Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 10, Taking Our Personal Inventory

Me & Lisa, circa 1996

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 10: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 10 is a very important step, but in my program it usually is the one overlooked most often.  As I was reading this evening about Step 10 for a little inspiration, I was reminded of how powerful this step is when used daily. As I was reading, I heard things like, “we cease fighting everyone and everything” and “love and tolerance is our code.” Immediately, I felt a heaviness lifted off of my chest.

I was reminded of how diligent I was in the beginning of my sobriety. Each night, I would journal about my day, I would ask myself a set of questions about honesty, love, openness, and willingness, I would reflect to see if I had harmed anyone that day and would immediately clean up my wreckage. Over the years, I have lost that sense of urgency to keep my side of the street clean on a daily basis - free of resentments, gossip and negativity.

Today, as I work this step, it is no surprise to me as to why I am struggling with my medications. Somewhere along the way, I have allowed small resentments to creep in. I haven’t dealt with my side of the street. Here I am again all tangled up. Luckily, I have a solution today. I know exactly what to do and where to go to live it.

Living a sober spiritual life is absolutely a blessing. However, it does come with a price and often that road is very lonely. I remind myself that it isn’t about what others can get away with and live with. I have knowledge today of God’s grace and mercy, and I can no longer behave in many of the ways I used to, regardless, of how it may be the norm or not.

Working a rigorously honest program takes work. Every decision is either wreckage or love. There is no grey area with that in my life. Recently, I haven’t held myself to the standard of living I know I am capable of when dealing with others. I have found myself saying, “I will let someone else do it,” or “I don’t need to talk to my sponsor about that,” or “Just stay home from the meeting, you're too tired.”

As I have bought into these excuses, one day at a time, I have rested on my laurels. Faith without action is dead. I have proven that to myself on more than one occasion.

I laugh when my sponsor says, “You can coast if you want to but just remember that technically you're still falling,” or “breathe,” and then hangs up. She is so wise.

Taking a daily inventory offers so much peace and serenity in my life. I don’t have to hold onto flat tires and burnt mac-n-cheese for weeks on end anymore. Those mole hills don’t have to become mountains.

I can clean up the wreckage and be a light and an example of what God’s love is capable of. I feel immensely blessed in this moment to be reminded of the simple tools I have today to be back on track with my sobriety. I can’t explain the relief I have remembering and fully knowing, once again, there is a simple solution to myself.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to learn Step 10 on even a deeper level.

Liz’s Response 


This reminds me of something I wrote to a friend recently. She is, currently, processing her childhood trauma – “I want to remind you that you are not alone in your journey.  The road you are walking is solely yours, but it is surrounded by women who are also on the same journey, and every now and then we call out to each other as a reminder that we are never really/truly alone.  You are part of a sisterhood that offers understanding, empathy, love &  belonging. We stand with you as you process your story, discover your voice & learn to use it to tell your unique story (whatever that might look like).”


Wonderfully honest & vulnerable.  I think it may be one of my favorites.

Liz's Thoughts  

Self-awareness is a lifestyle that requires constant and continual diligence, commitment and action. It is imperative that we continually take our own personal inventory, so we are aware of how our desires, intentions and behaviors are manifesting in our lives, affecting the people we interact with and the environment we inhabit. Avoidance, denial and blame are seductive alternatives to awareness and responsibility, but they are masks – masks that inhibit connection to our source, ourselves and to others.  

I appreciate that this step presumes that we will continue to make mistakes. The assumption or quest for perfection, meaning without flaw, is futile and destructive. It is not only impossible to live a flawless life, it also goes against the very purpose of our existence in this Earth school. Our agency is the most valuable gift the Father has given us. Christ’s atonement provides the space and means by which we are able to fully engage our agency. Our experiences, based on the choices we make, will all be for our benefit and growth. With agency comes consequence. We are responsible for all that we create in the world.

The wisdom in this step is that it provides council for when we do make the mistakes. We are to promptly admit them. The key is promptly.

By promptly utilizing the tools learned in the previous steps, we can minimize the damage created by our wrongs. This is what is greatly missing in our culture and politics –the ability and willingness to take responsibility for our actions and make the amends with humility and grace.

