Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Never, ever kick yourself in the rear for your past. This is NOT how Steps 4-8 of the 12 Steps should be done. Looking at what you did–or were not able to do–admitting it, asking for help from your Higher Power, making amends are all beautiful and important. Doing that will take the chip off your shoulder. But that does NOT mean beating yourself up mentally for your mistakes. FIRST accept the fact that YOU WERE ABUSED. You are working on correcting all that came out of that mess. Beating yourself up more only adds to the problem and gets you no where.

It’s Like The Day Of Atonement

So how should one make a searching and fearless moral inventory? How do you do it without beating yourself up? That is an excellent question. It takes me back quite a few years. When I was growing up, my parents and I would go to synagogue for Yom Kippur, the Day of Attonement in the Jewish calendar. There were quite a few times when you literally had to beat your chest as you recited all your sins! That really made me feel bad. I didn’t want to feel bad and yet, there I was, confronted with all my sins and I just felt awful. Mind you, I was a child. No one explained to me how to do this right! It took me years to learn how to do it without feeling horrible. And here is the secret: Recognizing mistakes is not an indictment against your whole Self.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. When you get that, you’re ok. Let me clarify. Suppose I spilled chocolate sauce on someone at a party, leaving a bad stain. Does that make me a bad person? Does that make me an awful sinner? NO. Absolutely not. What does it make me? A person who made a mistake. And the healing process must involve rectifying the mistake. So, obviously, I had to pay for the dry-cleaning bill.

There’s A Difference Between Bad Judgment and Being Evil

Take another example. Suppose you drive drunk. You hit another car. Someone gets hurt. Does that make you a skunk? No. Very irresponsible, but not evil. What is the rectification? You not only should pay for the repairs, the medical costs beyond insurance. You probably should devote a significant portion of your time visiting accident victims in hospitals and helping them with their legal fights for their compensation, supporting MADD, maybe even with speeches, talking to teenagers about the dangers of drunk driving, etc. Does that undo the damage? Yes and no. In the physical world, it does not. But in the Spiritual world, it begins to repair what you’ve done. The interesting part about the spiritual realm is that as it heals the victim, it also repairs your own soul. Before the repair, your soul was tattered. You, however, were never evil. Your soul was injured, first by your abusers and then by the way you negelected yourself.

So, getting back to our Step 4. The point of the inventory is not to beat ourselves up but to have a clear picture of what we need to attend to so as to begin the repair process which is outlined in the remaining Steps. Now, if you should hate yourself, you are doing this step wrong. Because it is impossible to truly do repairs for others if your own soul is shredded. Does that make sense? Where will the personal energy come from if you are hanging on by a thread? It won’t. You need wholeness yourself in order to accomplish this big job. Taking an inventory of what you did wrong is just that and nothing more. It is not an indictment of Self. Do you see the difference?

So after I figured all that out, when Yom Kippur came I welcomed it as a chance to take stock of myself–so I could be a better person, not so I could put myself down for being so bad. You see? It’s all a matter of perspective. That’s the essence of Step 4. Now mind you, the Steps don’t tell you how to go about the healing process from the abuse you suffered and the constant messages in your head that tell you you are a bad person–the messages that drove you to drink in the first place. So don’t look for that kind of healing in the Steps. You will find more of that elsewhere on this site.

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