Many readers find the instructions for STEP FOUR in the “Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous, confusing and complex. This guide is written to reflect the experience of several members of the fellowship of Alcoholics
Anonymous in analyzing these instructions and in their experience in taking this step and helping others take this step in accordance with the instructions given in the BIG BOOK. For those persons who want what the first 100 members of Alcoholics Anonymous had and many thousands (millions) have since attained, these instructions should clarify Step Four of the process that the originators of the program set out. Of course, the first three steps are essential to this process, and should be completed (worked) thoroughly before attempting this stage of the process. A sponsor can be invaluable in this process. The experience of the Steps is available to anyone who will complete each of the steps to the best of their ability in the order in which they are numbered. Perfection is not required, but a good effort involving honesty, open-mindedness and willingness is
Perhaps the greatest promise made by the program of Alcoholic Anonymous is that God, as you understand him, will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. This promise carries with it the obvious condition that you must do what you can ! !
If you have made the decision required by Step Three, the BIG BOOK warns us that,
decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little
permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenu-
ous effort to face, and be rid of, the things in our-
selves which had been blocking us (from God). Our liquor was
but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and
Therefore, we started on a personal inventory….”
The specific text of the instructions for taking this step is on pages 64 through 71 of the Big Book. These instructions should be read carefully at this point.
The inventory is described as a “fact-finding and fact-facing process.” We are said to be seeking the truth about ourselves and to honestly be taking stock of our lives. We are to search “out the flaws in our makeup which caused our failure.” Throughout the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, it is stated that self, selfishness, and self-centeredness lay at the base of our troubles. “Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.” These common manifestations are grouped into three categories: resentment, fear, and relationships.
From these thoughts and mental attitudes, “stems all forms of spiritual disease….” We are instructed to list all people, institutions, or principles with whom we were angry or had resentments. What is a resentment?
(a) Webster’s Dictionary defines “resentment” as “indignation or ill-
will felt as a result of a real or imagined offense.” Webster’s
then refers the reader to the word “anger” and gives other examples
of this thought or feeling, which includes rage, fury, ire, wrath,
resentment, and indignation. These words denote varying degrees of
displeasure from anger (strong, intense, and explosive) to the
longer lasting resentment (ill-will and suppressed anger generated
by a sense of being wronged by another or being wrong).
(b) In summary and broadly defined, we are dealing with a negative or
unpleasant thought or feeling caused or generated by the real or
imagined act or failure to, act of a person, institution, or
principle. We will list what and who we are angry at, or with whom,
“We were `burned up’.”
(c) Person, institutions, or principles may need some explanation.
Remember, you are a “person” and your actions or failure to act may
very well cause you to think or feel bad (generally, this might
be called guilt).Institutions are any group of people, authorities,
companies, governmental agencies, or other organizations.
A principle is a basic truth or rule, or law. Some of these have
and may offend us or were misinterpreted; for example,
1. Honesty is the best policy.
2. It’s better to give than receive.
3. What goes around, come around.
4. To err is human, to forgive is divine.
5. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
6. The meek shall inherit the earth.
Preparing the “GRUDGE” List
With the foregoing instructions in mind and before proceeding any further with this Step, a list should be prepared of the people, institutions, or principles which have or do cause you resentments, as defined above.
Certain points should be remembered:
1. If you can remember the resentment, you should write it down,
even though you think that you are over it. Go back through
your life; “nothing counts but thoroughness and honesty.”
2. A review of family albums, school annuals, old pictures, etc.
may be useful in being thorough.
3. Do not concern yourself with whether you should or should not
have the anger or resentment, just make the list and nothing
more at this_point.
4. Throughout the taking of Step Four and at times thereafter,
you may recall other people, institutions, or principles
which have caused these negative thoughts and feelings. You
can add to this list at any time, but do not spend too much
time worrying about how complete this list is. Simply do the
best that you can do over a reasonable period of time
(perhaps a week).
(d) Analysis of Resentments
When you have completed your list, and not before, each resentment
must be analyzed. Step Four will mean very little unless you come
to understand each resentment and learn from it. The following
procedure has proven helpful in this understanding and analysis:
1. Purchase a spiral notebook and open it so that you have a
blank page on either side of the wire spiral. With a ruler or
straight-edge, divide each of the pages vertically so that
when both pages are divided, you have a total of four
columns. Turn the page and repeat this procedure until you
have divided a few pages in this manner. The drawing attached
to the end of this guide may help you understand this
2. The columns should be labeled as follows:
Column 1: “Name”
Column 2: “Cause”
Column 3: “Affects”
Column 4: (leave blank for right now.)
