Retired Pastor Pat Duffin,
High Prairie Christian Centre
The Fourth Step of Recovery says, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
This is a very easy step on which to get stuck. Embracing the self-deceiving strategy of denial and avoidance brings us to a standstill. Preferring the age-old device of ‘paralysis of analysis’ rather than the hard work of examining ourselves and facing the truth, we think we are making progress so long as we are still studying this step and ourselves.
This permits us to procrastinate for years while we profess to be in a quandary trying to sort out the differences between our character defects and our personal shortcomings. Years are lost to exhaustive tests for personal interests, aptitudes, personality traits and a host of other self-indulgent surveys. What we are actually doing is dodging the simple yet daunting confrontation with the truth that needs to take place. If you are serious this step need take no more than an hour or two.
This step needs to be understood in the context of having just “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God…”
By now we realize all the steps that follow are in support of that Third Step. Each of the 12 Steps are the pathway to achieving our goal of surrendering our lives to God and learning to live a spiritual way of life.
So, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
We make a fearless [courageous] moral examination of our conscience and our conduct. We make a list of the things we have done wrong and the people we have wronged.
If we can’t remember certain things because of blackouts or too much time gone by, we can go and humbly ask those closest to us. We can also ask those who may have been negatively impacted by our drinking, if they are willing. It’s a spiritual program of recovery, not a psychological one. We set ourselves up for failure if we do not make that critical distinction. Having made the decision to pursue a spiritual way of living, we continue to press on in the natural progression to fulfill those intentions.
To live a full and satisfying spiritual life, it is necessary to come to terms with the unvarnished type of person we are, and to deal with the wrongs for which we need to repent and repair. At the least we make amends wherever possible. What must follow is a necessary searching and fearless moral self-inventory of bad things we have done, wrongs we have committed, people we have hurt, and failures in duty and responsibility by action or omission. In short – the sins we have committed, the guilt we hold, the judgment of God that we have earned and the justice we deserve.
It must be searching. It must be a hard, thorough and deep look into our minds, hearts and lives. It includes why we are angry, why we hold resentments and why others might be angry or resentful toward us. We must understand on a very deep level how badly we have hurt others, how wrong we have been, and how we have avoided our responsibilities.
It must be fearless. We must confront the bald-faced truth about who we are and the harm we have caused. Recognizing the truth, we must bravely accept our moral duty for what we have done and our responsibility to right the wrongs wherever the door is open to do so.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Repairing the past and making amends comes in Steps 5 and beyond. We have more than enough on our plate to process right now. It is a huge step recognizing and acknowledging the wreckage we have created and understanding how we have injured others.
As we come to terms with the harms we have done to others, we may need some professional assistance from a medical doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor or clergy. Remember, faith does not despise the benefits of science or what trained helpers can offer. We need to keep a healthy balance between the three-fold aspects of our being – the physical, mental, and spiritual. It is a mistake to neglect any of those three areas or to over-emphasize one over the others.
There are legitimate areas where health issues can hinder recovery and additional support is required. Please do get the help you need, but always keep in mind that ultimate healing occurs in the spirit and that is where we will find recovery and freedom.
To be whole, we need to be healthy in all three spheres of being. As we take care of our spiritual needs, we will be amazed at how so many other things fall into place because we now have a power greater than ourselves helping and guiding the way.
Next week: Catholic Lay Minister Joseph L’Heureux writes Inspiration.