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Big Book on Step Four

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    Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in Ourselves which had been blocking us.

    This is precise, specific and clear-cut direction for when to begin our fourth step. We follow our third step decision “at once” with our fourth step. Procrastination will leave us blocked from the Power we need.


    Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.

    Our drinking and the unmanageability of our lives are symptoms of the fundamental defects of our character. If our problems in life were caused by drinking, then they would go away once we stopped drinking. The improvement in our lives resulting from abstinence is likely a temporary respite if we fail to address the things in us that block us off from our Higher Power.


    Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory.

    The fourth step is a technique by which we identify the aspects of our characters that block us off from God. During our fourth step, we learn methods of accessing the power of God to accomplish things that we have been unable to accomplis for ourselves.


    If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.

    We have fooled ourselves about the value of the principles by which we now live. Many of us tell lies hoping to make ourselves more attractive to other people. Rather than helping to build close relationships with these people our lies separate us from them. We developed many of our methods of relating to others as tools to get us what we wanted. Here is our opportunity to evaluate the way we live, think and act.


    First, we searched out the flaws in our makeup which caused our failure.

    The examination of our character is a daunting task. The authors suggest where we should begin. We must not be distracted by trying to soothe our damaged egos, build our self esteem or develop pride. A healthy self respect will come as a result of this work along with humility that produces self-worth based on fact rather than delusion or misplaced ideals. Recognition of who and what we really are, coupled with an effort to seek and do God’s will, fills our lives with value and meaning replacing our prideful self-loathing and self-pity.


    Resentment is the “number one” offender.

    To hold a resentment is to re-feel the anger of a past event. Sometimes we will replay an argument in our minds. A conversation in which we felt we were slighted is replayed over and over and we imagine what we should have said in return. Perhaps we plan what we sill say the next time we encounter the offending person.

    Resentment: to re-feel an injury or insult


    From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.

    The physical illness we suffer is our allergy to alcohol. The mental illness is our inability to stop drinking entirely. Our spiritual illness is our selfishness and self-centerdedness. The solutions to our problem comes when we overcome this spiritual malady.


    In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.

    The fourth step is simple, but the lack of willingness to follow directions is a common trait of alcoholics. Rather than tell us what we should do, the authors show us what they have done: “In delaing with resentments we set them on paper.” If we desire the same results as the authors, we must be willing to follow their example. The first instruction for the fourth step is that we are to write our resentment down on paper.

    The format for the resentment list of our fourth step is a four column table. The first three columns are illustrated in paragraph 65:5 and the fourth column is explained on 67:11-19.

    To begin our fourth step all we need to do is write the name of someone at whom we have been angry or resentful. This is simple. We have all been angry at someone at one time or another. It is likely that we are currently holding grudges against several people. Perhaps we could start by listing our family members. Many of us harbor resentments at institutions such as the court systems, schools, our workplaces and of societal institutions such as marrage. The authors suggest that we also list these. Guiding principles we feel have been imposed upon us are another source of resentment and should be included in our list. We write down all those people, institutions or principles that readily come to mind. As we progress we add to this list any further resentment that we can recall.


    We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex), were hurt or threatened.

    The directions for the second column are simple; we write down why we were angry. As we develop insight, we will see that our interpretation of events is not always accurate. Many of us have found it helpful to list the facts and write only what actually happened rather than our interpretatoin. As an example we could write, “My spouse told me to slow down.” This is what actually happened. An example of how we might interpret the events is as an attack upon our competency to control our actions. Our interpretation of the event should be saved for the third column, where we describe what in us was affected by the event.


    On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?

    We begin the third column of our resentment list by examining exactly how we are affected by the events in the second column. The authors give us a list of areas likely to be affected. It may halep to write one sentance for each area that is affected and elaborate a bit on each one. This examination helps us sort out why we are mad and enables us to develop insight. We begin to see why we feel and react the way we do.


    We were usually as definte as this example:

    I’m resentful at:

    The Cause

    Affects my:
    Mr. Brown

    His attention to my

    Sex relations


    Self-esteem (fear)

    Told my wife of my

    Sex relations


    Self-esteem (fear)

    Brown may get my job at


    the office.

    Self-esteem (fear)
    Mrs. Jones

    She’s a nut….she

    Personal relationship.

    snubbed me. She

    Self-esteem (fear)

    commited her husband

    for drinking.

    He’s my friend.

    She’s a gossip.
    My employer


    Self-esteem (fear)



    Threatens to fire

    me for drinking

    and padding my

    expense account.
    My wife

    Misunderstands and

    Pride-Personal and

    nags. Likes brown.

    sex relations

    Wants house put in

    Security (fear)

    her name.

    The first three columsn of our resentment list are illustrated. There is a fourth colums that is not shown. That column is described later in the chapter. The three columns that we see here are roughly what our three columns will look like if we follow the direction of the authors. We have found a legal pad (8 1/2″ x 14?) of paper works nicely when turned on its side so that it is longer than it is tall. Leave plenty of room for the fourth column.


    We went back through our lives.

