Step 4

The Big Book likens our “searching and fearless moral inventory” to a shopkeeper’s inventory of salable stock. It states that a “business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke.” Similarly, without taking an honest appraisal of our lives we will soon find ourselves spiritually, morally (and often financially) bankrupt.

My dad is a bit of a “jack of all trades” and during the majority of my formative years he ran a business which bought and sold used farm equipment. I was young and kept my distance as best I could, but our lives as a family largely centered around his deals. Heaven forbid someone call while he was out and refuse to leave a phone number with the child who answered the phone (I still absolutely loathe answering the phone to this day).

I do understand that people love a good deal and tend to abhor spending any significant amount of money on someone else’s sloppy seconds. At the same time, one must measure the value of a thing according to the real potential sale, taking into account supply and demand. Even if I buy a widget for $100 and put another $50 worth of labor into restoring it, that’s no guarantee that someone will be willing to pay even the $150 I would need to recoup my direct cost. Many times, I bore witness to my dad’s frustration that potential buyers would not come near his asking prices. And still today, his lot is littered with machinery gone to rust because of his inability to see that what he valued so much did not have the same worth in the outside world.

In step 4, we are asked to look over our lives to find the character traits and patterns of behavior on which we have placed incorrect values. Perhaps our confidence is actually cockiness or our selflessness is closer to martyrdom. And exactly who taught us that living simply and relying on God is a bad thing!? When I set my beliefs, thoughts and actions down on paper, I was able to see that I had placed too much importance on things that were dragging me down and largely ignored the good things in me which the world told me were lame. By seeking out how these false values had led me to patterns of negative behavior, I was able to see these presumed assets for the liabilities they truly were.

Step 2 taught me I’d been living my life directed by someone who was insane. Why should I be surprised that this crazy person made bad decisions? No, if I were to live by God’s Will instead of my own, I had to find out just how deep this rabbit hole went. I had to search every aspect of my life, no matter how scared I may be of what I may find, to see what all I was doing to shoot myself in the foot. Most everything I’ve found leads back to the same few fears, but I act on those fears in a myriad of ways, so I need to keep searching until I can locate them all. No, I won’t find them all the first time through, but from this point on I must be prepared to turn over every single rock to continue the search for these things that trip me up in my everyday life.

“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” – Revelation 3:17 (NLT).

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One response to “Step 4”

  1. carrythemessage says :

    This is a wonderful way of looking at this step. I love the example of your dad and his rusting lot there. Very visual! As you mentioned, it took me a second inventory to get to the things that I missed first time around, and like you mentioned, fears dominated. Still do. Step 10 keeps the resentments away in the here and now. But step 4 certainly has me digging at times, even when I don’t expect to be. I have been lax in turning over those rocks, so what is interesting is that now in my sugar thing, I am looking at the steps in a fresh and different way. Applying it to another poisonous substance that while isn’t gonna get me arrested, is still enough to bring about my old habits and thoughts and behaviours. Strange yet not strange how that works. So it’s great for me to read your series as I continue to see things in a new light.


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