, it was all a little overwhelming.  I had no clue where to even begin.  I decided to list each person in my life and think through our relationship from the beginning.  Some people work through their inventory by places they have lived, others have done it by their age and thinking what took place that year.

As we work through our inventory we must look past our behaviors and examine the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that led to those behaviors, these are the roots.  Unless we examine all our tendencies toward fear, pride, resentment, anger, self-will and self-pity we are destined to repeat the negative cycle in our lives.

Still have misgivings or doubts?  Look back on Step Three.