Before we move on to step five, there is more that should be said about the fourth step. Bill Wilson wrote in the book Alcoholic’s Anonymous…”Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” A business, which takes no regular inventory usually, goes broke. Taking an inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about our personal stock-in-trade. One object is to discover defective, or damaged goods, and get rid of them promptly. If the owner is to be successful he or she cannot fool themselves about values. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up that caused us failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.
Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our money, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore, and we were burned up.
On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, or our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with? We went back through our lives. Nothing counted, but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully because a life that includes resentment leads to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours, days, and years that might have been productive and worthwhile? For the alcoholic, whose hope is sobriety, growth, and a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal, for when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns, and we drink again, and for us, to drink is to die. We must be free of resentment and anger! The grouch and the brainstorms were not for us. They may be dubious luxury for normal people, but for alcoholics these things are poison.
On page 26 of “The Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program” Professor Chesnut has a checklist for spiritual growth. “We learn to look for three internal warning signs: resentment, self-pity, and fear. Am I dealing with my present situation with the appropriate sort of attitude? If I’m feeling too much resentment, self-pity, or fear, (including all the various kinds of worry, anxiety, panic and so on), then my attitude must be wrong. I can also ask about my actions using this same checklist. So for example, what about the way I’m acting right now? Is it good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate? If my resentment, self-pity, or fear keeps mounting, then I’m clearly not acting the way I should, in some way. So maybe we need to change the way we’re acting and quit trying to defend it.”
An old timer named Buck said, “If you’re having trouble making out your fourth step inventory, go find somebody you can’t stand and make a list of their character defects, then bring it back, and we’ll have your list too because if you saw that defect in them then it’s in you too; or you wouldn’t have seen it in them.”