3. Take the first name from your “Grudge List” and write it in
column 1 on the first page.
4. In column 2, write a few words which describe each and every
event or circumstance that you recall which causes you to
resent the person named in Column 1. This part is very
important ! We learn from specific events, not general
complaints ( for example we learn little from the complaint
that “she was always lying”, but we learn much from a
specific, “she told me that she was on the pill.”
5. Opposite each of the events you have listed in Column 2,
write down why this event or circumstance bothered you.
Specifically ask yourself:
a. Did it affect my self-esteem (the way that I think of
myself or want others to think of me) ? How ?
b. Did it affect my pocketbook ? How ?
c. Did it affect my ambition ? How ?
d. Was one of my personal relationships affected or
threatened ? How ?
e. If the effects described in paragraphs “a” through “d”
above do not accurately describe the effect that the
event had on you, write a few words to explain how you
felt and how you were affected.
f. COMPLETE THIS ANALYSIS OF EACH OF YOUR RESENTMENTS
ARISING OUT OF EACH OF THE EVENTS BEFORE GOING ANY
FURTHER WITH THIS INVENTORY !
(e) The Beginning of Growth
Look back on the work that you have done thus far. Is it now
apparent that these resentments have led you to unhappiness and
futility ? Have you squandered away many hours reliving these
events ? Did you drank over these injustices to you ? Do you
realize that you may drink again if you continue to harbor such
feelings ? Do you now realize the power over your life that you
had given this hate, anger, and resentment ? Is it worth it ?
Now, read the last full paragraph on Page 66 through the first full paragraph on Page 67. These three paragraphs are extremely important for us in that we are told how to look at others and the wrongs inflicted upon us.We are given a short prayer for us to use when we are wronged or are angry. This prayer will work whenever we need it. Do not forget that where this prayer is located, you will need to use it later.
There is a spiritual axiom that states that when I am disturbed, no
matter what the cause, there is something wrong with me. Now that
you have listed and understand the resentment and how it has
affected you, it is time to refer, “to our list again. Putting out
of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for
our own mistakes.” Take the following action:
1. At the top of the fourth column of each page, insert the words
2. For each person, institution, or principle, AND for each event
a. Where have I been selfish ?
b. Where have I been dishonest ?
c. Where have I been self-seeking ?
d. Where have I been frightened ?
e. Where was I to blame ?
What was my part in this event ?
Where and how was I at fault ?
What did I do wrong ?
f. What should I have done ?
What could I have done differently ?
3. Write down your faults and your answers as revealed by the
above questions in the fourth column.
(f) When you have concluded all of these instructions with respect to
resentments, and not before, proceed to the next section, “Fear.”
EXAMPLES OF RESENTMENTS
Wife, husband, in-laws, mother, father, sisters, brothers, children, self, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts,
uncles, cousins, step-relatives, friends, bosses, co-workers, employees, business partners, lovers, neighbors, pets, law-enforcement authorities, judges, cell-mates, school teachers, classmates, attorneys, bankers, famous people, landlords, preachers, Sunday school teachers, God, government figures, counselors, classes of people, competitors. Any former of the above and any friends or acquaintances of the above; anyone who hurt or threatened our self-esteem, security, ambitions, personal relations, or sex relations.
Federal, state, or local governments, government bureaus,schools, businesses, companies, corporations, hospitals, prisons, rehabilitation centers, workplaces, religions, churches, races, cultures, marriage, organizations, societies.
Religion, laws, beliefs, practices, codes, doctrines.
Resent means to re-feel and hurt, slight, wrong, insult, or offense by something
Read from the third paragraph on page 67 of the Big Book through the first three full paragraphs on page 68. Then take the following action:
(a) “FEAR” definition
Webster’s Dictionary defines “fear” as a feeling of alarm or
disquiet caused by the expectation of danger, pain, disaster
or the like (being found out [guilt], being known for what you
really are, for what you know, or what you think you are.) Fear is
being afraid or anxious about something in our past, something now,
or something in the future.
It is said that our driving force may be classified as self-
centered fear that we will lose something that we already have or
not get something that we want or need.