The difference between humility and humiliation is great.  Humiliation is when our ego/pride is bruised. Humility is the ability to set aside the ego and become teachable. Humility fosters resiliency, connection and personal growth.

Step 10, also, echoes of a concept I’ve been pondering this past week and have come to believe to be a capital “T” TRUTH: We get exactly what it is that we want. 

That want is determined by our intentions, desires and behaviors. I was, recently, thinking about this in terms of my first marriage. I would have told you, at the time, I wanted a temple marriage (ie a relationship built upon and committed to the principles and doctrines of the LDS church), but my choices proved otherwise. It wasn’t that I didn’t, actually, want these things it was that I held other things in higher value. Instead, I sought after and got a relationship based upon carnal desires and passions. I still live with some of the consequences of that want fifteen years later.

Our want is synonymous with our faith. This is why faith is a fundamental part of our lives and why the scriptures teach us of its incredible power. Christ taught that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains (Matthew 17:20). A mustard seed is very small, about the size of a tip of a pin. If that amount of faith can move a mountain, think about what would be possible if we fully embodied faith in our lives.

Russell M. Nelson in an 2008 Liahona article teaches, “Having faith in [Jesus Christ] means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence and love. It includes believing His teachings. It means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does.”

Elder Nelson goes on to say, “You exercise faith in Christ when you have (1) an assurance that He exists, (2) a correct idea of His character, and (3) a knowledge that you are striving to live according to His will.”

I love that Elder Nelson says that we need to have a correct idea of Christ’s character in order to have faith in him. We know he is the embodiment of love, forgiveness, charity, patience and mercy because of the New Testament. We can further come to a sure knowledge of his character by building our own personal relationship with him by being his disciple.

I find it much easier to put my faith in something or someone that I am familiar with. Joseph Smith taught that faith is often preceded by a bit of knowledge and that through the act of faith we come to have a greater knowledge.

We talk a lot about faith, but I find it difficult to apply this principle to my life when trials and opposition come into my life. In his book, Promptings or Me, Kevin Hinckley uses Peter’s experience of walking on the water as an example of how hard it is to hold our faith when we feel opposition. As you may recall, the apostles are crossing the Sea of Galilee. Christ has stayed behind to pray. A terrible storm comes that threatens the apostle’s little boat. They become very afraid and just when they think all is lost, they see someone coming towards them.

Christ calls to them saying “Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.” Peter responds and says, if it be your will, bid me come.  Christ says come. Peter steps out onto the water and, like Christ, begins to walk upon the water. The winds get worse which frightens Peter.  He begins to sink and calls out to Christ for help. Immediately, Christ stretches forth his hand, catches Peter, and says, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

Now, you may hear this story and interpret it as the time Peter tried to walk on water but failed.  But I challenge you that he did not fail. He did actually walk on water, which was a miracle of physics and faith. It was when the storm got worse that Peter doubted and began to sink. How often has that happened in your life? You step out in faith and then things get worse so you begin to doubt? You begin to sink?

Here’s where this story has the greatest advantage to be applicable in our lives, if we do what Peter did and reach out to the Lord all things can be restored.

Furthermore, I do not believe that Christ is admonishing Peter. I think he says - oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?  Did you not see what you are capable of when you have faith?

Through self-awareness we can come to know what it is we truly want and with faith we too can walk on water.

Lisa's Response


This, too, is probably one of my most favorite essays!

It was detailed, honest, and well thought out. I love that you brought up the fact that this step implies that we will make mistakes and God already knows that!!!  In “How it Works,” which is part of the Big Book that is read at every meeting it states, “We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”

This always gives me a sense of relief and especially helped me when I first got sober.

I, also, love that you bring up doubt and how our lives are truly contingent on our reliance on our higher power as well as our level of faith. These two things have everything to do with our free agency and little to do with God. Yet the paradox is that it has everything to do with God too, if that makes sense.

We are the creators in the outcome…if we live in faith, we open to the flow of all that seems impossible. If we live in doubt, we sink, just as you said. But that isn’t God forcing, that it is our decision. I, too, believe that awareness is the antidote to so many of our human behaviors.

I love you so much!!

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