Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 4, We Are Searching & Fearless

Me & Lisa, circa 1980

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.

Step 4: "Made A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of Ourselves."

Lisa's Thoughts  

When I first heard the steps read out loud in a meeting of AA, this was the step that probably scared me the most. At first glance, the words seemed so cold that anytime someone would say them I would be frozen with fear. Immediately, every single demoralizing act would rapidly run through my mind so chaotically that I couldn’t fathom admitting to most of my wrongs- let alone take an inventory of all of these things in an effort to try and make them right.

Fortunately, the steps are in order for a reason. Because I had worked the first three with a woman I loved and knew loved me, when it finally came time to work this step it was a little easier to take a deeper look at it. Surprisingly, when I met with her to receive instructions on this step, it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. My assignment was to write down all of the resentments I had - the things that just seemed to bother me, anything in my life that I found difficult to let go of, and to write, in detail, the full extent of each circumstance with each resentment.

I am sure my list wasn’t very different than any other alcoholic, even though I was under the impression that I was terminally unique at the time. My list included several people who I felt had harmed me along the way. The people who made it to the top of the list were my father, my uncle, my ex and soon to be ex-husband, several ex-boyfriends, my grandparents, my younger sister and above anyone else was myself.

I remember bringing my long list to my sponsor the next week believing that she was going to truly be impressed by my extensive list, and that she would feel so sorry for me because there had been so many people who had hurt me throughout my life up until that point. So, I am sure you can imagine my astonishment when she read my list nodded a few times and handed it back to me and said, “The next part of your assignment is to write down: your part in each of these situations; what wrongs have you done to these people, and talk about that; and bring it to me next week.”

I was shocked.

I remember driving home that day and thinking: My part. What does she mean my part?! Doesn’t she know how bad these people hurt me? Doesn’t she know what I have done for most of these people and they haven’t done anything for me at all?!   

Geez! I was so entitled.

I have since worked several 4th steps over the years. I’ve received so many blessings and have learned so many things about myself and how I interact with the world.

I’ve learned that the greater the resentment, the greater my part is.

This isn’t always easy to swallow and usually takes some work for me to really peel back the layers and see my part, but God and willingness always seem to help me get there. I have also realized that we take a “moral” inventory of ourselves not an “immoral” inventory.  Meaning, we get to cleanse out the resentment, identify where we could have handled some things differently, and then look back and see where we have grown, and also where we have done right.

When I work this step with my sponsees, once they have completed the whole resentments list and their part, I also have them make a list of all of the things in their lives that bring them gratitude and joy. I ask them to describe their part in that as well. I think it is healthy to take an inventory of ourselves, to make note of our strengths and the things we would like to improve upon, just as successful businesses do.

This step always keeps me balanced and helps to remind me that I am rarely upset for the reasons I think I am. When resentment comes up for me I always ask myself three questions:

What happened?
What is this reminding me of? (This is usually where the feeling of pain comes from)
What was my part?

These three questions help me move through the resentment quickly, so it doesn’t take up too much of my time and energy. Resentments seem to be one of the greatest offenders in alcoholics and if not dealt with usually lead to relapse. Knowing this, I do take them seriously and stay close to God whenever I am dealing with them.

I do have to laugh, though, at the resentments I have had in the past. Some of them seem so ridiculous to me now. My current sponsor (who is simply amazing) always laughs when I call her with a new resentment. She says, “Honey, resentments may be the dubious luxury of normal people. Unfortunately for you, you are not even close to normal.”

We both laugh, tell each other how much we love one another and the program of AA.  What a blessing it is.

Liz’s Response 


I love the three questions. They are a practical and simple tool to have in life’s toolbox.  It also keeps your mind occupied so that the crazy making parts can’t take over. I love that you add gratitude. I completely agree. Whenever I become anxious or annoyed I start playing the “glad game.”  Pollyanna left a mark on my soul.

I also appreciate the distinction between immoral and moral inventory.  One is for you, the other is for God and, as I learned from you, we need to stay out of God’s business. Yes, it is important to identify and own your part or as Oprah says “Name it so you can claim it.”  Since we are only responsible for our actions & can only change our behavior it gives us a way to work through the resentment. It also allows us to forgive ourselves.  How can we fully forgive others if we are unwilling to forgive ourselves?

This also reminds me of a story someone told me of the time he met Maya Angelou. They had a brief conversation and at the end she said to him – take today to forgive the lies that have been said about you. AND forgive the lies you have said about yourself.

LOVE Maya Angelou!

Liz's Thoughts  

As I mentioned in step 3, I spent the last year of my life preparing to make further/deeper covenants with God. These covenants would reaffirm my commitment and desire to be a faithful disciple of Christ. Before, I could make these covenants I had to prove that I was ready and worthy. Upon deciding to make these covenants, I met with my Bishop to assess where I was at and receive guidance on how I could prepare myself to further progress spiritually. I know that I would have to enter a repentance process. I was fully aware that some of my behavior was not in keeping with the commandments and covenants I had already made. I naively thought that I would confess my sins, that punishment would be given, and that I’d promise never do those things again.

All of that did happen and so much more.

My Bishop told me from the beginning that this process was going to primarily occur between me and the Lord, and that his job was to remind me that the Lord loved me and that I would be forgiven.
That set the tone for a year of taking a moral inventory of myself. It was easy to assess the obvious transgressions. It was much harder to really look at my behavior with integrity and honestly identify where I needed to improve. There were moments when I thought I had thoroughly cleaned my spiritual closet and the Lord would gently and lovely reveal a whole shelf of crap I hadn’t even addressed.

It took me awhile to look at myself fearlessly. I didn’t always want to hold myself accountable for my actions. However, I discovered that everything I uncovered and addressed was met with love and light. Love and light brought clarity and healing.

Once I had experienced this a few times I was no longer fearful about what I might find or how it would be received. Towards the end, I was looking for ways to improve as I wanted this love and light to envelop my entire being.

This is how I chose to live today. I’m constantly taking a fearless assessment of my moral inventory in hopes of actively participating in my life with authenticity.

Brene Brown says, “Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people—including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and then the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive.”

I appreciate Brown’s honesty that authenticity isn’t always met with acceptance and it doesn’t always feel comfortable. I’ve come to know that ultimately it will always attract and be supported by love and light. Therefore, in order to live in true authenticity it is necessary for me to continually search and fearlessly taking my moral inventory, ensuring that my side of the street is clean so that I can stand in my truth and tell my story with integrity.  This is how I make manifest the glory of God that is within me with humility.

Lisa's Response


I know that you know this process all too well as far as taking an honest look at where you could have been more aligned with your true self and the work and time it has taken to get your recommend back. I love that you share so openly about the journey and about vulnerability.

Thank you so much for sharing this with me and reminding me once again that it begins and ends with humility. In the beginning it is humiliating and in the end it is always humbling. I am so grateful that we get to be humans together.

I learn so much from you each and every day!

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