Step 4

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From the Foreword of the 12 & 12:  “A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

The One Thing I Need To Know About Step 4:
It’s About Causes & Conditions

of this Step:


Reading Assignment:
BB: Pgs. 64-71 / 12&12:  Pgs. 42-54
(Read Online)

Literature Reference: “It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while.” (Big Book – Page 66, How It Works)

What Can I Surrender in this Step?

1.) Fear of looking at who I was, and
2.) Any desire to regret the past


Page 64 in the Big Book starts by comparing a personal inventory to a business inventory. In the first full paragraph of page 64, it says, “Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret.”

The whole point of a business inventory is to identify a company’s liabilities and its assets. They identify their liabilities (those things that are no longer selling – or working for them) so they can remove them from the shelves to make room for more assets (those things that will sell – or work for them). Taking a personal inventory is no different. We searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self (not alcohol but self), manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations. We had to get down to causes and conditions.

A solid Fourth Step inventory where we take stock of the manifestations of self-will is divided into three (3) parts:

1.) Our Resentments (or “grudge list” as Bill calls it)
2.) Our Fears
3.) Our Sex Conduct
(and harm done toward others in this area)

The Fourth Step is NOT about finding out who we ARE, it’s about finding out who we are NOT, so with God’s help, we can be rid of it and who we ARE will then shine through. That’s another reason why “self-knowledge avails us nothing.” We need to find out what GOD wants us to be.

In our Fourth Step inventories we will discover, for the most part, that our troubles were of our OWN making. We will see how we played a part in every resentment and fear we’ve ever had and how our conduct has harmed others. These are the very things that have blocked us from God, which is the ONLY Power that can remove the alcoholic obsession.


This step is meant to tear you down. Members who complete this step say they feel a newfound confidence once they’ve finally faced themselves. They are ready to start the next chapter of their lives as sober and better versions of themselves.


Taking a step displays a willingness to write inventory and allow it to surrender something within us. Write inventory on your most serious shortcomings around the practical application of this step in your life today (“How am I applying the principle found in this Step to every moment of my life?”).

INVENTORY WORKSHEET (Revised 06/01/21)
Part 1: Grudge List     |     Part 2: Fears List     |     Part 3: Sex Inventory

Part 1: Grudge List

Create an inventory of the manifestations of your defects of character (4th column) being careful to stay focused on ONLY where you are wrong (putting out of my mind “their part”). While some may think that the first three columns are the most important – recognition of the 4th column is the only thing that can set us free through the actions you will take in Step 6 & 7 after completing Steps 4 & 5.


6th Column: As a result of the defects of character that came up in [column 4] and the hurt & harm I caused in [column 5], what could I have done differently?
7th Column: As a result of the things I did [column 5] to harm the person, place or thing [column 1], do I own them/it an amends?

Part 2: Fears List

Fear can be defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending pain or danger. The trigger for this emotion can be real or imaginary, and it may or may not be rational. When people feel fear, they may go into panic mode. This means that they are unable to think clearly or make good decisions. It is usual to view fear as a negative emotion, but it can also be highly beneficial, as it helps to keep humans out of danger.


  1. Read the Big Book from p.67 (¶3 “Notice the word fear”) to p.68 (¶3 “outgrow fear”).
  2. List all of your fears. Take all of your fears you wrote in your Grudge List (Column 4) and make one single list. (Ref. p.68-¶1-L1 “We put them on paper”).
  3. Why do I have this fear? (Ref. p.68-¶1-L3 – “We asked ourselves why we had them.”)

Part 3: Sex Inventory

Things to remember when doing the sex inventory:

  • We are building a moral inventory so we look at sex that has gone astray
  • We look at areas where selfishness kicks up
  • We need to be as general or as specific as we need to be
  • We need to remember, it’s not a “brag sheet”
  • We can put them in groups or whatever – the main thing is to get a good solid understanding of those things I am not comfortable with, as well as the ideals I want live up to.

We reviewed our sex conduct over the years past:

  • Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate?
  • Whom had we hurt?
  • Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness?
  • Where were we at fault?
  • What should we have done instead?

In this way: (to be used to help write your 8th column)

  • We tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life.
  • We asked God to mold our ideals and to help us live up to them.
  • We always remember that our sex powers are God-given, and therefore good.
  • We never use them lightly or selfishly – we never despise or loathe them.
  • Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it.
  • We treat sex like we do any other problem. We ask God what we should do – the right answer will come if we want it.

A Sex Prayer:
“God, please help me mold my sex ideals and help me to live up to them. Help me be willing to grow toward my ideals and help me be willing to make amends where I have done harm. Please show me what to do in each specific matter, and be the final judge in each situation. Help me avoid hysterical thinking or advice. Amen.”

“God, please grace me with guidance in each questionable situation, sanity, and strength to do the right thing. If sex becomes very troublesome, quiet my imperious urge, help me not to yield and keep me from heartache as I throw myself the harder into helping others. Help me think of their needs and help me work for them. Amen.”


  1. Am I being honest about my moral defects? (They can give you insight into why you started drinking in the first place.)
  2. Have I accepted that the problem is within myself and dropped the word “blame” from my vocabulary?
  3. Am I willing to look at how I’ve played a part in every resentment and fear that I’ve ever had?
  4. Am I willing to admit that my problems are of my own making?
  5. Am I ready to accept responsibility for my behaviors?
  6. Am I willing to admit that it’s my thinking that was the foundation cause of my behaviors – AND – am I willing to identify their causes and conditions through inventory?
  7. Am I working closely with my sponsor to complete my inventory? (They may be willing to share their defects with you, too, for comfort and security.)

(If you can answer yes to these questions, you’ve likely taken this Step)

“Opening the Hood and Looking Inside Is a Great Place to Start”