(b) Listing of Fears
On a page following the section on resentments, write a short
description of each fear that you have experienced. Remember that
in the previous resentment section, you have already asked yourself
about the impact of fear on your resentments, and have already seen
self-centered fear as a motivator. Now complete the list of times,
places, and circumstances which evoke fear; e.g., snakes, bugs,
rats, heights, being alone, events in your life being exposed about
which you feel guilt or could be jailed, etc. Some of us drove in
blackouts: Did you kill or maim anyone in a blackout ? Are you
sure ? Do you remember everything that you did in blackouts ?
(c) Analysis of Fear
1. Having listed each of the fears, write a short analysis of
these fears in an effort to understand them. The Big Book says
that fear “set in motion chains of circumstances which brought
us misfortunes we felt that we didn’t deserve.” Write down
examples of when these things happened to you.
2. “But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling ?” Why do you
have each fear ? Was it because reliance on self failed ? WHY ?
Was lack of power your dilemma ?
(d) Study and prayer
When you have listed your fears and answered the above questions,
read page 68, Alcoholics Anonymous, second and third paragraphs,
for the solution to fear. You are also given a short prayer in
which we “ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to
what He would have us be.” This solution should be directed toward
each of your fears.
EXAMPLES OF FEARS
Failure, the future, financial insecurity, rejection, acceptance, injury, success, height, water, injury, relationships or lack of, death, sex, acting on hidden sexual desires, hidden sexual acts or desires being
found out, war, losing something, not getting something, getting caught for past or present wrongdoings, crowds of people, speaking in front of groups, drinking again, fighting, admitting guilt, the opposite sex,
divorce, reading in front of people, the unknown, health problems, anyone or anything from the resentment list, any phobias.
This section of the inventory is covered in the book, ALCOHOLICS
ANONYMOUS,from the last paragraph commencing on Page 68 through the end of
Chapter Five. Read this material now.
(a) Scope of Relationships Inventory
This portion of the inventory begins by clearly discussing sexual
relationships. However, in the 1930’s, when they talked about all
human relationships they were referred to as sexual, and included
both sexes. They were not speaking necessarily of only physical
sexual relationships. In the last sentence of the last paragraph
ending on Page 70 it states, “We have listed the people we have
hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if
we can.” This sentence indicates a broader view of our
relationships is important and it is therefore suggested that we
review our relationship with each of the important people in our
lives, as well as all physical sexual relationships.
(b) Preparing a List of Relationships
Following “fears” in your inventory book,you should list the names
of those relationships. These people should include both sexual and
other human relationships, including family, business (bosses and
co-workers), close friends, old girl(boy)friends, etc.
(c) With respect to each person named on this list, write a short
paragraph that answers the following questions:
—–remember to deal with specific events—–
1. Was I selfish in this relationship ? Where ? How ?
2. Was I dishonest in this relationship ? Where ? How ?
3. Was I inconsiderate in this relationship ? Where ? How ?
4. Whom did I hurt ? How ?
5. Did I arouse jealousy ? Where ? How ?
6. Did I arouse suspicion ? Where ? How ?
7. Did I arouse bitterness ? Where ? How ?
8. Where was I at fault ?
9. What should I have done ??
(d) Through study and prayer, “we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal
for our future” life. “Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must
be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends
where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still
more harm in so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any
other problem. In meditation, we ask God what we should do about
each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it.”
SEXUAL WRONGDOINGS TO OTHERS
Rape, incest, persuading partner into an act or position
contrary to their liking; arousing jealousy, suspicion, bitterness; being
jealous, using sex to get something, lying to get sex, having sex to build
self-esteem, cheating on partner, punishing partn er by depriving him/her
of sex, using the word “love” to get sex, having sex with a married
partner, demanding more sex than our partner desires, expecting something
in return for sex, being alone with someone of the opposite sex without our
partner’s ap proval, disregarding our partners feelings, seeking only to
please ourself during sex, pouting and sulking when we do not get sex.
On Page 70 in the second full paragraph, we are given instructions
on how to proceed toward our new ideal. We have hurt other people
In summary, we are told to “pray for the right ideal, for guidance
in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for strength to do
the right thing.” If in these troublesome areas, we are told to
throw ourselves into helping others.
Read the last two paragraphs of Chapter Five. It is also helpful to read Chapter Four in the Twelve and Twelve at this point. Have you left anything out? Have you failed to list any event or subject that causes you to be uncomfortable? How about that one thing that you were going to take
“to the grave” before you told someone else? Write it down now.
CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE COMPLETED STEP FOUR !!
Read Pages 72 through the first two full paragraphs on Page 75.