    Many of us have found it useful to begin with resentments that have lost some of their impact on us through the passage of time. When we are in the heat of a resentment we may hold on too strongly to our interpretations of events and our justifications for our feelings and actions. We practice on less immediate resentments and in this way gain the insight to accurately analzye our most current and significant resentments. If we feel an immediate need to address a current and troubling resentment, we should by all means proceed.


    Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty.

    It does not matter how elequent we are or if our spelling is correct, all that matters is thoroughness and honesty. If we have not included all we need to, then we have not been thorough. If we have not told the truth,if we have embellished upon or left out important details, then we have not been honest. It does not matter what format we use as long as we are able to see the truth about ourselves.

    One of AA’s greatest strengths is that there is no dogma. How we do this does not matter. If we want to do it differently, we are free to. As long as we look at the areas suggested, we will obtain the same results as the authors.


    When we were finished we considered it carefully.

    This “careful consideration” refers to the first three columsn of our resentment list. We are going to learn a new and successful method of dealing with these resentments that incorporates asking for the help of God.




    We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse.

    Perhaps there is a better way — we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

    We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages it that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remover our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.

    18—-Paradoxically: apparently contradictory, i.e,. dependence upon God equals freedom and strength.

    The clear-cut directions for the fears list of our fourth step are given here. Clearly, we are to write this list down. We add to the fears we idenitfied in our resentment list any other fears that we may have. The first column contains a descripton of our fear, e.g., “I am afraid of being alone.” The second column contains the reason we have this fear and the third column contains the solution to our fear. The authors suggest a reason for our fears, which is a reliance upon our human resources rather than God.

    We who have no experience with God working in our lives believe that our own human resources are the only power to which we have access. Our fear comes from the knowledge that our own power is often not enough. Some of our fears are instinctual, such as the fear of falling that we have from the time we are born. We learn some fears from experience. We expereience a negative result and we have faith that we will always expereince that same result. We may ask someone for help and be rejected, so we fear we will be rejected again. Fears such as this govern our actions. Some fears serve to keep us out of danger but when we are controlled by unreasonable fears we are not always free to act in our own best interests. This is a method of applying reason and the Power of God to our fears.

    The Annotated AA Handbook
    Frank D




    We reviewed our fears thoroughly.

    We look at our fears again. Many of the fears that control us are unreasonable. We have never applied reason to them. We adopted many of the ideas behind our fears prior to becoming mature aduts. This is our chance to re-evaluate our fears when we are sober adults.


    We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them.

    By listing the fears taht we have, we develop the ability to identify the forces within us that drive us to act the way we do. Many of our less desirable reactions to life are the result of fears. We may treat our spouse badly because we fear they may leave us. We may avoid other people because we fear they may not life us. We may steal because we fear we may not be able to make it on our own. None of these methods of coping with life are entirely successful. By listing our fears, examing them in the light of our new way of life, and seeking help from God, we place ourselves in the position to begin to outgrow them.


    When it made us cocky, it was worse.

    Using bravado to cover up our fear and denying that we have it is one of the signs of fear causing us to act in foolish ways.


    For we are now on a different basis; the basics of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns.

    We adopted this new basis for our lives by making our third step decision.

    This is a good example of exactly how to put our decision into action. Our old way was to rely solely on our own inner resources and coping skills we had developed over time. We either avoided the source of our fear or we denied having it and acted in an unsuccessful way to overcome it. Our new way to deal with our fear is to identify it, examine it and ask God to remove it. This way works. As we try it repeatedly on all our fears, we see for ourselves that it does work and we come to rely upon it.


    Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbley rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

    The key word her is “do.” Seeking to do God’s will as we gain a thorough understanding of who and what we really are will produce in us the humility necessary to receive God’s grace. We see that our problems are of our own making in our lives. God gives us the strength to meet life’s difficulties when we are humble enough to ask for it.


    All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demostrate, through us, what He can do.

    Knowing that God will give us the strength to meet any of life’s challenges gives us courage. When we relied solely on our own power, fear of failure would sometimes prevent us from even trying. When we are seeking to do God’s will, we know even what seems to be failure will turn out for the best. We can learn and grow rather than have our self esteem destroyed by our failures.


    We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be.

    This prayer is the key to overcoming our fears. Turning to God for help is the guiding principle of our new way of life. this prayer asking God to remove our fear is an important part of our new way of life. Rather than be driven by worrying about what we may lose or fail to gain for ourselves, we ask God to help shape our lives.


    At once, we comence to outgrow fear.

    Our fears, based on self, no longer fit in our new lives. As we change the focus of what we desire in life from the satisfaction of our instinctual drives to a life based upon seeking God’s will our fears seem to disappear. By relying upon our Higher Power, we find that our needs are met and that our wants change. Our self-centered fears of losing what we have and of not getting what we want lose their power over us.


    But above all, we tried to be sensible on this question.

    How we best ensure sound judgement in the area of relationships with others is by following the authors’ suggestions to avoid hysterical thinking or advice (70:2), seek the calm rational counsel of others (69:26), seek the guidance of God (69:18) and in the end let God be our judge (69:26).

    The Annotated AA Handbook
    Frank D

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